How to Find Free and Open Source Fonts for E-ink Screens

How to Find Free and Open Source Fonts for E-ink Screens e-Reading Tech Font Tips and Tricks

The recent news about Amazon's new Ember font has sparked a renewed interest in fonts for E-ink screens.

Last weekend I posted instructions on how to install fonts on a Kobo ereader, and at the request of a reader I have now pulled together a collection of fonts which users can install in their Kobo ereader, embed in an ebook, or install in a reading app.

Fonts can be found and downloaded from any number of websites (some of which are even legal). But those fonts won't all work well on E-ink.

You can find modified fonts over at MobileRead, including pirated fonts which are being shared in violation of commercial license agreements (user beware).

If you would prefer to stick with legal downloads, then I have just the thing.

The following ZIP file contains nine font families. Seven of the font families have been customized for E-ink screens by the owner of an ereader. The other two fonts, Exo and Open Dyslexic, have not been modified but I am including them on the recommendation of readers.

All of the fonts in this bundle except for the Amazon fonts were released under an open license. (I checked.) The Amazon fonts are included with Amazon's indifference (I asked, and they won't say yes or no).

Font bundle.zip

Of the 9 fonts, I prefer Bookerly. This serif font just looks the nicest, but if I wanted a bold option I would probably go with Linux Libertine. It too is a serif, and very strong.

And here's what those fonts look like.

The following screenshots were taken on a Kobo Aura HD. I did not change the settings between fonts; some of the fonts are stronger than others because that is how they were made or modified.

Which one do you like?

image by jm3

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

29 Comments

  1. Scott Lewis30 April, 2016

    When you say indifference, do you mean they didn’t answer your inquiry? That doesn’t make it legal to distribute. That just means they ignored you.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder30 April, 2016

      Qui tacet, consentit.

      He who says nothing, consents.

      Reply
    2. Nate Hoffelder30 April, 2016

      Here’s the thing about “legal to distribute”.

      I’m getting grief from people in digital publishing about hoisting the fonts, but I come at the issue from the device hacking community where everyone shares hacked firmwares – and the companies don’t care.

      I am currently hosting or linking to a half dozen hacked firmwares and software hacks, and y’all want me to not host a copy of a font even though Amazon doesn’t care if I have it or not?

      I just don’t get that viewpoint. If there is no financial, business, or other harm, and Amazon doesn’t care, then what is wrong with me hosting the fonts?

      I ask not to defend myself but so that someone can explain why I am wrong. I am pretty easy to win over on this point.

      Reply
  2. Scott G. Lewis30 April, 2016

    Cute, albeit not true in the context of trademark and copyright protection. One single non-response to you doesn’t threaten their copyright.

    Reply
  3. Muratcan Simsek30 April, 2016

    Use this: http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=265725

    A simple script to make adjustment for eInk.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder30 April, 2016

      Interesting. Thanks!

      Reply
  4. Muratcan Simsek30 April, 2016

    I also believe this is the best open source typeface right now (at least in my eyes) http://drop.muratcansimsek.com/EBGaramond.zip

    Optimized for eInk.

    Reply
  5. JSWolf30 April, 2016

    With no bold or bold italic versions, EBGaramond is a pretty useless font.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder30 April, 2016

      Agreed.

      Reply
    2. poiboy30 April, 2016

      yup

      Reply
  6. JSWolf30 April, 2016

    My font of choice is Charis SIL. It’s very easy on the eyes and it has plenty of extended characters for whatever is needed. On a Kobo Reader with the Advanced Font Control patch, you can adjust the weight of Truetype fonts to whatever suits.

    Reply
  7. Scott G. Lewis30 April, 2016

    Nate – the thing is you equate nobody sending you a cease and desist with them being ok with it. You also equate their lack of a response with an implicit approval.

    Neither of those are true. At the end of the day, is it wrong – almost certainly. Are you big enough to have attracted attention – no. Emailing some generic email address at Amazon probably just means you got ignored. Not that it went to legal review and they said “sure, who cares, don’t even bother answering”.

    Is it the crime of the century? Of course not. Does that make it ok? Of course not.

    Reply
  8. n1 May, 2016

    Take a look to Bitter too.

    Reply
    1. JC2 May, 2016

      I second Bitter, which is released under the OFL license.

      Reply
      1. Nate Hoffelder2 May, 2016

        Thanks to you both!

        Reply
  9. DavidW1 May, 2016

    Charis SIL looks nice, the others not so much.

    Reply
  10. gmercator1 May, 2016

    I really appreciate your making these font files available….

    I was using Charis-SIL-ModifiedLarger and embedding that into each book’s azw3 file when converting using Calibre… then the “publisher font” option would appear and it worked perfectly…

    I prefer a dark and bold font (darker and bolder than Helvetica) to enhance the contrast on my PW2 and PW3…. the solution was to download and install only the Bold Styles of Amazon Ember… Calibre converts and embeds the whole book in bolded Ember… the “perceived” contrast is much better, and it makes reading a joy for me

    I know not everyone would like it, but it might be just the ticket to alleviate “washed-out contrast” due to weak fonts

    Hope that helps someone!

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder1 May, 2016

      Thanks!

      Reply
  11. Purple lady2 May, 2016

    I like Clear Sans because it has a capital I that looks like an I and not a lower case L. It also has a medium weight that is great for eink. https://www.fontsquirrel.com/fonts/clear-sans

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder2 May, 2016

      And that is an example of why I prefers serif fonts. Too many San serif fonts leave me guessing about characters.

      Reply
      1. Purple lady2 May, 2016

        But serif fonts don’t look like real letters. Too much stuff hanging off them. With the exception of the capital I all sans serif letters look like letters without anything extra so I don’t have to figure out what they are supposed to be. Much easier to read.

        Reply
  12. Purple lady2 May, 2016

    You should include Roboto medium in your zip – medium weight fonts work well for eink and you can still have bold available. https://www.google.com/fonts/specimen/Roboto

    Reply
  13. Frank2 May, 2016

    My favorite is Bookerly followed by Charis-SIL and finally Palatino. I am glad Amazon had Bookerly made.
    Hosting Bookerly and Ember is a gray area, but it is easy to find on MobileReads.

    Reply
  14. Amber17 September, 2016

    I know this post may be a bit old, but I have been trying to find a way to get the Kobo Nickel font for my Kindle (by way of Calibre)? Anyone have any leads on where I could find this font? I have tried a google search (as with all my font searches), but cannot find it. Am I looking in vein?

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder17 September, 2016

      I don’t know of a source, sorry.

      You might ask over at MobileRead, in the Kobo forum.

      Reply
      1. Amber17 September, 2016

        Okay. Thank you Nate, I appreciate it.

        Reply
    2. poiboy17 September, 2016

      i’ve been using the Rockwell font occasionally. it kinda looks similar.

      http://ufonts.com/fonts/rockwell.html

      Reply
      1. Amber17 September, 2016

        That does look close, thank you.

        Reply
  15. Review of the Icarus Illumina XL 8: A versatile e-reader for e-book geeks – Site Title12 December, 2016

    […] user to search for appropriate ones (fonts may be side-loaded in a designated folder). I recommend this link for E-Ink specific fonts (recommended fonts would be Miller, Minion and Constantia). More […]

    Reply

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