Amazon’s Kindle e-reader is a lovely single-purpose gadget, with an industrial design ethos that, in its singular focus on the purity of e-reading, even Dieter Rams could love. The iOS and Android apps are even great. But no matter what gadget you read on, the Kindle’s typography and typesetting has always been a bit of a disaster, with six different typefaces, that are barely suitable for reading an actual book. (Who reads books in Futura, anyways?) As for the typesetting, “hideous” is the word many type lovers would use to describe it.
But today, Amazon is making a big step towards better typography on the Kindle. Not only are they unveiling Bookerly, the first typeface designed for the Kindle for scratch, but they’re finally solving the Kindle’s typesetting problems with an all-new layout engine that introduces better text justification, kerning, drop caps, image positioning, and more.
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Replacing Caecilia as the new default font for Kindle, Bookerly is a serif that has been custom-made by Amazon to be as readable across as many different types of screens as possible. Like Google’s Literata, Bookerly is meant to address many of the aesthetic issues surrounding e-book fonts.
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On low-res devices, Baskerville’s thin, elegant lines looked crude, whereas Caecilia, a slab serif, was just a bizarre choice for Amazon’s previous default font: although it’s highly readable, it’s a type of font best used for headlines, not body text, because slab serifs often look and feel bolded, even when they’re not.
Bookerly addresses both of these issues. No matter what screen you’re on, Bookerly was designed from the ground-up to be even more readable that Caecilia. According to Amazon’s internal tests, that means it’s about 2% easier on the eye. That may seem like a small improvement, but spread that 2% across millions of Kindle users and billions of pages of e-reading, and it all starts to add up.
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But to be honest, Bookerly’s not really what has me excited. The Kindle’s new layout engine? That’s another story. After almost eight years, Amazon’s finally starting to get e-book typesetting bloody right.
Previous to today’s update, when you read an e-book on the Kindle, sentences were fully justified. In other words, no matter how big your font size, Kindle’s invisible software always laid-out the page so that the left and right margins were completely straight. And it was ugly. Words were never split across lines, so there could be as many as half-a-dozen spaces between words.
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Amazon updated the Kindle app for iOS with Bookerly and a new layout engine today this morning. Another update rolling out the new font and typesetting technology to users of Amazon’s line of e-ink readers, Android, and other devices will be available later this summer.
Link to the rest at Co.Design and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.