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Kindle for iPad/iPhone v4.9 Adds Amazon’s Bookerly Font, Better Kerning, Hyphenation

kindle itunes logo Word is going around on Twitter this morning that Amazon has released a new version of the Kindle app for the iPad. According to the changelog this update doesn’t add any major technical improvements or new features, but it does add several subtle improvements which finicky readers will appreciate.

I don’t have my iPad with me in NYC so I can’t confirm it (I’m trying to get screenshots and first-hand reports), but Amazon says that the update improves page layout and adds hyphenation and better kerning, or as they put it, the app offers "smoother word spacing".

I can’t wait to see this, myself. As a rule, the Kindle platform didn’t offer hyphenation and it defaulted to full justification, and that made the ebooks look ugly. If Amazon fixed this then the ebooks in the iOS app are going to be a whole lot prettier than they used to be. They should also prove easier to read.

iphone 6 kindle appUpdate: Or perhaps not. Amazon pointed me to a new page on its website which explained that the new features (dropcaps, better kerning, hyphenation) are not available to all ebooks on the Kindle platform. Several people on Twitter have confirmed that detail (example at right). The kerning is still terrible on most ebooks, and few ebooks have hyphens (one, two, three, four).

Amazon also reports that they’ve added their Bookerly font to the iOS app. Released earlier this year on the Kindle apps for Fire tablets, Bookerly was developed for the Kindle apps by Monotype. It’s designed to be easy to read on LCD screens and look great at all font sizes.

As Steve Matteson explained in the video I posted last week, that is harder than it sounds. In order to get the best performance, fonts need to be customized for specific screen types (LCD vs E-ink), and getting a font to look good at the largest size as well as the smallest size requires subtle tricks.

This is why Amazon has a font (Bookerly) just for its Kindle apps, and uses other fonts on its Kindle ereaders. Edit: Choice is also good; Amazon just told me that the Bookerly font will be made available on Kindle ereaders later this year.

The app can be found in iTunes.

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Michael Anderson May 27, 2015 um 9:13 am

I realized I haven’t read on my iPhone 6 (and sold off my iPad) – I have stuck to just using my Kindle Paperwhite. But checking it out I thought that the pages look better than anything I ever remember from the app.

Chapps May 27, 2015 um 10:16 pm

I updated my iPad Kindle app, after getting really excited about the promised improved kerning, hyphenation and larger font display. Well, as you pointed out (and thank you for the link to the updated books), existing books neeed to be upgraded to take advantage of the layout improvements. Fair enough. I downloaded a sample from one of those updated books – and it looked good enough, from what I could tell. However, I really, really personally dislike the new Bookerly font. It renders as a very thick font on my iPad Air 2 and I still prefer – by far – the Palatino font. I just couldn’t read books well enough with the Bookerly font – but I’ll give it another try and a longer try. Palatino has enough white space to make it more legible to my eyes. I really don’t like heavier Times Roman-style fonts for book reading. But that’s a very personal preference – and many of you may totally disagree with me, which is why there are thousands of fonts out there.

Muratcan Simsek May 28, 2015 um 5:16 am

A correction: Bookerly wasn’t developed by Monotype but Dalton Maag. If you open the font, you can see that on the copyright information:

Also, the font files of the typeface is named BookerlyLCD_Rg.ttf and such, I infer that an eink version is also coming. That is great.

Name (required) May 28, 2015 um 6:30 am

Individual books from the Amazon have to be updated by Amazon to be able to use the new text-rendering engine.
What about side-loaded books?
I personally like text left justified (with ragged right side) and with hyphenation. But other people have different tastes. I have recently seen somebody on Mobileread complain about hyphenation. Will we be able to choose between hyphenated and non-hyphenated words, flush or ragged right margin? Or will Amazon make the other camp unhappy? 😉

Nate Hoffelder May 28, 2015 um 6:38 am

I would expect that Amazon is going to make one camp unhappy. If they wanted to make everyone happy then the settings would already be user adjustable.

As for me, I prefer a ragged right. But if Amazon can work on the kerning and hyphenation then I’d be happy with full just.

Name (required) May 28, 2015 um 8:41 am

Could you please test side-loaded books when you get home? There is nothing about sideloaded books in all those articles and blogs that talk (and copy from each other) about the new rendering engine and a new font.

Nate Hoffelder May 28, 2015 um 11:17 am

I will check, but I’m not expecting to have any success.

While we’re on the topic, one tweet I found mentioned that sideloaded KF8 fixed layout still didn’t work.

Rob Siders May 28, 2015 um 1:35 pm

On iOS devices? Amazon fixed this a while back. Open the mobi file in Kindle Previewer and select iOS from the Devices menu. This converts the book to the azk file format which can be sideloaded and played on iOS devices.

Nate Hoffelder May 28, 2015 um 1:39 pm

Thanks. Maybe I misread the tweet.

Nate Hoffelder May 31, 2015 um 12:23 pm

The ebooks which I uploaded to the Kindle Cloud and then downloaded again (after the update) do not show the new formatting.

Chapps May 31, 2015 um 5:39 pm

That’s because each book has to be reprocessed, to take advantage of the new formatting. Amazon has just barely started the process, and I doubt they’ll address books already downloaded on your Kindle. You can also try deleting the book from your device and re-downloading it. Here’s the list of some titles already reprocessed to take advantage of the new formatting:

Nate Hoffelder May 31, 2015 um 5:40 pm


Nate Hoffelder May 31, 2015 um 6:14 pm

No, wait, at least two of the titles on that page don’t have hyphens or the improved kerning. I’m staring at one right now.

Chapps May 28, 2015 um 1:43 pm

I agree with you on the ragged right margin. But Amazon is trying very hard to force everyone into a book model, which usually has the flush left and right margins. A ragged right margin makes things more legible, which is why it’s used on the web (and because making flush right margins has been a kerning nightmare for developers). I think they feel that there’s no choice with books – you get one font, one layout style, one font size – and they’re being generous enough to allow a limited user-adjustable feature set. And there’s good reasons to keep the feature set low – I’ve been involved in many studies that show a too-large feature set intimidates users and they wind up using few to none of them, aside from power users (e.g. Microsoft products). But I think it would be great to add the paragraph style choice. I’m sure they’ve got this setting, but may have done user studies that show it’s problematic. I’m not sure, though. I’m just glad they left the Palatino font intact. 🙂

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