Here’s an example of the kind of information it might contain. I’ve used the font Baskerville Old Face, which is part of the Linotype Library, and information I reproduced from the Linotype website.
“This book is set in Baskerville Regular Old Face, which was designed by John Baskerville in 1750, and belongs to the Baskerville Font Family, comprising 6 fonts in Windows TrueType format, which is part of the Linotype Originals.
Though he was known internationally as an innovator of technique and style, his high standards for paper and ink quality made it difficult for him to compete with local commercial printers. However, his fellow Englishmen imitated his types, and in 1768, Isaac Moore punchcut a version of Baskerville’s letterforms for the Fry Foundry. Baskerville produced a masterpiece folio Bible for Cambridge University, and today, his types are considered to be fine representations of eighteenth century rationalism and neoclassicism. Legible and eminently dignified, Baskerville makes an excellent text typeface; and its sharp, high-contrast forms make it suitable for elegant advertising pieces as well.”
Baskerville Regular Old Face (graphic from Linotype website)
If you love type as much as I do, you just lap up this sort of information. But even if you don’t, isn’t it cool to find out that the typeface you’ve been enjoying has been around for more than 250 years?
So I always look at the Colophon in a book…
Anyway, as readers of this blog will know, I’ve been trying to drive the establishment of Embedded OpenType as a Web standard which would allow the legal use of high-quality commercial fonts on the Web.
People are stuck today with a limited choice of fonts they can use on their websites which they’re sure will be on the computers of everyone viewing them. But if we can embed any fonts we’ve bought, then the Web will explode with great design and high-quality typography. There’s absolutely no reason your website can’t look as great as the beautifully-set magazine you buy every month.
And that started me thinking: Why not introduce the venerable concept of the Colophon to the Web? Could it be used to drive a new business model for fonts which would benefit the font industry, web developers and designers – and the people who visit their sites?
I’ve run the idea past a few font folks I know, and they’re quite excited about it.
Here’s how it might work:
You’re a web designer or developer, and you want to use a font, or a number of different fonts, on your site. You’ve bought legal copies of all the fonts you plan to use, and they all come with Web embedding rights.
You create a Colophon page on your site which tells users about the fonts you used. But it doesn’t just give their history and interesting information about the font. It also includes a link to the font vendor(s).
If your readers like the fonts you used, they simply click on the link, and it takes them to a site where they can buy the fonts, download them, and start using them right away in their own documents and websites.
Now, you could see how this could be taken further, with a business model like, say Google’s AdSense. If the font vendor wished, they could pay you a small commission every time someone bought a font using the link from your site. The fonts you use might actually end up paying for themselves, or even making you money!
For the industry, Web Font Embedding would change from being perceived by some as “a potential threat to their valuable Intellectual Property” into a marketing, advertising and sales vehicle with the potential to really increase their font revenue by exposing their products to more customers than ever before.
Another alternative thought I had was that perhaps the End User License Agreement for a font with Web Embedding permissions turned on might require the website designer or developer to put a Colophon on their site in return for the embedding permissions, or perhaps a price discount.
I’m brainstorming here, just putting out a couple of ideas. Perhaps developers would find a compulsory Colophon too onerous a requirement. I don’t know. It would be up to the industry and the Web to work out the details and create a workable business model that benefits everyone.
I’d be interested in readers’ thoughts. There are probably even better ideas out there I haven’t yet considered. But I’m quite taken with the concept of fonts as a viral marketing channel. The more people who use fonts, the more people who buy fonts, the more we’ll be sure of a healthy font industry for the next 550 years. And we do need a healthy font industry; there’s lots of work still to be done, as publishing moves from paper to the screen.