Friday, May 1, 2009

Amazon Customer Fixes Kindle-2 Dim-Font Plight

Ted Inoue's trial replacement fonts (a sort of beta-test, created and run by an Amazon customer) have brought ecstatic responses by other customers who had considered returning their Kindle 2s due to a strongly-perceived problem (backed up by photographs) on some units with too-faint fonts on a somewhat darker background than used with the Kindle 1.
  The strong lure of the Kindle-2 has been shown by the customers petitioning for darker fonts rather than returning their units.

See Inoue's animated image showing the effect of some of the replacement fonts relative to Kindle-2's basic font.  Click on the image at that page to start the animation showing rotation of pages displayed with various fonts from his trial font-set.

UPDATED PARAGRAPH - 5/2/09 - This was pointed to in an earlier blog entry but belongs here too: See See TechCrunch's article that makes Inoue's replacement-font results clear, using his webpage example.  But Inoue later found that it's not due to font-smoothing but to the amount of black that gets rendered on the surface that we see.

 Most of those wanting the font-changes seem to be customers who found their Kindle 1 displays beautiful but have been finding their Kindle-2 units difficult to read and a strain on their eyes.  (Most customers, of course receive units with good displays -- I am one of them but, I've seen photos of clearly substandard ones).

 Inoue and many other customers have seen quite a variation in the various K2 screens (with regard to lightness of gray and darkness of fonts), indicating some quality control problems with e-Ink's 16-shade screen affecting some customers.

 Amazon is aware of the problem and does replace the units until the customer gets one with a display that works for the customer and which doesn't fade in direct sunlight upon page-turns).  I imagine they get replacements from E-Ink in Cambridge.

 Amazon's replacement policy has been very good, though some of their customer service reps don't get that policy message until a customer asks for a supervisor.

 Also, too many customers have received units with fonts that failed in direct sunlight.  I've read that some Sony units have this problem too but that Sony doesn't replace the units, saying to at least one customer that the e-Ink display does not work in direct sunlight.

 Amazon does replace any unsatisfactory units and will, until the customer has a unit that works correctly; they do this because an E-Ink technology feature is that it works just as well in direct sunlight.  And they appear to have better customer service policies than Sony.
 Lightness of fonts may not be directly related to that sunlight exposure failure, but they often co-exist.

 As far as we know, this affects "only" several hundred people visiting the Amazon forums to ask questions, who have signed a petition requesting Amazon institute a simple fix, such as a font with more 'black' ink showing in the characters.  Customer Inoue has been able to do this, and he's provided customers with a variety of font-sets to choose from and they're extremely pleased about the results.

Caveat:   Problem?  Anyone testing these font-replacements must UNinstall them before any periodic Amazon Kindle firmware updates that come, so far, once a month.  But they can re-install them after the Amazon updates.

The history of this has been described in the original entries for 1) Screen Contrast problems for some users who had loved their Kindle 1 displays, which was further reported on by and 2) Ted Inoue's new findings, a few days ago.

  In mid-April, Inoue wrote to Amazon Customer Service Representatives at their official public Amazon forum topic, letting them know of his successful trial results and offering them font-sets to try from his tests making fairly easy font-replacements for the Kindle 2.
  Customer Service representatives on their own forum thread have never responded to Ted.
  It's as if users and this problem for many of them just don't matter to Amazon, which means it apparently doesn't matter to Jeff Bezos (or they would reply in a constructive way).

  The forum thread by users requesting darker fonts on the Kindle 2 now numbers about 800 posts.
  Since the topic-thread participants are very happy with Inoue's replacement fonts, they are now asking that Amazon do something like this, especially since Inoue has shown it can be done quite easily, possibly with options to choose the default set or a darker one. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

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