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How HarperCollins slightly adjusted its book design to save thousands of trees


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Towering tomes and weighty paperbacks hold a certain charm in the world of literature, but the environmental cost of that aesthetic can be substantial. In a refreshing shift, HarperCollins, one of the “Big Five” publishing houses, has implemented a seemingly insignificant design change that's yielding significant results for the environment.


The secret, it turns out, lies in fonts. By thoroughly testing various fonts on a large book, HarperCollins discovered that specific typefaces could accommodate more text on a single page while maintaining readability.


HarperCollins’ Christian publishing division, Zondervan Bibles, initially pioneered this approach. Historically, Bibles span thousands of pages—upwards of 2,500 sheets. In 2015, Zondervan’s designers had an epiphany: by tweaking fonts and adjusting page layouts, they could significantly reduce paper usage. This birthed a new compact typeface called the NIV Comfort Print. This innovation saved over 350 pages per Bible, translating to a staggering 100 million pages spared in 2017 alone. To visualize this, imagine stacking those pages—four times the height of the Empire State Building!


Tracey Menzie, VP of creative operations and production at HarperCollins, wondered if these learnings could extend beyond Bibles. Could they apply the same principles to novels and nonfiction?


The team embarked on experiments, testing over 50 versions of a large catalog book (over 600 pages) using different fonts. They discovered that certain fonts were more compact, resulting in fewer total pages without compromising readability. From these findings, they curated a list of 15 eco-friendly fonts—the preferred choices moving forward.


This seemingly minor adjustment has cascaded into a major impact, and the benefits extend beyond paper reduction. As Fast Company reports, these space-saving fonts also require less ink, further minimizing the environmental footprint. The impact is immense: HarperCollins estimates its efforts have saved a staggering 245.6 million pages, translating to the preservation of over 5,600 trees, and counting.


The conversation doesn't end here. Do these design changes affect your reading experience?


Source: https://www.fastcompany.com/91071102/harper-collins-made-a-tiny-tweak-to-its-book-design-and-has-saved-thousands-of-trees-as-a-result


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Too little, too late. 

The people at Harper Collins could also just have listened to Kurt Weidemann, who in the early 80's of the last century developed a font called 'Biblica', today eponymous with its creator, 'Weidemann'. It runs more narrow (without looking the part) than NIV comfort print. A bit embarrassing to tout a copy of an innovation 40 years too late and less good.

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