Monotype Imaging has announced SkyFonts. Currently in beta, the service is designed to make it simpler for designers to experiment with their work. The system consists of a background system extension for OS X or Windows, which activates fonts downloaded from the SkyFonts portal. Payment is made via a credit-based system that's used to rent fonts on a daily or monthly basis. Entirely free five-minute trials are also available. (Rental pricing had yet to be announced at the time of writing.)
According to SkyFonts, the system has the potential to dramatically change how designers work with type. Design often involves trial and error, and yet traditional font purchase systems have been based around perpetual licenses for single projects; additionally, many designers simply cannot afford to buy a number of fonts just for experimenting with. "We believe customers will find SkyFonts to be very flexible, fluid and economical, with the ability to try fonts within actual jobs and then rent them for however long is necessary," said Chris Roberts, vice president and general manager of Monotype's ecommerce group.
Currently, there are some shortcomings to the service that make it less relevant for web designers. There's no access to fonts purchased through the likes of Fonts.com, nor any means to use SkyFonts as web fonts. However, the website's FAQ notes that the former is under consideration; and for web fonts, the SkyFonts portal indicates those fonts that are available as web fonts, and links to Fonts.com where the font can be added to a Fonts.com web fonts project.