It hasn't been so often lately that I have had the chance to read a book, but in the past couple of weeks I tried specifically to devote some time to reading beyond the newspaper.
That's how I wound up tackling an 1100-pager last week. But reading isn't as easy as it used to be. I don't mean my vision, which still seems fine. The difficulty is that publishers/printers/writers don't use a double space after a full stop anymore.
I have found this mildly annoying before, something I've noticed but put up with, yet I now realize that it will become very enervating over the longer haul of 1100 pages:
For a while I thought the single-spaced sentence ending was just a conceit (or an ignorance) of Bill Gates, analogous to the way he seems to think you would want your address book organized alphabetically by first name (!). But many sources remind us that double spacing was abandoned in books and magazines long before Microsoft, as early as the 1950s or 1960s. Perhaps I attributed it to computerization because early word processers tended to "autocorrect" two spaces to just one. At least they no longer do that! In any case, the standard explanation for the change, provided by authorities as disparate as Slate and Wikipedia, is that due to scalable type, the double spacing is "no longer necessary."
Well, maybe not to publishers. But for readers (for me, anyway), my latest experience with this current book is that spacing is essential to comfortable reading and quick cognition. A period is a small thing, not easily noticed. In smaller fonts, it's likely to be indistinguishable from a comma, and the upper-case letter beginning the next sentence also may be less noticeable, or mistaken for a proper noun. The double space is (or was) the best and most noticeable signal of a full stop.
With the new typographic convention, I find myself constantly being fooled into reading run-on sentences Wait I think as I get halfway into the next sentence, "that doesn't make sense," or "how does that track?" It's annoying, unnecessary, and delaying.
Publishers, authors, editors! Let's show some respect for the reader, and reinstate the double space to its proper place in the pantheon of correct typography. Word-processing programmers, how about at least a means of changing defaults, so that the double space could be automatically inserted? Or maybe we should go back to the practice used in those old-fashioned telegrams, where the period didn't exist and we used the word "stop" instead STOP