Where Can I Legally Use My Fonts?

by Joel Friedlander on October 18, 2013 · 101 comments

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By David Bergsland

Quite a number of authors have written recently to get some clarity on font usage. Can they use the fonts that came with a software package in their book? On the cover? What about free font downloads, are those okay? I turned to type designer and author David Bergsland (whose last article here was Typography in Kindle? Yes We Can.) to straighten us out. Here’s his report, and I suggest you bookmark this page, you’ll want to come back.



In this digital age, the question of font usage comes up much more than it used to. Now that authors are producing their own books, another wrinkle has been added. But it all revolves around copyrights.

How do font designers make a living?

The same way authors do—by royalties. But, the situation is more critical for font designers. First of all, the time and effort required can be compared to writing a book. But the market for font sales is much smaller. It takes hundreds of hours and commonly a year or more to design a font. This is especially true now that fonts have hundreds of characters.

Plus, like a trilogy or multi-part series, a font design commonly comes is a set of fonts. The minimum is usually four versions: Regular, Italic, Bold, and Bold Italic, but that is just the beginning for fonts used for book design. Here the norm is six to eight fonts per family or more.

A font designer can easily invest large portions of his or her life designing a font. Like authors, some are skilled and some are hacks. The font market is flooded with bad designers and automated thieves. All of this is complicated by copyright laws.

Fonts designs cannot be copyrighted in the United States

This is not true overseas. Many countries allow you to copyright your font designs. In the United States it is grossly unethical to steal font designs. That did not matter as much in the 19th century and earlier because all font designs were made from hand-cut metal masters.

Metal is difficult to carve so all you could really do was the best you were capable of carving. Font designs were a huge investment of time and effort. Font designers might do a couple of designs in their entire life.

Digital fonts are software and the writing can be copyrighted

So, even in the United States, all fonts presently produced are copyrighted. If you use a font without paying for it, you are a thief. But, scanning and tracing fonts is very easy and can be easily automated to try and slide around the copyright issues. Especially in the PC world, this problem is epidemic. Any time you see a CD with a thousand fonts or more for ten bucks, it is almost certain they are all stolen.

This is a new problem, beginning with phototype

Prior to World War II, stealing a font design was so difficult that it was very rare. Plus, font design is so restricted by its content that many fonts are derivative to start with. Up until the 1950s, there were only a few hundred font designs available.

But that all changed with the development of phototype. Now the characters could be reproduced photographically. With the explosion of presstype in the 1960s and 70s, graphic designers suddenly had a few thousand fonts to use. But that radically changed in the 1980s.

Most people do not know it, but serious digital illustration for desktop publishing started with font design software. The first was Fontographer. It was the first PostScript illustration program with its release in January 1986 by Altsys, with version 2.0 coming out in the fall of 1986.

Illustrator was not released until January 1987. FreeHand came out in 1988 as a further development of Fontographer into a complete drawing program. The first public demo of Photoshop happened about the same time, though version 1 was not released until 1990.

Digital font design software transformed the industry

By the mid-1990s, almost every professional graphic designer had a copy of Fontographer which came bundled with FreeHand 4 and 5, before Adobe gobbled up both of them and put them out to pasture.

I got my first copy in 1993-94, about the time I signed my first book contract to write Printing in a Digital World, the first textbook on the new all-digital workflow in printing. I designed all the fonts used in that book because I was so frustrated by the limitations of early PostScript fonts.

But I was one of many graphic designers playing with the new possibilities. The result was much like the current on-demand self-publishing paradigm—suddenly there were hundreds, then thousands of amateurs or even just hobbyists producing fonts. Most of them had little training except for their skill in typography.

Soon, companies were created to serve this new glut of font designers. I started selling my fonts with Makambo in the late 1990s. It went mainline with MyFonts around the turn of the century. But online font retailers were springing up all over.

The result was much like we saw with Lulu in 2002 followed by CreateSpace, Scribd and many more selling on-demand print books or printable quality PDFs for download. Then everything exploded with Kindle, then iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and the mess we have today.

How many fonts are there? No one knows for sure

Basically people gave up trying to figure it out in the middle of the first decade of the new millennium. By then it was assumed there were a couple hundred thousand fonts.

But purists didn’t count most of the free fonts available—much like the traditional publishers have had a real difficult time counting the huge number of books published by companies like Smashwords and Scribd—among may others. Smashwords alone adds 100,000 books a year.

Fonts in ebooks are easy to steal

There was always a small problem with fonts from PDFs. A decent hacker could pull out a font relatively easily to pirate a font. EPUBs greatly added to this problem. An ePUB is simply a zipped archive with the extension changed. When you un-zip an ePUB, the fonts embedded are simply laying there in a folder called Fonts. Anyone can just take these fonts and install them on their computer.

Worse, as the spirit of lawlessness increases, the more larcenous among us can take these “free” fonts and sell them anywhere they like—or simply give them away. This piracy of fonts is a huge problem. It attacks the basic needs of the font designers—getting food on the table and paying rent. So, like idiots everywhere, the assumption was “we’ll make it illegal” to keep our intellectual property rights safe. But we all know you cannot legislate morality.

Font sellers considered ebooks like software and sold ebook licensing with OEM pricing

OEM [Original Equipment Manufacturer] pricing is for fonts which are included with software like the fonts included with your operating system, games, or the fonts that come with your copy of Microsoft Office or the Adobe Creative Suite.

These fonts are sold for a few cents up to a couple dollars per font per number of copies. In other words, even at a penny per copy, Office might sell a million copies or more. A million pennies is $10,000 per font. That would be $10,000 for the regular, $10,000 for the italic, and so on.

Recently, fonts included in games and ePUBs were sold with a yearly subscription of $250 or so, per font—minimum. As a result, most fonts available do not have a license to be used in ePUBs or Kindle books. No author would pay that.

Fonts in operating systems and Word are not licensed for ePUBs or Kindle

A special license needs to be purchased to embed fonts in these ebooks. So, the result has been that fonts are not normally embedded in ebooks. This solves the problem for the font designers, but it certainly does not help you as the book designer. Plus, it greatly hurts readability and clear communication with your readers.

Ebooks require fonts designed for reading

These fonts are relatively rare and until very recently none of them had a license to enable their use in an ebook other than a PDF. These are fonts like Garamond, Jenson, Galliard, Bembo, Caslon, and the rest of the classic font families. Most of the thousands of new fonts are designed for what is called display use: ads, brochures, and the like.

Remember, the modern ebook (ePUB and Kindle) is a very recent phenomenon. The first Kindle books were available only in 2007 when the first Kindle was released. The existing pros considered it a joke, as they do all brand-new technology.

The Mac was released in 1984, but it didn’t become the industry standard until the early 1990s. Windows did not fully support PostScript desktop publishing until NT4 and Windows 98 in 1998 or so.

The same has been true with the modern ebook. No one took them seriously among professional designers until the release of the iPad and iBooks. Prior to that it was all geek stuff handcrafted in raw code using HTML and CSS. Embedding fonts in HTML did not become commonplace until near the end of the first decade of the new millennium. As a result, ebooks with embedded fonts were very rare.

The fonts you have are licensed for PDFs only

The fonts on your computer are usually licensed so that they can be embedded in a PDF. PDFs are used for print books, as you know. So, you can pick a font which reads really well and use it with no problem in the PDF you upload to CreateSpace, Lulu, Lightning Source, or any of the other print on demand vendors.

None of them can be legally embedded in an ePUB or its variant Kindle KF8. Even today, non-PDF ebooks with embedded fonts can only be read on Kindle Fires and iBooks with the exception of a few relatively rare ereader apps.

Poor font choice and bad typography are two of the reasons why ePUBs remain relatively difficult to read

Except for iBooks, your font choices are very limted and many fonts available on an ereader were simply not designed for readability. They work relatively well for novels, but their inadequacies rapidly become a real problem with complexly formatted non-fiction.

Free fonts!

There are tens of thousands of these available. The problem is that most of them are pure piracy or produced by designers with no font design and little typography training. Until the new millennium, all book designers were professional graphic designers. The primary foundational skill taught to graphic designers is typography. Free fonts are in another world of typographic horror.

I’m not saying that there are no good free fonts. I’m saying this is living on the wild frontier and many of these free fonts are simply dangerous. With Windows in the 20th century, a bad font could actually wipe out your hard drive. That may still be true. Most corrupted documents are produced by using a damaged or corrupted font. Many free fonts are corrupt or even carry a virus.

Free fonts can be used with care

Joel uses some carefully selected free fonts with his Word templates for producing books. But this is rare. Even free fonts often come with licensing restrictions which do not allow you to embed them in software to be sold—like in an ePUB.

In general (as usual), you get what you pay for. A decent, professional font will cost you from $10 to $40 or more—each. Virtually none of these include ePUB licensing. My fonts do, but only if you buy them directly from me at bergsland.org.

The Creative Cloud changes the game

First of all, InDesign can now simply export an ePUB with embedded fonts which validates and is accepted by both iBooks and Kindle KDP. This is huge! It means that professional designers can now craft beautiful ebooks of professional quality and directly export them from the normal professional formatting software—InDesign.

TypeKit fonts with ePUB licensing are included with your Creative Cloud subscription

Now, by simply subscribing to InDesign Creative Cloud or the entire Creative Cloud, you get several hundred excellent fonts with a license to use them in ePUBs. I should say, they’ve demoed this publicly and it is only awaiting reliable availability.

This will become the new standard for professional designers producing on-demand books, both in print and in e-readers. Fonts to use in their print books and online in websites and ebooks will become the norm for professional designers. Adobe says they already have a million subscribers to Creative Cloud worldwide.

The lack of professional WYSIWYG page layout software for the new ebooks has now disappeared. The major problem has always been Microsoft Word, which has very limited typographic capabilities. Joel’s Word templates are the only solution I am aware of to this design dilemma. But the fonts which come with Word are not licensed for ePUB and Kindle use.

Trust me when I say that you want to use embedded fonts in your ePUBs and Kindle KF8 files. Many new ereaders which support embedded fonts are in the works. Adobe just joined the Readium consortium, for example. My book design fonts sold directly from my Website [http://www.bergsland.org/fonts/] include ePUB licensing. I will be offering more packages soon.

If you have specific questions about font usage, please leave them in the comments.

David BergslandDavid Begsland has been an illustrator, graphic designer, typographer, and art director for over 40 years. He taught these materials in Community & Business Colleges for 20 years or so. He started designing fonts in 1994, and now has over a hundred fonts for sale at MyFonts.com and Monotype’s various sites. His personal best selling book is either “Practical font Design” or “Writing In InDesign”. He doesn’t keep track of stuff like that. The center of his online presence is his technical blog: The Skilled Workman at http://bergsland.org

 
David Bergsland is the designer of Contenu, available at Myfonts.com. Amazon links contain my affiliate code.

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    { 92 comments… read them below or add one }

    Alyssa December 9, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    Hello! I wanted to know what most authors do about font on their book covers. Is it part of the cover-design? (Do you have to make your own font for the title/etc?)
    Sorry, this must be naïve, but I’ve never known so I just decided to ask here. Thanks!
    Alyssa

    Reply

    David Bergsland December 9, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Font on book covers are no problems they are almost all done in PDFs, PSDs, or JPEGs. A PDF can embed the fonts with no issues in most cases. Once it’s printed, the issue is gone. The Photoshop files have converted the fonts to pixels, so it’s no longer a font.

    Reply

    Norma van Rees November 17, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    Thanks for all of the information David. I am still a little unsure about the use of the Calibri font family. I am a graphic designer and a small publishing company wants me to use this font for their internal text designs for a large number of commercial books. Although I have this font (open type TT flavour) on my Mac, do I need to purchase this font separately and then acquire an additional license because the end products will be commercial products (i.e printed books that will be sold). The books will be printed from print-ready pdfs. To my knowledge, no e-books will be made to

    Reply

    David Bergsland November 18, 2014 at 7:37 am

    Hi Norma,

    Since I do not have Calibri, I assume it is one of the fonts installed by an educational version of Word or Office. If it’s just a normal version of Office or Word, there should be no problem. I have no Microsoft software on my machines—so I don’t know. It would be very unusual for them to give you a font with such restrictions. You should look at the licensing which comes with the fonts. Normally, anything for print is allowable except for sending copies of the font to the printer in a package with the original layout file. Since printers require a PDF, that should be no problem. I wish I could be more definite.

    Reply

    Norma November 18, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Yes, it came with the normal version of Microsoft Office for Mac software. Thanks so much for the reply, David. Much appreciated!

    Reply

    Joe November 17, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Hi David. I have a question if you don’t mind. I’m a graphic designer, and I definitely don’t want to steal anyone’s hard work. I have a design shop, and create stickers, decals, banners, and anything else that customers need. I take it you’ve seen “vinyl wall art” before (with different sayings in various colors of vinyl). My question is…

    If a font is licensed under the SIL open font license, am I able to use that font in a design that I’ve made, and sell it on Ebay or Etsy ?. It’s not being redistributed as the original file, so I would assume I was able to, but if you could elaborate on how/where the proper place is for me to purchase/download fonts for that purpose, I would greatly appreciate it.

    Reply

    David Bergsland November 17, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Sorry, I don’t know what a SIL open font license is. But in general, any font purchased can be used for print with no issues. PDFs are usually fine.

    Free fonts often say it can’t be used as the sole content of a poster, but that’s rare.

    For vinyl wall art, don’t you need to convert to outlines to be able to cut the image?

    Reply

    Joe November 17, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Yes Dave, if you have a font, you’d have to have a cut line around the font. However, if you sell someone’s name in a specific font, I’m not 100% sure how to tell if I’m legally able to use it. There are free fonts that are downloadable from a lot of places, but that doesn’t mean that they’re all free to use any way you want. Where are some legitimate places to purchase fonts to resell, and use for vinyl wall art and auctions ? (if you know any). I appreciate your time and the response, thanks a lot.

    Reply

    David Bergsland November 17, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    I’m not sure what you mean about resell? MyFonts and fonts.com are the biggest and best. I just don’t know what you mean by resell. If you are giving the client a copy of the font, you’ll need to purchase second copy.

    Reply

    Joe November 17, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    For example…

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Personalized-Custom-Butterflies-Butterfly-Flower-Name-Vinyl-Decal-Sticker-Wall-/181037461866

    Would she have had to purchase that specific font to be able to use it in her designs ?. I’m not talking about actually taking the font file and selling it. I’m talking about downloading a font, and incorporating it into a design, and then reselling that design (as a vinyl cut out). Another example would be a lot of people on Ebay and Etsy selling words and phrases in vinyl cut outs, for above doors and windows, such as “Welcome” in a fancy script font. So say that “Welcome” font was created using “Commercial Script” (a script font). Well, would whoever created that have to purchase that font ?, or would not have to purchase it, seeing as how they aren’t technically reselling the actual Commercial Script .ttf. Am I making sense at all ?. I’m not talking about reselling the actual font file,…I’m talking about making a design (such as a logo), and incorporating a font into that design, and then selling that design as either hard hat stickers, a logo, or whatever.

    David Bergsland November 17, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    No reply button on your post. What you are talking about is normal usage. No problem.

    Joe November 17, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    So it’s ok to download a font that has an open license agreement and use it in images to sell ?. I didn’t know that at all, thanks for the information.

    David Bergsland November 18, 2014 at 7:39 am

    The only thing confusing is your term “an open license agreement”. I don’t know what that is.

    Duncan Long November 14, 2014 at 7:58 am

    So let me see if I have this right: Basically ANY font from MS, Adobe, Linotype, etc., can’t legally be used for a Kindle, ePub, etc., ebook? Only copyright-free fonts? This seems like a sorry state of affairs if that’s the case.

    Reply

    David Bergsland November 14, 2014 at 9:47 am

    NO, THAT IS NOT TRUE. As a benefit that comes with the Creative Cloud purchase, Adobe offers many fonts (hundreds) with a license for ebooks. The license is not needed unless you embed fonts, and this is not commonly done yet. You can buy an ebook license for any font, but it will cost extra for most (although I include an ebook license with my fonts, that is very rare).

    But most authors and ePUB producers are not embedding fonts yet. So, it’s not a real problem unless you care how professional your book looks. But it makes a large difference in readability where you can use it (iBooks only at this point, plus books bought with a direct download).

    Reply

    Sharon October 11, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Ok. So what you are saying is that if we use a font through an Adobe Cloud subscription to create our ebook or print-on-demand-book, we are safe? That seems a little suspect to me. I understand the font history and all of that, but when I read the “fine print” in the license is that most font licenses specify only their use on web pages, servers, etc., but not in e-publications. I have yet to see as license that includes print or e-pub publication. So what do we do to make sure that the font we use in a self-published book is legal??

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 11, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    No, what I’m saying is that TypeKit, which you receive as part of a paid Creative Cloud subsciption, gives you a hundred plus fonts or more that you can legally use in an ebook.

    Reply

    Sharon October 12, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Thanks. Is it safe to assume, then, that they can be used in a print book which is produced using Adobe InDesign, with my Creative Cloud subscription? Should the font identification and the licensing information be included on the copyright page?

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 13, 2014 at 6:42 am

    that’s always been the case. Giving font information is occasionally done, but it is certainly not required.

    Reply

    Sharon October 13, 2014 at 7:20 am

    Thanks!

    Timo October 7, 2014 at 5:11 am

    Dear David,

    thank you very much for the interesting article and your time to reply to so many comments.
    As most of whats written above is about e-readers and embedding, I am still not sure if I got the following correctly.

    Let’s assume, I create a logo for a client and I am using a font for the logo’s subline that came with a software package such as Microsoft Windows. Do I still have to worry about licensing as I own the license and my client does not get the font but only the outlines?

    By the way, is there any book on typography that you can recommend such as Leslie Carbarga’s Logo, Font & Lettering bible?

    Best regards,
    Timo

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 7, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    If you are working in print, no problem.

    If you are working in ePUB or Kindle, you need to convert the type in Photoshop to a JPEG and place them. ePUBs cannot accept vector information, and you probably don’t have a license to use the font in an ePUB. You’d have to ask Microsoft. I don’t have any Microsoft software on my computer, so I don’t know. Sorry.

    Reply

    Sabrina March 4, 2014 at 4:59 am

    Thanks for all the info. I have a question about PDF based ebooks. I am illustrating and formatting a children’s book. Since it is heavy on illustrations we are using PDF. Are the legal concerns the same with a PDF as with an ePub? Any guidance is appreciated.

    Reply

    David Bergsland March 4, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Fonts normally are licensed to be embedded in PDFs and have been for close to two decades.

    Reply

    Tomas M. March 3, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    All authors might find useful to visit these projects that are dedicated to real “free” fonts licensed under SIL, GNU and similar licenses:

    openfontlibrary.org

    theleagueofmoveabletype.com

    Reply

    Shawn December 24, 2013 at 9:46 am

    hey , you mentioned a lot about ebooks , and it was great info , but
    I am looking for font licensing for printed books . . do you know any specific places online that specialize or sell those licenses ? crucial info ! thank you . . .
    Shawn

    Reply

    David Bergsland December 24, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    MyFonts.com and Fonts.com are the biggest and best../.

    Reply

    Penny November 23, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    I have recently finished a book that is a compilation of art activities that a teacher will actually print and use with a class. The pages are comprised mostly of drawings with a small word headings rather than a page full of words that someone would sit down and read. I did all the design work in Illustrator and In Design CS6 and as of now I have used the font Bernie (sometimes as large as 36 pts) for the headings. I picked this font because it has a more artsy quality than some of the traditional fonts. My question is do I have the right to use it because it was in my Adobe software and can it translate into an ebook since many teacher would like just having the pages they want to reproduce right on the computer. I also plan to print copies for retail.

    Thanks
    Penny

    Reply

    David Bergsland November 23, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    All you need to do is convert the type to outlines. Then, it’s no longer a font—it only looks like one.

    Reply

    David Auteur October 29, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    I read the mentions in the comments about the usage of fonts in covers and that if you don’t embed, you’re fine. Is that right?

    But if I have a font that came with my software, say Apple’s Preview application or iWork suite, would I be able to use those fonts for commercial book covers? And considering KDP / Amazon distributes worldwide, wouldn’t there be some issues with international markets?

    Thanks for your time.

    Cordially,
    David

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 7, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    KDP requires JPeGs for the covers, so all fonts are rasterized. That solves the problem.

    Reply

    Jeremy Taylor October 22, 2013 at 11:38 am

    Hi David, Any plans to accept paypal payments for your fonts?
    Jeremy

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 22, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    I always have. I thought I still did, but I went to a Gumroad delivery a while back. I’ll put the option back in. Most people didn’t like having to wait until I emailed the fonts to them.

    Reply

    Rob Siders October 22, 2013 at 11:24 am

    One thing worth mentioning with respect to embedding fonts in ebooks: embedding fonts, or even specifying them, for body text can turn off the ability for readers to change the font to their personal liking. Changing the body text and not allowing people to change it back to their personal setting is unfriendly thing to do. While the author’s/publisher’s/designer’s choice may in fact be a superior one, not everyone will agree.

    Headings, I’ll argue, are fair game… embed those to your heart’s desire. But leave body text alone so that you’re not messing with people’s personal reading choices.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 22, 2013 at 11:31 am

    That’s a good point, Rob, since many people are using ereaders specifically because they can enlarge the text for easier readability.

    Reply

    Andrew Claymore October 22, 2013 at 11:34 am

    How does that work? If you embed the header font, don’t you need the reader to select ‘publisher font’, which overrides the body font as well? I just looked at ‘Whiskey Sour’, which is a nicely formatted eBook, and the header font only comes up when I activate the publisher font option.

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 22, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    They can always just turn them off and on again.

    Reply

    Rob Siders October 22, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    It depends on the ereading system, as each handle it differently. The Kindle line is wildly inconsistent. For example, with the Fire models prior to the recent HDX, if you specify that body text should be the embedded font without a generic fallback—or even one of the on-board fonts without a generic fallback—then the reader is locked into it. Others in the Kindle line simply turn the publisher fonts on or off.

    Reply

    Andrew Claymore October 22, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Seems like the kind of thing an author should avoid as a DIY project – too easy to deliver a substandard product. You’d pretty much need a collection of various kindle readers just to do proper quality control.
    Then there are the crazy glitches with dropcaps…

    Reply

    Vampaer March 26, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    Just to elaborate, with Calibre, you can just set it up to work dilcrtey off the DropBox folder. Click on the Library icon (it might say something like XXX books ), then choose the option Switch/create library . If the library is not already at the DropBox location, it will move it. Of course, this assumes that you have enough space on DropBox. My eBook library is about 3 GB I also like the FolderSync option, although I might prefer to just sync those files that I am reading, keeping the space open for videos.

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    Reply

    Greg Strandberg October 18, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    I don’t know a whole lot about fonts, but I’ve never had a reader comment on them in my eBooks.

    I did have Times for a long time, and my sales were never that good. Could that have been the reason? It’s a possibility, but I don’t think most readers really think twice about it. I’ve certainly never heard any of my relatives discuss fonts when they’re talking about their e-reading habits.

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 18, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    The problem, Greg, is most of the reader reactions are subconscious. Times will make a book look and feel “cheap”, for lack of a better word. The reader will not instinctively trust your opinions and conclusions as Times is not seen in trustworthy documents. Stuff like that. Most readers will not be aware of why they feel like a book is too expensive at $4.99, or why they get a feeling that the author might not know what they are talking about. Graphic designers ave been playing with these reactions for many decades now—on purpose. If you run afoul of convention, step outside the norm, there are penalties in reader reactions.

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 18, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    The problem, Greg, is most of the reader reactions are subconscious. Times will make a book look and feel “cheap”, for lack of a better word. The reader will not instinctively trust your opinions and conclusions as Times is not seen in trustworthy documents. Stuff like that. Most readers will not be aware of why they feel like a book is too expensive at $4.99, or why they get a feeling that the author might not know what they are talking about. Graphic designers have been playing with these reactions for many decades now—on purpose. If you run afoul of convention, step outside the norm, there are penalties in reader reactions.

    Reply

    Maggie Dana October 19, 2013 at 9:31 am

    David, you might be interested in this article I wrote about books and readability, several years ago:

    http://howpublishingreallyworks.blogspot.com/2009/05/guest-post-how-book-design-affects.html

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 19, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Yup! It’s a good article.

    Reply

    R. E. Hunter October 18, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    Thanks for a very informative article. I wasn’t aware that many of these fonts are not licensed for eBook use. That’s something that could really come back to bite an author if they had a hit self-pubbed eBook. I won’t be surprised to see lawsuits start popping up over this in coming years. I suppose that until now, not many eBooks have used embedded fonts, but no doubt that will change.

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 18, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    I think you are correct, R.E., that change is coming. It will really ramp up as floating objects come online for use as sidebars, as tables get the ability to show borders and gradient fills, and things like that. Many of these things have not been seen yet, but everything I’ve heard tells me that Adobe considers ePUBs to be a very important part of their publishing abilities. We know that simply because they recently joined the REadium consortium—so the horrible ADE2 can be tossed. Adobe Digital Editions [which is the base of Nook, Sony, and many others] is a terrible ereading app. REadium, on the other hand, (only available in Chrome for now) is an excellent ereading app— almost on a par with iBooks. Of course, iBooks is in the new Mavericks OS from Mac due out next week [we think].

    Reply

    Andrew Claymore October 18, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    David, I had a look at your Contenu/Buddy package and they do look nice. I was on the verge of embedding arial and garamond in my titles as part of a new release, backlist renovation when I read this post and realized I might be running afoul of EULA.
    How does your font work with respect to eBooks? Would I have a serif font with the ability to use bold and italics? Would the sans serif (the Buddy, I think) be embeddable in the ePub as well?
    Is it a one time fee for use in all my eBooks?
    I’m looking for a font pair where I can use a sans for chapter headings to give it a more SciFi feel, but a serif for the story so it’s easier on the eyes.

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 18, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    My Contenu/Buddy package is simply available to use. I do not place any restrictions on it other than you can’t give it away. They are licensed for five computers which you own and can be used for books, print, Web, PDFs, and ePUBs [including the mobi conversions].

    The 4-font Contenu eBook family are 8-bit, 256 character fonts which use oldstyle figures [because ePUBs cannot use OpenType features] and has a few custom bullets for use in lists. The 8-font Contenu family are OpenType with small caps, small cap figures, oldstyle figures, ligatures, and some more stuff like that I think they are running about 550 glyphs and they work with no problems in InDesign.

    Buddy is also OpenType, but for ebooks all you have access to are the proportional lining figures.

    Reply

    Andrew Claymore October 20, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    David, I picked up the package and installed to office. It looks great on my latest book, but I think I might be doing something wrong. Contenu eBook seems to be missing all the descenders, even when I just go to the Windows Font directory and open the font file itself they are all missing.

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 21, 2013 at 6:53 am

    Hi Andrew,

    They are there. I do not know Word, but isn’t there a setting about having accurate leading on the screen or to show the whole font? Did you get them from MyFonts? Maybe they know what the problem is. I don ‘t have Windows or Office, but this is a new problem to me.

    Reply

    Andrew Claymore October 21, 2013 at 8:42 am

    It’s not just a question of settings in Word. When I open the ttf font file in the windows explorer, it shows the font samples in increasing sized rows – all missing the descenders.

    Buddy and the non eBook version of Contenu seem to display fine, so I’m wondering if it’s the eBook font rather than my settings. Is there a huge difference between the two or can I embed that font without alienating readers?

    David Bergsland October 21, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Email me @ david at radiqx dot com and I’ll make you a copy that will work. Tell me where you bought the font and I’ll get it straightened out there also.

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 22, 2013 at 7:31 am

    Use can use either of them. Evidently the differences can only be seen by a typographer.

    David Bergsland December 9, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Andrew, I had another customer using Word in Windows who had the same problem. I’ve got it infixed as far as she is concerned. If you give me an email, I give you a copy of the new files and see if they fix your problem also.

    Andrew Claymore December 10, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Thanks, David.
    It’s a nice looking font pair, so I’d love to try it out on my next upload.
    I sent you an email a few minutes ago.

    Jamie October 18, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Another font site: I have albums setup at MyFonts.com for the font options I plan to use for my WIPs (two different genres, different font conventions for each). The different font foundries on that site sell licenses for web use and e-reader embeds (if you see an icon that looks like an e-reader, then that’s what the license is for). In general, if your font is only being used on the cover image then you don’t need an embed license. It’s the interior text/ornaments that do. I believe MyFonts lets you search based on license, if you want to narrow down your options.

    Until I read this post I did not realize that people were embedding fonts for text (instead of fleurons/ornaments) in their ebooks. I ignored that option because I thought the defaults that come with the e-reader were chosen specifically for their e-book ergonomics and I don’t know enough about which ones are “restful on the eyes” for that format as opposed to print. For example, I’m under the impression that Kindle uses Calluna because it won’t strain the eyes as much on an e-reader. Now that I know that the print fonts can be used for ebooks, too, it looks like I will have some experimenting to do :)

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 18, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    Hi Jamie,
    That’s good to hear. I sell my fonts at MyFonts. They were the ones who told me that I could not offer an ePUB license other than OEM pricing. I’m glad to hear that might have changed, though they have not told me that I can offer that license at a reasonable price yet.

    I suspect you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much better good fonts look in your ePUBs. It really kicks up the appearance of quality.

    Reply

    Linda Bonney Olin October 18, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    This is a topic I am very interested in learning about. I thought I had exercised due diligence on permissions for my “free” fonts, but maybe not when it comes to ebooks.

    The article contained lots of cautionary info but fell far short of answering the title’s question. It seemed that the only sure ways to not be accused of thievery are to (1) buy Joel’s templates, (2) buy fonts from the article’s author, or (3) buy into Adobe’s Creative Cloud.

    If I continue to use plain old Times New Roman for my Kindle book files and let the typographical niceties go hang, can I safely say, “I am not a crook”? (Oops, now I’m probably plagiarizing RMN!) :)

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 18, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    The fonts which come with your OS, your word processor, and the like are not licensed for ePUBs. If you do not embed the fonts, there is no problem. AND you cannot embed the fonts unless you have InDesign or hand-edit the code in most cases.

    I doubt if anyone is going to bother you about Times. However, it carries a lot fo baggage from it “normal” and often required use by bureaucracies, the IRS, school administrations, committees, and so on. These documents all have very negative responses from most readers. In fact, if we get something set inTimes in the mail, we commonly toss it in the trash unopened—because we know, by long experience, that there is no usable content in a bureaucratic report. ;-)

    Reply

    Linda Bonney Olin October 18, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Thank you for clarifying the embedding thing.
    As far as Times, it was not my intention to use it as the font readers would view. I agree—too bureaucratic. I meant that I could just stick with Times in my Word file and let the KDP gremlins change it to whatever default font they choose. Not so elegant, but legally safe, yes?

    The aggravation of fonts displaying differently on different viewing devices deterred me from bothering about font selection for my Kindle versions. I do pay more attention to selecting fonts for my CreateSpace versions and cover images, though not to the degree you pros do. I gather that I’m okay embedding fonts (having verified the embedding permissions) in the CreateSpace PDFs.

    Whew, live and learn. Thanks for helping that process along, David and Joel.

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 18, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    It sounds like you understand the basics fine. As I mentioned, the issue comes when you try to embed a font in an ePUB or MOBI file. If the book is simple, there is no problem with letting the ereader defaults cover it.

    Reply

    Andrew Claymore October 18, 2013 at 9:31 am

    Is there someting I’m missing here? Fonts like Garamond or Arial have ‘editable’ embedding permission, meaning that they can be used in content that can be edited by the user. I had thought this meant you could put them in eBooks.
    If someone wanted to steal those particular fonts, I doubt they’d bother ripping it out of an eBook, when it sits in their windows font directory.

    Reply

    Andrew Claymore October 18, 2013 at 10:00 am

    Okay, I went to the monotype EULA and they were a lot more specific about embedding than Microsoft.

    Embedding Font Software and Representations of Typeface and Typographic Designs and Ornaments. You may embed the Font Software only into an electronic document that (i) is not a Commercial Product, (ii) is distributed in a secure format that does not permit the extraction of the embedded Font Software, and (iii) in the case where a recipient of an electronic document is able to Use the Font Software for editing, only if the recipient of such document is within your Licensed Unit.

    It still seems like overkill, when most computers already have the font installed, but if you don’t protect your rights, you lose them pretty quickly.

    What about embeddable fonts with ‘installable’ permission? Monotype’s ‘Bookman Old Style’ shows this permission.

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 18, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Andrew, in general you are correct, but Garamond and Arial do not include licensing for ePUBs. Very few fonts do at this point. I agree the theft problem is overblown. There are too many pirate sites which will give you a copy along with their malware.

    Reply

    Janet Wellington October 18, 2013 at 7:20 am

    Thanks for this article! Okay, I need some clarification (for me and other DIY authors), so tell me if I have this right…if I utilize a font from Word or Photoshop, it’s okay as long as I don’t “embed.” And someone like me (using Word and Scrivener software to create epub/mobi files) doesn’t embed, right?

    I’m guessing that using a software/program like InDesign embeds a particular font so, WYSIWYG. Do I have that right?

    Would love an overview of the defining embedding. I’m guessing that my ebook covers have “embedded” fonts because they are Photoshop, resulting in a jpg file. Is that right? So, that usage is legal if using available fonts within Photoshop?

    Is all this why recommendations for people like me is to just make everything inside the ebook (mobi or epub) Times New Roman because fonts aren’t embedded? Meaning, even if I used a “fancier” font, it’s the ereader that “shows” the font that “works” for that ereader and ignores my usage of a fancier font for a Chapter Heading, for example?

    But, if I turn my epub/mobi file into a pdf for on-demand-printing, I “can” use the “included” fonts (Word and Photoshop) and they will show because it’s a pdf (and the licensing is “automatic” and included). Correct?

    Sorry to be dense, but this is an important issue to me, legally and morally. I wouldn’t mind paying an affordable fee in order for font designers to make a suitable royalty–and have been hesitant to utilize free fonts for a number of reasons (healthy caution, perhaps). But, it seems to me I wouldn’t pay for a font for my interior because I’m not embedding, yes?

    I have to say this is all pretty confusing to those of us who are publishing but are not interior book designers (and are publishing simple interiors, focusing on content rather than design).

    Lastly, is InDesign “easy” to learn–is there a basic course or how-to book to learn simple design using InDesign that someone like myself could handle? Would love a recommendation.

    Again, thank you (Joel too) for addressing this issue…

    Best,
    Janet Wellington

    Reply

    Tracy R. Atkins October 18, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Janet,

    Here is Microsoft’s Font License FAQ:

    http://www.microsoft.com/typography/RedistributionFAQ.mspx

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 18, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Hi Janet,

    Your questions are good. An embedded font is only possible if you use InDesign, maybe Quark, or if you crack the ePUB open and edit the code directly. An embedded font is included within the book and shows up in any ereader which supports embedded fonts. Primarily iBooks and the Kindle Fire at present.

    If you do not embed the fonts, all font information is usually stripped out and the ereader shows you the book is whatever font the designers of that ereader think you should be using. Those fonts are readable, but not very versatile.

    They are not embedded on Photoshop because they are no longer fonts. They have been converted to a bitmap [pixel-based or rasterized] image at 72 dpi. 72 dpi images are very crude and blurry for rendering type unless it is 18 point or larger [more or less depending on the font]. For print, you have 300 dpi, so they are more readable, but the font is not embedded. It is rastrized or converted to pixels in the Photoshop file. JPEGs are artifacts to contrasty edges in addition to the coarseness of the 72 dots per inch resolution.

    Yes, if you are not embedding, you do not have to worry. This does not matter much for novels and simple non-fiction. But as soon as you get into complex non-fiction with lists, tables, multiple levels of heads and subheads, special indents for things like quotes and things like that.

    InDesign is a professional tool. So, it takes a while to get it under your belt. My recommendation is Sandee Cohen’s Visual Quickstart for InDesign to get instructions for every command and dialog box. My book, Writing In InDesign, is an excellent guide to self-publishing and using InDesign as your writing tool of choice as well as your book formatting tool. I’ll have my latest version for InDesign CC out around Thanksgiving or so. Currently, edition 2.5 covers CS6.

    Reply

    Andrew Claymore October 19, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    There are a few other paths to embedding fonts in an Epub or Mobi. Word will save a file with embedded fonts and Caliber will take that file and convert it into an eBook with embedded fonts.

    David, am I right in assuming that, after purchasing your font package, I can simply put the files in my fonts directory and find them through the font selection button in word?

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 19, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    Thanks, Andrew

    I didn’t know Word would do that. I’m not surprised about Calibre.

    Yes, you can use my fonts like a normal set of fonts. 12 of the 16 are OpenType. But, as far as I know, Word still cannot access OpenType features, right? The eBook family is TrueType.

    Reply

    Rob Siders October 22, 2013 at 10:57 am

    “…any ereader which supports embedded fonts. Primarily iBooks and the Kindle Fire at present.”

    Nook, Sony and Kobo ereaders all support embedded fonts in epubs. Kindle supports embedded fonts in all KF8-ready devices from Kindle Keyboard forward, and in all Kindle apps except for Kindle Cloud (which is the engine that runs the online sample). There is a caveat with Kindle for iOS: full support for KF8, and therefore embedded fonts, only works when a customer buys such an ebook through Amazon and has it delivered to their iOS device. Side loading or emailing a file to Kindle for iOS reverts to legacy support.

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    I keep hearing this rumor or myth, but in fact, the upload facilities for Kobo, Nook, Smashwords, and Draft2Digital will not accept any ePUB with embedded fonts. It may be that the large traditional publishers grease the skids by using Web developers to write their code and get a more direct upload, but that is really not available to the new self-publisher. Thanks for the info about side loading to an iOS or MacOS Kindle app. That explains a lot. So, there’s no way to proof my Kindle books except with Kindle Previewer?

    Reply

    Rob Siders October 22, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    Kindle for Mac should display embedded fonts in side loaded mobi files. Kindle for iOS will not.

    My shop’s clients—almost all of whom are self-publishing—upload epubs with embedded fonts to Kobo Writing Life, Nook Press and Smashwords quite a lot. We began offering embedded fonts as an add on service in January 2012. Through today, we’ve done nearly 1100 ebook projects and about a third of them have embedded fonts. We’d know if they’re rejected.

    Rob Siders October 22, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    The latest Kindle Previewer version (2.91) provides a way to test mobi files with embedded fonts in Kindle for iOS. Open the file in K Previewer and select Kindle for iPad. This causes the app to create a new version of the file with an azk extension. Next, plug in your iPad/iPhone, launch iTunes, then go to the azk file’s location to transfer it to the iOS device via iTunes. Once it syncs, eject the device and you can open the ebook using the Kindle for iOS app.

    David Bergsland October 22, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Very interesting, Rob? How are you doing that? I assume you are cracking open the ePUBs and writing the code by hand, correct? If that is the case then you are not encrypting the font as required by Adobe, Myfonts, and Monotype. I may well be wrong, but this could mean you are violating the license of the fonts. My understanding is that you cannot simply use @fontface to add fonts without violating the EULA.

    I use ePUBs exported from InDesign with the fonts properly encrypted. They work for iBooks and Kindle KF8, but no one else will accept them yet, AFAIK.

    Reply

    Rob Siders October 23, 2013 at 10:02 am

    Yes, we hand roll every ebook we make, as our work flow starts with ebooks (75 percent of our business is ebook-only; the rest ebook + print).

    We’d never intentionally put our clients in a position to violate font licensing; as such, we won’t embed fonts that do not have ebook-favorable licenses. On occasion a client will insist they have properly licensed a font that’s quite obviously out of the question. When this happens we tell them we know better and help them find one that’s open, similar and within their budget.

    The SIL Open Font License is extraordinarily open and most of the Google Web font collection carries it. In these cases it’s not necessary to obfuscate the fonts. If we use a commercial font we generally go to FontSpring, where there are thousands of low-cost ($50 and under per title forever) fonts with favorable ebook licenses. We don’t even bother with MyFonts and other commercial sources unless we plan to use the font in images for some reason.

    Linda Bonney Olin October 23, 2013 at 11:55 am

    @Rob Siders You said,”We don’t even bother with MyFonts and other commercial sources unless we plan to use the font in images for some reason.”

    Can you elaborate? What does using the font in images have to do with it? And how does MyFonts differ from FontSpring or other sources in that regard?

    Thanks.

    Rob Siders October 23, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    @Linda: Most font licenses allow you to use them to make images, say on a book cover or a title page. We’ve used images for chapter headings, as well. Because images are static, there’s no danger of someone stealing the font software used in creating the images.

    MyFonts has only recently begun offering ebook-favorable licensing to fonts, so it’s not widely available and therefore too easy to fall in love with something and discover it cannot be embedded (ie. delivered as software). And many of the ones that do have favorable ebook-licensing are too expensive. It’s not uncommon for license fees to be several hundred dollars for a single font that can be used in one title for one year.

    FontSpring, on the other hand, launched with nearly all of its fonts carrying ebook-favorable licensing at affordable pricing. In many cases, they offer unlimited, perpetual licensing for one price. We have several authors with series titles who like the same look throughout the series. In these specific cases, we could either get multiple licenses at $50 per title, or get the unlimited, perpetual license for $150, allowing us to use it in six backlist titles now and more in the future. I don’t know of any other source that has that type of license.

    David Bergsland October 23, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    @Rob That’s what I thought. My clients and myself build the print books first and the convert the ebooks from there. For me ePUBs are a value-added service to my clients, and it’s a surprise to them that they sell at all.

    I’ve got a bunch of fonts listed with Fontspring also, but sales there are negligible for some reason.

    It’s good to know we’re saying the same thing, just for different clients with different needs.

    Amber October 18, 2013 at 6:48 am

    “If you use a font without paying for it, you are a thief.”

    Uh, no… there are many fonts given for free under various licenses where ultimately you can use a font without paying for it and you are NOT a thief. One commenter has already pointed out that Google Web Fonts is a free (and legal and non-stealing) option.

    The fact that you don’t personally like them or think them suitable should be a separate issue from whether or not their usage is legal. If you want to encourage people to check out the licenses for what they have to make sure that their usage is allowed, then great! But that’s not what you did. By representing your personal preferences under the guise of fact and law, you’ve really lost all credibility.

    “Poor font choice and bad typography are two of the reasons why ePUBs remain relatively difficult to read”

    Actually, they are not. I realize this is a matter of opinion, but I read hundreds of books a year digitally and have no problems. As do many, many other readers, obviously, if you look at the market. I also spend a good deal of time looking at feedback on books, formatting, and never once have I seen someone comment that the fonts were a problem. Size, spacing, maybe, but never the font choice.

    Could it be better? Sure. Yes. I say that not because I know how they can be better, but just with the inherent optimism that everything can get better. You want to revolutionize font choice in epubs, be my guest. That doesn’t mean they are “difficult to read.”

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 18, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    I advise people to avoid free fonts, because of all the dangers. So, I’ll stick with my statement.

    As far as embedded fonts in ebooks, I’ll agree that most people do not know the difference, that the available fonts work fairly well for novels, but if you’ve used ePUBs with embedded fonts a lot [as I have], you can readily see and experience the difference.

    For good readers, they can deal with the poor font choices and the inadequate typography. For the average reader, who is barely at a fifth grade level, we need to be very considerate with them and help them read our books with comfort and ease. Font choices help in this regard, as do custom bullets in lists, and all the rest of the typographic tools which are becoming available in InDesign CC.

    Just because your old Pontiac still drives fine, that does not mean I want to use it for anything strenuous or difficult. Excellent typography is a difficult skill which requires years of experience. That level of book design is gradually arriving to ePUBs.

    Reply

    JJ Toner October 18, 2013 at 4:38 am

    What about Google Fonts? My web designer used a font from there:

    http://fonts.googleapis.com/

    Are these fonts okay? Are they free?

    JJ

    Reply

    Patrick Samphire October 18, 2013 at 4:45 am

    You can certainly use any of the fonts from Google web fonts for web design. That’s what they’re for.

    Whether you *should* is another matter. The vast majority of fonts available through Google web fonts are not suitable for professional web design, any more than they’re suitable for professional book design. In fact, web design has more factors to worry about, because a font that looks one way on Chrome on a Mac will look enormously different on Internet Explorer on a PC, and most google web fonts just don’t work well across different browsers and platforms.

    Reply

    Tracy R. Atkins October 18, 2013 at 7:05 am

    Another great web-font source is Adobe Typekit.

    https://typekit.com/

    They have a nice tool where you add your fonts to a portfolio for your website and then simply add a segment of Java script to the site to use them. You can then reference the fonts with HTML tags. Its really easy to use.

    There is a fee, unless you have Adobe Creative Cloud, which includes Typekit for one website.

    Reply

    david Bergsland October 18, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    About TypeKit, I would watch and see. In the demo they said the fonts could be used for Web and print. I’ve never heard any limits. I’ve not seen the final implementation for ePUB embedding either—just the demo.

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 18, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    I really do not know. They are free for the Web. I’m not sure about print, and I’m pretty sure they are not for ebooks. But, you would have to ask them.

    Reply

    Rob Siders October 22, 2013 at 11:10 am

    You have to watch the licensing. Most, but not all, carry the SIL Open Font License, which makes them available for use in ebooks.

    Another place, FontSpring, has thousands of high-quality fonts at reasonable prices and license terms favorable for ebooks.

    Reply

    Susan October 18, 2013 at 4:35 am

    Wow. What a great education. Thank you!

    What about Smashwords? I’m assuming InDesign “free font usage” doesn’t carry over to that platform?

    -Susan

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 18, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    ACtually, the fonts which can be used in an ebook are licensed for the book no matter where the book is sold. The problem with Smashwords comes when you try to wipe out all the formatting for a Word document. Word doesn’t embed fonts (even if Smashwords would accept them). I always upload my ePUB with no fonts embedded in Smashwords. [To be truthful, I’m now using Draft2Digital more.]

    Reply

    Greg Strandberg October 18, 2013 at 2:06 am

    Wow, I had no idea fonts had such a long and varied history!

    Like many I used Times New Roman on my eBooks for quite some time. I’ve looked at fonts for sale online but the sheer amount and variety is often overwhelming.

    Sometimes I’ll run across sites recommending which fonts to use for your eBook. From what I’ve gathered it’s good to have a different font for your titles or headings compared to your main text.

    As a results I’ll usually do a Book Antiqua font or a Bookman Old Style and use Veranda for my headings. Not sure if it’s the best, but it’s what Word gives me for free, and it’s a little different from everyone else.

    Reply

    David Bergsland October 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Actually, I’d be a little concerned abut Times New roman. Because only people who use defaults actually use that font, it has pretty solid—boring & bureaucratic—ties.

    Reply

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