pta-fam-reading2.jpgAmazon now has rushed out an update (5.72.1) to fix the botched update (5.72) that inflicted a too-thin version of the Helvetica font on owners of E Ink Kindles.

Many people with contrast sensitivity issues had resorted to Helvetica as the least evil of Amazon’s fonts, although this is a subjective matter. Affected by the anorexic Helvetica was the Voyage as well as the 6th and 7th generation Kindles Paperwhites—along with humans of a certain age, including TeleRead’s publisher, me. The older you get, the less the text will stand out from the background

Did you update your Kindle manually rather than wait for the automatic update? Well, to undo the horrors of 5.72, go to the Fire & Kindle Software Updates page. Look for a picture of E Ink device that you own, something you should have done the first time around. Click on it, just as before. Download the new software, 5.72.1, then go to the page telling you how to do the update manually (if you’ve forgotten).

While the update of the update brings Helvetica and possibly other fonts back to normal, it is far from a cure for the real problem for older people, K-12 kids and others with contrast-sensitivity issues—the absence of the ability to switch on all-bold text or ideally even adjust the weight of the font in use.

For years, Amazon has stubbornly resisted pleas to add a switch or a font-weight adjustment. We know it can happen. Kobo already offers such a feature, and the Kobo Glo is on sale through Valentine’s Day at $110, $20 less than usual. Still, given the investment of Kindle owners in books from the Amazon ecosystem, I’m not counting on many to make the switch. The Kindle in general is a better device. That, in fact, makes it all the more painful to see Amazon so smug about the absence of all-text bolding capability.

I suspect that the update didn’t take that long to code, and that along the way, Amazon is hoping to show that people needn’t worry about the switch or the slider. Won’t work, Jeff. The 5.72 lapse highlighted the basic problem—that Amazon just doesn’t care about Kindle users with contrast-sensitivity issues. Even many users of LCD machines such as the $50 could benefit fro the all-bold option. Think of those K-12 kids with contrast problems, Jeff, and parents who have bought them “The Official E-reader of the national PTA.” I don’t think you’re doing as much as you could to improve their reading comprehension.

Meanwhile we keep hearing talk that plenty of kids don’t like e-readers. Could Amazon’s distain for certain basic ergonomics, in regard to contrast matters and others, such as enough font sizes, be among the reasons?


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  1. Thanks for this, David, and thanks for your continuing advocacy for the ability to darken fonts. I have applied the new upgrade to my 7th Gen Paperwhite, and Helvetica is indeed back to what it was. The list view of the Home page is still anorexic, but it’s a start. We should all compliment Amazon on responding to this but also tell them that there are other modifications they need to make.

  2. @Mary: So glad the latest update worked for you. And, yes, we should be grateful to Amazon for the fast fix. As outrageous as the company’s arrogance has been toward the many who could benefit from a font-weight adjuster and other accessibility improvements, let’s not forget the positives.

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