Kindle Firmware 5.8.9 Adds Better Margin Control (Ragged Right, Yay!) and Improved Format

When Amazon launched the first Kindle in 2007, they included an easter egg feature where you could change the justification from full (where the text is stretched to both edges of the screen) to left justification (where the text has a ragged right edge).

That easter egg was dropped from later Kindle models, but now Amazon has brought the feature back in the latest Kindle firmware update.

Amazon rolled out a firmware update today for the Kindle Voyage, Oasis, basic Kindle, and the late model Kindle Paperwhites which added a bunch of useful features.

In addition to the new justification option (which only works on ebooks in the KFX format), the update also makes the highlighting feature more responsive and adds a number of features which make it a lot more pleasant to read manga (assuming you are touched in the head and read manga on a Kindle).

The other new features are great, but I think the important feature today is the ragged right justification option, and that is because of what it says about text justification on the kindle.

Do you remember a couple years back when Amazon debuted the advanced typography features of the KFX format?

That was supposed to have fixed the problem of crappy automatic ebook formatting. Ask a typography nut or anyone

Ask a typography nut or anyone in digital publishing and they'll tell you that a common problem in ebooks is when the software tries to stretch text to both sides of the screen just like you find in a book. This works well in paper books, but when it comes to ebooks what we usually get is large and irregular gaps between words.

Those large gaps are unsightly and make it hard to read the ebook, and that is why Amazon's advanced typography features were supposed to fix that problem a couple years ago.

But with today's update, Amazon is admitting that all the fancy typography software in the world can't solve the problem of ebook formatting.

That's why Amazon is finally giving readers the option of ragged right, a justification option which offends typography experts and can sometimes actually give you a better reading experience.

Me, I love ragged right; it's one of the options I always look for in a reading app, and its absence is one of the reasons why I dislike reading on a Kindle.

So today's news has me thrilled.

But that's just me; what do you think of the changes?

You can download the update from Amazon, or simply wait for an automatic update.

Changelog

  • Ragged Right Alignment: You can now read using left-aligned (ragged right) text instead of justified (aligned on both left and right margin). This new alignment option can be selected from the Display Settings (Aa) menu within Kindle books that support Enhanced Typesetting. On the Kindle eBook Store page, look for "Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled" in the features list.
  • Faster Highlighting: You can now touch and drag to make a highlight more quickly. Tap the highlight again to edit or delete it.
  • Advanced manga page turn controls: You can now drag left and right to adjust speed and direction when using the fast continuous page turn feature while reading manga.
  • Preview manga double page spreads: You’ll now see a preview of double page spreads at the bottom of the page while reading manga. Tap the preview to see a full landscape view of the spread, and tap again to close it.
  • Crop margins in manga: You can now remove blank margins from manga pages for a closer view of the content. Enable this option from the Display Settings (Aa) menu within manga books.

About Nate Hoffelder (10619 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

10 Comments on Kindle Firmware 5.8.9 Adds Better Margin Control (Ragged Right, Yay!) and Improved Format

  1. Have they added the option of getting rid of that [much bad language redacted] page turn animation yet?

  2. This will be great, and I hope to find more books utilizing this feature. I’m tired of “word rivers” as I read.

  3. You say that:
    … admitting that all the fancy typography software in the world can’t solve the problem of ebook formatting …

    Tell me, Nate, how do paper books get printed? People manually stacking movable type to print a page by smearing it with paint and pressing to paper?

    Books are typeset by software and have been even before a typical PC had 386 processor that was a thousand times less powerful than a typical e-ink reader today.
    I do not understand why at least one manufacturer, or Android developer doesn’t use proper typesetting algorithms, similar to those in InDesign, LaTeX, Quark, [whatever is used nowadays].

    I know, for the best result you still need a human eye to oversee the software, but a “raw” output from a well parametrized LaTeX template is still magnitude better than Kindle or even fancy e-book readers for Android or iOS.

    • When I latex a document it takes the cpu a few seconds to create that typesetting solution even on short documents.

      The problem with reading on a Kindle is that the typography is expected immediately. And on top of that Kindles have such small screens that at most font setting the limited screen width doesn’t provide much in the way of opportunities to lay out fully justified text without rivers.

  4. It’s nice to have more options but I personally never liked ragged right justifications. I find it more distracting than a few larger than normal spacings. The problem I wish they would fix is the lack of a progress bar and syncing when reading stories in magazines such as Asimov’s or Clarksworld on the Kindle apps. My Voyage has them but sometimes I want to continue the short story/novella on my iPhone or iPad.

  5. I’m excited for this update, I look forward to updating my Kindles. Ragged right is what I prefer on Kobo and now I get to have it on Kindle!! 🙂

  6. They need to work on better Margins, more to the edges of the screen. The three margin control options they currently have is bad.

  7. It is nice to have more options, so it is good another one has been added.

    Nate, the article repeats the phrase “That’s why Amazon is finally giving readers the option of ragged right, a justification option which offends” twice in a row.

  8. The highlighting change seems a little underwhelming; maybe it is five percent better. At least it seems to squash the ‘persistent handles’ issue (highlight + adjustment handles sometimes stuck around after dismissing the menu). I still find it hard to adjust existing highlights, but I use tiny font size so it may be inevitable.

    Ragged right margin – I think I like it, but it was not high on my list. Of course now it is needed on iOS Android etc.

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