Amazon accessibility architect Peter Korn has acknowledged to my friend David Faucheux that the company is well aware of TeleRead’s pleas for an all-text bold option for K-12 kids, senior citizens and others who would benefit.
So—any plans to act? Alas, Amazon is keeping mum. For now, corporate secrecy and control-freakdom are winning over decency and user wants and needs.
Of course Amazon more or less monopolizes the E Ink ereader market in the U.S.—I wonder how long until President Trump’s Justice Department latches on to that fact, as part of The Donald’s Putin-nasty antitrust plan against Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos. But we at least can dream of font choice.
We have such freedom in Kobo ereaders, which let you install your own .tff or .otf files or vary the boldness of most of Kobo’s built-in fonts.
But here’s an idea even better than Kobo’s. What if you could coax a font to be whatever width, height, weight and you-name-it that you wanted, without increasing the file size in your ereader? Those new capabilities are the goal of an initiative from Adobe, Apple and Google (details here and here). The above image, via Erik van Blokland, shows what the responsive concept would enable.
The three corporate partners have increased flexibility of Web design in mind, not ereaders in the Kindle and Kobo vein, and beyond that, I wonder if today’s ereaders would have the processing power for such miracles. My guess is not. Still, maybe Moore’s Law or a variant can someday bring us this miracle.
When you outfit yourself for glasses, you want just the right prescription—same for your kids’ eye-wear. Imagine if fonts were the same way. Perhaps you could even run a software program, measuring reading comprehension with various configurations, to come up with just the right choice for you. Meanwhile, as we’re dreaming of variable fonts, what a shame it is that Amazon can’t even attend to a basic like an all-text bold option or a boldness slider, the way Kobo has!
For now, don’t give up on the bold fonts. If you haven’t done so already, email email@example.com, since it’s very possible that Amazon’s resistance to the all-bold option is coming from the top. Be civil. But do tell him how disappointed you are, given the company’s reputation for responding to customer needs on many other matters.
Detail: Yes, I’d love Amazon to surprise me and start caring about font choice. Come on, Jeff. Stop being the Putin of the ereader font world. We need user choice, not Trump-and-Putin-style “strong men.”
(Big thanks to frequent TeleRead commenter Mike Perry for the tip about the variable font initiative.)
With fonts being mostly vector graphics these days, it is probably entirely feasible for an eReader app to offer readers a Design It Yourself (DIY) font. I imagine a set of slider controls for height, weight, serifs and so on. That would be wonderful.
However, we would again butt heads with copyright holders. In this case, font foundries that no longer pour molten metal to form type for typesetters to set and so on through the paper printing process. They might argue that readers could duplicate (copy!) a font face that they own without their getting paid. Perish the thought.
I hope that someone develops the code to do this so the ruckus can begin.
@Frank: May you be right about the capabilities of the ereaders to render DIY vector graphics! I find the Kobo Aura One to be bit underpowered even for existing tasks, such as selecting text. As for the copyright holders, we really need for the public library system or a well-funded nonprofit to work with specialists to create a massive library of truly public domain fonts, variable if possible. Perhaps in many case there could be payments to Adobe and the rest in return for the “unglue” approach. One more reason for a national digital library endowment !
Today I saw a memoir by Amos Oz on sale for $1.99. Great deal! But the default format was ragged right without an option to change it. NO SALE.
Both Kobo and iBooks give me the option to turn off ragged right. I would rather pay the $9.99 full price to do this than struggle with 560 pages of untidy paragraph lines – but having two sources for ebooks and different devices is a pain, so I’m just going to skip this particular book for now.
But what happens if Amazon never fixes the problem and a majority of titles are offered with ragged right? They may force me to play my hand and that could mean ditching the Kindle for Kobo or Apple. I would not be happy if it ever comes to that.
And why can’t Amazon do something so simple as offer the option to turn off ragged right? Or turn on bold fonts? It’s what customers want.
That’s kind of funny, because I absolutely hate full justification on screens as small as most e-readers and tablets, let alone smartphones, and use Calibre to reformat any e-book I buy that’s DRM-free to have ragged-right first thing. In fact, I’m really disappointed there’s apparently no way to turn off full-justification on the Kindle without taking such measures.
Justified text means huge gaps between words and a completely unreadable environment.
Your preference is why we need a choice in alignments. Of course, Calibre gives us that choice BUT it’s a multi-step fix that’s a pain in the neck and it’s best left to the e-reader to give us the option to do what we want.
Like Kobo, for instance.
The only way any of our wishes get heard is if we communicate directly to the source as David Rothman suggests! If you have features that are wanted contact:
firstname.lastname@example.org AND email@example.com. On my last email, 9 days ago, I reeceived two separate replies-one allegedly at Jeff Bezos’ request.
Two p0ints to note:
1. Microsoft is a fourth partner in the variable fonts initiative, and drove much of it; they deserve credit too.
2. Although Amazon’s not one of the four major partners, one of their text engineers is an ongoing participant in the working group discussions.
@David: Thanks for the info. Here’s hoping that Amazon will care more about font choices and if nothing else offer a basic option such as all-text bold. Why do you think Amazon has resisted all-text bold despite the outcries of users?