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What do You Think of Amazon’s New Font, Ember?

Ember bookerly 379979781_bacb4cebba_oEarly last year Amazon released a firmware update for the Fire tablets with a custom serif font, Bookerly, which was developed exclusively for Amazon’s use on its Kindle platform. Now Amazon is about to release a sans-serif font, and you can get an early look.

When the Kindle Oasis starts shipping next week, it’s going to include a new font called Ember. Developed by font foundry Dalton Maag, Ember is a custom font developed just for Amazon. It’s already started showing up in recent updates for the Kindle ereaders as well as in early hands on videos of the Kindle Oasis, and now you can download it and try it yourself.

A friend was kind enough to snag a copy of the font family for me, and I have attached it below.

I haven’t tried the font in its native environment, yet. It is not listed as an option in either my Fire tablets or my Kindles (although I have been told that Amazon is already using it in the menus on the Kindle).

But I plan to go test the font by embedding it into an Epub file.

If you try it, let me know what you think.

image by jm3

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Gary April 21, 2016 um 8:55 pm

I simply do not notice fonts consciously. I may notice them subconsciously, but how would I know?

I can distinguish a serif font from a sans-serif font, and a script font from a gothic font, and "comic sans" is in a class by itself, but the subtle variations that distinguish one modern serif font from another are not noticed by me.

I’m sure that if someone enlarged some font samples so that a each letter was 10 inches high, and highlighted the parts that were different between font A and font B I would be able to see the differences, but at a normal size for reading body text, say 12 point, I don’t notice the differences and I don’t care.

I do notice that a different font might be used in a book for chapter headings, or for drop caps, or for a block quotation, but I don’t notice differences between body text from one book to another.

So, I really don’t care about the arrival of "Ember Bookerly". To me, it is just one more font, lost in a sea of similar fonts.

For those that do notice, and do care, I wish you well; but I just don’t get it.

Nate Hoffelder April 21, 2016 um 9:18 pm

The only time I notice fonts is when they are too gray to be read easily.

Steve H. April 21, 2016 um 9:23 pm

I prefer san serif fonts. This is one of my reasons for preferring e-books to print that almost always uses serif fonts. I think I like the new font but would still like to get a bold option.

Nate Hoffelder April 21, 2016 um 11:17 pm

I can understand why you’d like sans fonts. They’re simpler, so by default they will look better on low-res screens.

But Bookerly has won me over to the other camp. It has been tuned to look better on screens, and it really does.

Hrafn April 22, 2016 um 1:49 am

I’ve always used a Sans font (Droid Sans to be precise). Maybe I should revisit that decision when I move to a 300ppi eReader.

Will O’Neil April 22, 2016 um 2:18 am

Typefaces can be appealing aesthetically, but my principal concern is readability. There are many theories about what makes a typeface readable, and whole Web sites devoted to the issue. Many "experts" provide strident advice about typefaces to indie authors.

The more I read the less I believed any of it and I finally decided to conduct an experiment. I took a two-page sample from one of my books, as it would print in Create Space, and set it in a variety of typefaces. Then I showed the samples, in randomized order, to a number of people and asked for their evaluations of readability.

I was astonished to find that the winner, hands down, was Constantia, an MS Word native. Runner up was Times New Roman. Both were set with the kind of leading one would typically find in a book.

I’ve told this to several "experts," every one of whom has simply scoffed without bothering to attempt a test of his own.

Sans faces came far down on the list. Of course all the people I showed the samples to were Americans; Europeans might very well respond differently. But the majority of my sales are in North America.

Scarcely seems worthwhile, as an author, to try to run a similar test for e-reader typefaces, however.

Sophocles April 22, 2016 um 8:10 am

Agree with Will and Gary above. There has been quite a bit of research on how fonts affect reading speeds (not only the subjective 'readability' question, but objectively how *long* it takes to read a page or two). This research (a few are listed below) show that there is not much of a difference across font types, except cursive ones or 'hard to read' ones like Kunstler. These latter have apparently been deliberately created to make one read the text slowly, for example in invitation letters, to grant these letters a sense of gravity.
So, in both objective and subjective measures, there is not much difference (there is something like a 5% effect at most between some fonts). Generally speaking, though, font size has a much larger effect, as can be expected, than font type.
References: All of the following are available on Google Scholar, if you are interested. Didn’t want to post links.
1. Mansfield, Legge and Bane (1996). Psychophysics of Reading XV: Font Effects in Normal and Low Vision. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, Vol. 37, No. 8.
2. Arditi and Cho (2005). Serifs and font legibility, Vision Research, 45: 2926–2933.
3. Beymer, Russell and Orton (2008), An Eye Tracking Study of How Font Size, Font Type, and Pictures Influence Online Reading. BCS-HCI ’08 Proceedings of the 22nd British HCI Group Annual Conference on People and Computers: Culture, Creativity, Interaction – Volume 2, Pages 15-18.
4. Legge and Bigelow (2011). Does print size matter for reading? A review of findings from vision science and typography, Journal of Vision, 11(5):8, 1–22.

DavidW April 22, 2016 um 9:16 am

I don’t care for sans serif fonts. Ember has another problem, like Bookerly it’s simply too thin on Kindles (judging by the menus). Even adjusting for font weightness, Bookerly is just ugly. At least ember looks pretty good for a sans serif font.

Frank April 22, 2016 um 10:50 am

Ember is the font used on the Kindle’s home screen since the 5.7 update.

Rimon Kade April 22, 2016 um 3:23 pm

I rarely turn my Voyage’s wifi on, but did so a few weeks ago for some reason and got an update. I don’t like what it did to list view. It used to be title, author, dotted progress line. Changing the progress line to a mere separator and adding a percentage above it means having to make the type in the listing smaller to keep eight entries per page, and I don’t like that. Nor do I like the lighter weight of the typeface in the header bar. Since I usually read books using the largest or second-largest font size, I don’t like them making fonts smaller in an are where I can’t control them.

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Chris Meadows April 23, 2016 um 3:39 am

I’ve installed it into Windows and played around with it a little, making a PDF of one of my stories using it. If anything, the font reminds me a lot of the default font from the old Palm PDAs.

It’s probably not something I’d use for regular reading now, as I prefer a good serif font, but it does give me a bit of a feeling of nostalgia. I remember reading plenty of e-books in that old sans serif Palm font by the gentle green glow of the Indiglo backlight.

Nate Hoffelder April 23, 2016 um 6:11 pm

I looked at it in MSPaint, and I didn’t like it. But I wasn’t sure whether that was a problem with MSPaint or the font, so I didn’t say anything.

Coincidentally, I use MSPaint to create the meme graphics I’ve posted on Twitter and elsewhere, and I have been satisfied with its font rendering abilities.

Joe Clark April 23, 2016 um 2:41 pm

I was astonished to find that the winner, hands down, was Constantia, an MS Word native. Runner up was Times New Roman. Both were set with the kind of leading one would typically find in a book.

Something tells me you did not control for x-height, truly consistent leading (you clearly didn’t know what you were doing on that score, despite knowing how to write, if not pronounce, the word), uncorrected vision, and various environmental and real-life factors (including “Would I want to sit and read these two pages if I hadn’t been asked to and weren’t being surveilled?”).

That could be why your disdained “ ‘experts’… scoffed.”

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