Home / ATypI Tech Talks 2021

Landing the Whale: Rethinking the Book for the Digital Age

For centuries, designers, typographers, typesetters, and calligraphers have refined the craft of creating great books. From typeface design and selection to typesetting finesse, paper selection, and binding, every detail has been examined, refined, and perfected.

But more recently, over the span of a few short years, digital book production has largely ignored centuries of good practice and set back the quality of the reading experience immeasurably. Anyone who has spent time trying to finesse the reading experience in an ePub can attest to the difficulty and limited reader support for advanced typography. But support for OpenType features, variable fonts, better typographic marks, initial cap and/or first-line styles, widow/orphan refinement, responsiveness to screen size, and more are now well supported in virtually every shipping web browser. And by embracing the browser and responsive design, any book can be formatted for view on any device.

This presentation chronicles Jason Pamental’s attempt to create a truly great reading experience via typesetting “Moby Dick.” Complete with an interface that can scroll vertically or swipe side-to-side in page-sized chunks, a bookmarking system usable with any text that works across any device, and all the fundamentals of good reading typography, the historic missive has been adapted to modern devices and reader needs like dark mode and font size/spacing controls. Come see what the future of the book could be.


Jason Pamental

Designer, Tinkerer, Typographer RWT.io

Jason Pamental is a Principal Designer at Chewy.com, helping lead their design system efforts across ecommerce, enterprise, and native mobile app experiences. Previously, he spent much of his time working with clients to establish their typographic systems and digital strategy, helping design and development teams work smarter and faster, and running workshops about all of the above. Pamental is a seasoned design and user experience strategy leader with over twenty years of experience on the web in both creative and technical roles. Past clients range from state governments, type industry giants, Ivy League, and high tech to the NFL and America’s Cup.

Pamental researches and writes on typography for the web: he’s the author of “Responsive Typography” from O’Reilly, as well as articles for “.Net” magazine, “PRINT” magazine, “HOW,” and Monotype.com. He’s also a frequent guest on podcasts and an author of online courses for Aquent’s Gymnasium platform and Front-end Masters. He’s an experienced speaker and workshop leader, having presented at over fifty national and international conferences.

The real story: mainly he just follows Tillie around Turner Reservoir, posting photos on Instagram.