I have just figured out a way of reading ebooks presented in a font based on my own handwriting. Viewing new content in a somewhat familiar form is uncanny and makes the process of reading difficult content more engaging andaccessible. This is how I set up my “handwritten” ebooks on my Surface 3. It isperfectly possible to achieve the same result using slightly different devicesand workflows.
Create and install a “handwritten font”
I downloaded a handwriting PDF template from myscriptfont.com. This template provides a grid to handwrite all the characters. The document is designed to be printed, completed, scanned and uploaded to the site which will process it and generate a ttf font file. The font file can be installed as a font on any Windows, OSX or Linux computer but the devices at my school are locked down so students or teachers cannot make changes to the fonts. It is very likely that students and teachers would need to install the font at home. There is also the logistical problem of how to scan the template sheets in a classroom setting.It will be very chaotic to have 30 students queuing to scan their handwriting template sheets. I filled in my template sheet directly on my device using a Surface Pen and the Drawboard PDF annotation software. The completed template was saved as a PDF, which was uploaded to the site to convert into a computerised font. I downloaded the resulting ttf font, which was easy to install on Windows 10 by simply clicking on the file. The font is now available to every piece of software I use and this includes Word, PowerPoint and Calibre, which is my ebook management tool.
This post assumes that any “handwritten” ebooks are free of digital rightsmanagement (DRM) copy protection, which means there are no technicalrestrictions to prevent content from being amended and transferred betweensoftware tools and hardware devices. Kindle and Kobo ebooks are hamstrung withcopy protection so this will need to be removed before attempting to change thebook’s font but I am not going to explain how to break such restrictions inthis post or I may face the wrath of the ebook industry. There are a number oflegal ways to acquire ebooks without copy protection such as Wikibooks,Torbooks, O’Reilly Media, Humble Bundle and Project Gutenberg but they will not carry a large range of new popular titles.
An ethical rule of thumb is that downloading pirated books from torrents or using software to remove DRM for the purpose of redistribution is not OK. However, removing copy protection is morally acceptable providing it is on a book one has already purchased and downloaded. Call it fair use to open up a protected ebook to be able to install a font or to view the title on an alternative software or hardware platform. The ebook industry will never endorse such action because it undermines their copy protection schemes but it is unlikely that someone will ever get into trouble for removing the copy protection on a book they have purchased providing they do not go on to resell or redistribute the title they have just “hacked”.
Configure and read ebooks
I use Calibre to manage and configure my ebooks. Ebooks come in a variety of formats but the most widely supported file types are PDF and epub. Epub is my preferred file type because the text flows automatically whenever the text size is changed and this means content should not fall off the screen when you zoom in or enlarge the text. Calibre has a facility to convert ebooks from one format to another and this includes the option to specify the page size, margin and font. Voila! You can see how I setup the ebook “Animal Farm” in this screencast video.
I prefer reading PDFs in Drawboard so I can annotate the text using my Surface pen. I like reading epubs in Freda, because I can setup a night theme so the text is white on a black background. Both reading tools support the use of embedded fonts including “handwriting”.