Richard Fink, of ReadableWeb.com, has written a couple of really interesting posts over the summer (on his site and on AListApart.com) regarding online readability.
At the moment, most sites play it safe using the three or four fonts that are universal on the web — Courier, Verdana, Times Roman. In the near future, designers will be able to tap what are essentially web-based font libraries — web fonts that reside on servers instead of on the desktop.
Called the Web Open Font Format (WOFF), this new system is now supported on all the major browsers.
WOFF, plus the advances that have been made in hyphenation and justification (advances in hyphenation!) bring the major browsers very close to being able to deliver a professional book or magazine-style experience.
And the timing couldn’t be more perfect. With the introduction of high-resolution monitors and new devices of multiple sizes — smart phone, iPads, and their next-gen cousins — text now can be served up with a professional look no matter what the device.
According to Mr. Fink:
As the sophistication of display technology and devices like the Kindle and the iPad improve, and as the demand for paperless green technology grows, the assumptions under which the type industry has worked since Gutenberg’s time, will undergo a radical change.
You might not be aware, but there is a generation of font designers who have been waiting for this moment for fifteen years.
Here’s Mr. Fink’s piece on creating web pages that look like books:
A List Apart: Articles: The Look That Says Book.
Also, at ReadableWeb.com, he goes out of his way to thank the editors of his article. Nice.