PaperwhiteAd2016-02-09_21-33-01(Updated early Feb. 11, 2016.)

Props to Amazon, sort of. The Helvetica font will be restored to a more readable weight than the anorexic one in the latest update for E Ink Kindles.

Let’s hope that an all-bold switch—or, better, a font weight adjuster of the kind that Kobo now offers—will also happen. I’ve queried Amazon about that possibility. As of now, nothing has come from Amazon but a note saying, “Thanks for your additional feedback.” The job isn’t done. Let’s keep holding Amazon’s feet to the fire, not only on the bold issue but on others such as the need for more font-size options. Write

“The difference you noticed with the weight of the Helvetica font is an issue that we are aware of,” Stephany Rochon in Amazon PR e-mailed me earlier this week, “and we are correcting it before the update is rolled out broadly to customers.

“The link to the web post will be updated with this new version, and customers that have already installed the web-posted update can either download it or just wait for the automatic over-the-air update.”

Below is my full response to Amazon’s e-mail in the wake of home page items here on TeleRead and on Slashdot. “Here’s a friendly offer,” I’ve written. “Get Amazon to commit this week to the all-text bold option for an update happening in the next three months, and I’ll buy another Paperwhite and donate it to my local library in Jeff Bezos’s honor. We’ll all look good.” Conveniently, the Paperwhite is on sale now for $99.99.

Thanks very much for your note, Stephany. I’ll post a follow-up tonight on TeleRead, then submit the news to Slashdot (although I have no control over what gets used there).

Below are questions I’d appreciate Amazon answering tomorrow or later this week:

1. Were fonts besides Helvetica in fact lightened, and if so, will they be rolled back?

2. By when will Amazon do the rollback via the Web post for people who have already downloaded the change?

3. Any over-the-air updates done already (perhaps not, if I can extrapolate a little from the “broadly” in your note), and if so, by when will they get rolled back?

4. Can you tell me if Amazon will also provide all-text boldfacing, either through an on/off switch or a font-weight adjuster? That would really help. If Amazon will offer the all-text bold option, by when will this happen?

Kobo has a font weight adjuster, via a slider, in its E Ink devices. Why doesn’t Amazon? Believe me, it would really help. A reporter with a large news organization was curious about the “Why” about Amazon and bold.

5. Could a bold switch or font weight adjuster be available in Fire tablets as well as Kindles. Even some LCD users would benefit. Believe me, I’m one.

These are not little details. My ophthalmologist tells me that, yes, older people stand more of a chance of having contrast issues than younger ones. I’m concerned that younger designers just may not understand the need for customers like me for an all-bold option. It could help others, too. The bolder the text, the lower people can keep the lighting to preserve battery life (whether the technology is front-lit E Ink or LCD). So even 20-somethings would benefit.

For now, my thanks to people at Amazon for the rollback. The faster we get the rollback and ideally the all-text bolding option through the switch or the front weight adjuster, the better for Amazon as well as us customers. The message will emerge that “Amazon listens.” You could talk up the new feature in ads and publicity.

Here’s a friendly offer. Get Amazon to commit this week to the all-text bold option for an update happening in the next three months, and I’ll buy another Paperwhite and donate it to my local library in Jeff Bezos’s honor. We’ll all look good.

Best right back,



  1. While it is great that Amazon will “roll back” Helvetica, more important is the hopefully heightened awareness that Amazon and the Kindle Team should have that readers really do want the choice of font boldness. Hopefully Amazon/Kindle Team’s takeaway will be that more than aesthetics, functionality is at stake for many readers.

  2. @Steve: I totally agree. So far, Amazon’s response to my five questions above has been simply “thanks for the feedback” (or something close to that). Totally unacceptable. “Heightened awareness,” alas, is not yet at hand.

    I’ll do my best to make Amazon feel pain if it does not reply in a more meaningful way. I hope others will join me in putting pressure on Amazon on this and other accessibility issues. The $50 Fire with TTS was a much-appreciated step in the right direction. But we need TTS in E Ink devices, too, especially since many kids cannot cope with the distractions of multipurpose tablets. And Amazon devices of all kinds need readable fonts and all-bold options or font weight adjusters!


  3. Better font sizes in addition to the bold option would help too. I really don’t think Amazon cares about accessibility issues at all. Depending on the book, sometimes font size number 6 is a little too small, but font size number 7 is humongous. I can’t read like that – it’s too annoying. My mother got used to it but she would prefer better font sizes as well. I’m sure there are a lot of older people who just make do as well.

  4. TTS: The last gray-scale Kindle model with TTS was the original Kindle Touch device.
    Still available on the used market.

    Font: For the ‘7th generation’ gray-scale devices, and the ‘6th generation’ gray-scale Paperwhite; there is an after-market add-in at Mobileread that allows the owner their choice of fonts.

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