Saturday, June 11, 2011

Nook Touch screen contrast shots, font sizes. Kindle for Android on Nook Touch


*Click* on the top image or here to get the larger and clearer original photo that was used by mykoffee {MK), a BN forum member, to illustrate her message, which is still there although the accompanying photo isn't.  She tried to get the current font face and size as close as she could, and this was as close a match as she found.

Since I own a NookColor, which is stunning for color magazine reading, I am often in the Barnes and Noble Nook forums and am a B&N member.

  While I'm mainly interested in the NookColor messages there, I also saw the Nook Simple Touch at B&N the other day and reported in a blog entry Sunday that I felt the overall text for all books on the 2-page listing of the Nook Touch there struck me as too grayish and not dark enough for my eyes, which are used to the Pearl Screen as implemented for the Kindle 3.

 The two images here are by the Nook owner mentioned above in a posting at the B&N Nook forum.

This 2nd image here of the two Nooks is as it appeared in that B&N Nook forum message thread.

  When trying the Nook Touch on June 4, I tried all font faces at normal sizes to try to get a darker one.  The salesman said that what I saw was fine and the way it is.

  MK took these pictures for the B&N Nook Forum to illustrate that the new Nook text didn't appear as dark on the older E-Ink Nook when the font is the size MK prefers for reading.

  The reason the text of MK's old Nook-1 appears darker overall than what MK sees with the Pearl screen of the Nook Touch is that the older Nook text, although not quite as sharp as for the newer Nook, is a Fatter basic font which was implemented to be darker.

  MK tried to get the newer Nook's font-face and size as close to the older Nook as possible, but this was as close as MK could get with the font choices.
  To make the newer Nook text as dark as it appears on the older Nook, MK had to go to the next size up, but as I saw when visiting B&N, the NEXT step is *much* larger and MK doesn't want to read with a font that large.

  You can see the jump in font-size to get the darker appearance wanted if you go to the two photos, one above the other, at the message thread.  MK explains, "With the new Nook when you jump up to the next larger size font (second A from right) the jump is too big"...

  You'll also see that most people probably would not be bothered by this and that the large majority of those posting at the Nook forum say they really love this touchscreen model.

  One other customer, English Butterfly [EB], in that message thread had very much the same reaction as MT: "Thanks for the pictures,-  I am glad I am not the only one who feels this way- hope they can correct it!", and I saw that in another thread EB mentions the following:
' I have all 3 nooks- the first edition, nook color, and the 2nd edition.  Between the 1rst and 2nd edition [NookColor], I am partial to the first one... I like the fonts sizes better on the first nook, - it seems like the new fonts are either too small, or too big- seems like there is an error.  I am quite fond of my first edition nook, and think it is classier with colored books on it.  I also like the 3 G factor.  I may buy an additional 3 G Nook version 1, in case anything happens to my current one.  If I go on a trip, I depend on the 3G . The only upside for me on the new nook, is that it is lighter...'

  Again, by far, most postings I saw were by people who love the new Nook, including the screen contrast.  But I get asked about this a lot these days, and so I thought that in addition to my "Features comparison," which detailed the pluses of the Nook Simple Touch and then the missing features, and also the article on the not-visible and not-ready web browser, I should report this.

  At the Nook e-Ink forums' message topic listings, you'll see there also are problems right now with being able to "sync" the new Nook with other devices.  B&N Forum discussions for the Nook e-Ink readers are: General Discussion and Technical Support.

  Many of us were somewhat bothered by some Kindle 2's having lighter screen contrast (and I wrote about that quite a bit), to the extent that Kindle customer Ted Inoue made a set of darker fonts that could supplement the Kindle 2's fonts, and this user-addable font-set made all the difference for Kindle-2 customers who were sensitive to less-strong contrast - it's a good read.

More online screen comparisons with e-Ink touchscreens (Nook, iriver)
See Business Insider's look at Kindle 3 vs Nook screens, which includes a link to the thorough PC World (Melissa Perenson) review of iriver, another e-Ink touchscreen, which mentions the Nook touch screen also.

Update July 2011 - Nick Bilton of the NY Times described Amazon's TouchCo's challenges with making a touch screen that doesn't lose some degree of screen contrast.

ROOTING THE NOOK TOUCH - What's it like?
The ever-investigative Mike Cane has an interesting article on the (not intuitive) 'rooting' of the Nook Touch and what the "Kindle for Android" app is like on the e-Ink, Android-based Nook.  It's illustrated with a video by zonyl.  The black flashing is something to behold, and you can see that with this app, Cane points out, "page shifting is done by showing pages sliding across the screen," which isn't handled well by e-Ink displays.

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  1. My biggest grip with the Nook Touch is the lack of multi-level TOC. Some of my EPUBs have four levels, but only the top level is visible in those books when I select 'contents." I suppose if I had created a link-based TOC along with the metadata TOC, it wouldn't be a big deal.

    As for lack of a zoom feature, I have never had the ability in any EPUB reader I have used, so it is not something I am missing. I am starting to appreciate that feature in my Kindle, however.

  2. Finally had a chance to play with a Nook at B&N. Going over there, I had actually thought I'd buy one, but now I'm not so sure (fortunately they didn't have any in stock to sell so I get to think about it some more). Some things are just broken, like 'Use Publisher Default' settings (forced zero leading on all content I viewed), no way to select and look up hyphenated words in the dictionary, no way to turn hyphenation off when it is distracting, selection of text was problematic at smaller text sizes, the selection panel interfered with ability to modify selection. The web browser is pretty much unusable (the store wifi seemed rather slow, but when the page finally loaded, there seemed to be no way to scroll reliably). No multi-level TOC (one of the things that should make ePub navigation so much better than Kindle), which is lamentable. The font choices are not all that good, some are okay, but none really pop. No landscape. The Fast Page(TM) feature was hard to control, I could never lift my thumb fast enough to stop on the page (maybe it takes more practice). The much vaunted 'page turn flash elimination' lacked any consistency and seemed more of a distraction than normal, consistent eink page flashing. I was never able to get the advertised 5 or six page turns without a flash, and often got consecutive-page flashes. The physical page turn buttons are okay, but I didn't think find them as essential as I'd expected. Users are unhappy about the way Nook reserves space exclusively for B&N content.

    I was not able to try PDF.

    There is the Android allure, but compared to Nook Color I don't think this is going to be a very popular Android device to root and hack about with.

    Some of this they'll fix, but B&N's track record is spotty in terms of support. I know I'm making Nook sound really unattractive, but I really expected to like it more, and am still processing my disappointment (and appreciating Kindle more). "It is not that bad". Actually there's a lot that's good about it, I hope Amazon is learning something useful for Kindle Touch.

    Kobo Touch is starting to look better by comparison (especially once I got over the notion that physical page turn buttons were needed). They seem to have someone responding on the Kobo threads at Mobileread, saying they are going to fix this and that thing. Kobo's web browser seems to function, and will download supported file types with an update. It has Mobi file support, more flexible PDF viewing, smaller/lighter. I kinda like the badges/reading status stuff. is selling them on their web site, wonder if they will be selling in stores also where one can play with one (assuming there is a Borders store somewhere that is still open). However the original Kobo reader was a horrible crippled thing, so I would approach with caution.

  3. Tom,
    Am having severe lag time on my NookColor but will type blind via the buffer.

    Thanks for your report. Of course I'm not surprised, considering my own reaction tho' I bought the NC on sight.

    The Kobo dictionary doesn't work with non-Kobo store books. Teleread's Joanna has an excellent comprehensive review of it from yesterday.

  4. Yes, I read Joanna's KT review on Teleread. No collections/tagging either. No DRM content on SD card. For all I know it doesn't support multilevel TOC either?

    Well, nothing is perfect...

  5. Update: I just ordered a Nook. Probably the deciding factor was that Kobo does not support ePub hyperlinks. For their target audience (popular fiction) it probably does not matter but I like to read things with footnotes and navigation is important to me. I think Nook will be a little more robust/fast, and I didn't want to have to deal with desktop software for side-loading (beyond ADE that is). And physical page turn buttons will be nice for ambidextrous reading, given the asymmetry of the touch interface (sure, they could create a preference but it would be inconvenient).

    I figure B&N is good for at least a couple of significant updates, and I sort of know someone who just joined the Nook development team there, which gives me hope that at least someone over there knows what they are doing and has some influence to improve things.

    Also I could not decide which Kobo color to pick.

  6. If I had to choose between Nook Touch and Kobo, I'd choose Nook too, unless the Kobo screen were as good (contrast-wise) as the Kindle one (which the Nook one certainly isn't).

    But since you can root the Nook (and bear the slowness and flashing), it's long-run a better idea than the current Kobo.

  7. Despite mykoffee's claims, the comparison photos are not comparing the same text and font and size. Picture #1 compares a serif with non serif. Picture #2 compares 2 different sizes (I measured, NTs text is about 5% smaller). Moreover, the Nook 1 seems to be catching a little more light in the photos, muddling the contrast comparison.

    They probably didn't get the size jumps just right for some people (why not copy Kobo Touch's text size slider control for more choices), but the ones I've been using (2 and 3 mostly) are fine for me. Size 1 is pretty crappy for extended reading, but nice to have when you don't want some computer code or poetry to wrap around in annoying ways. Of course landscape viewing should be added, both for PDF for better reflowable layout with larger text sizes.

    Honestly, though, I haven't seen nearly as much complaining about this on user forums as I would have expected, even when I've tried to provoke some :).

    One thing I've noticed is that when you bring up an options panel (for example Text options, which covers half the screen) and then dismiss it, the text that's temporarily 'hidden' by the panel redraws with noticeably better clarity. If they can figure out how to draw normal page refresh text with the same clarity, I think we'd have much less to complain about.

    After some initial distraction (following several years of hyphenation deprivation due to Kindle/web reading), I'm really liking the hyphenation, as it reduces the 'rivers' of whitespace normally seen without it, lending the text much more consistent typographic 'color'. They should add an option or heuristic to turn it off, however, since it hyphenates too much at larger text sizes. I would like to see (full/left) justification toggle as well. (I have seen a few issues with it, such as headers that get truncated at point of hyphenation, and oddly hyphenated words. But this doesn't happen very much, at least at the text sizes I use. I also want to try some non-English text to see if it handles that well - good hyphenation requires some language specific rules/knowledge, not sure what the Adobe text layout engine can provide in that regard, given that it is not a given that ebooks are even tagged with language properties in many cases (one of many formatting issues that need to be addressed by publishers).

  8. Tom,
    Re mykoffee's claim and different fonts (she said she got them as close as was possible as they're very different), I do know that, on two occasions I tried -all- the fonts with all sizes, and the only ones bearable for -me- at least were the larger ones and they suddenly were too large. That's not my idea of a very good display.

    Len Edgerly's first reaction turned out to be the same. The Pearl screen sets up expectations after the DX and the K3. I was happy enough with Kindle 2, though I noticed it wasn't as bold/contrasty as Kindle 1, before I became used to Kindle 3 and then I couldn't deal with the lighter K2 font anymore. You just have to work harder to read it, though it's way better than an LCD screen.

    But a Pearl screen on a Nook Touch should have text as dark and etched looking as the Kindle 3 and it somehow doesn't. I think it's a trade off they chose between darkness and battery use or even speed.

    That won't bother most, probably? but it does bother others I've known.

    I saw that the iriver has a similar look. Others can look at it and think it looks great. It's all relative and what your eyes and mind get used to. Clearly, it really bothered Perenson who consistently does terrific reviews.

    That's why I don't care of the fonts aren't exactly the same in the pics, the strokes are, and as you have said before, they chose thinner ones and then we see less black and more background.

    Speaking of aesthetics, I think it -was- a choice to have something looking more like gray-shades as it is a better 'look' than what would be harsher b&w as with K3, except when you're reading in not the most ideal light...

    But looking at it aesthetically, it looks great, and that's what people seem drawn to, which is an important factor. Aesthetics are key. They designed it that way too. Front screen has hardly any books that you're reading, half of it is what they're recommending you buy next. But it's organized well and is pleasing.

    Yes, landscape, and also zoom-ins. I've been used to zooming smaller photos full screen since 2009 (on Kindle 1) and it makes a difference with maps, but the Nook doesn't do that either. Even my Nook Color doesn't, in books. So odd. Magazines, it does. And so gorgeous!

    But while I like to see a list of books in the order I want, the Kindle does wind up looking DOS-like, and people who are 'with' it are not going to like that.

    Re the text that's temporarily hidden by the panels having more clarity during that period, I used to feel the same way about Kindles interpreting color to very light shades of gray but before it did that it would first show them in black and white only. In web mode, we were able to use pure b&w, so I chose that most of the time rather than Advanced mode. So much easier on the eyes.

    Re white space, I think you might remember I prefer left justification and made the small text change and now I have the ragged edge and more white space and I love it. :-)

    No accounting for taste!

  9. Maybe it is because of my Kindle legacy, but I use Caecilia on Nook Touch almost exclusively, I think it is the best of the group (followed by Helv Neue, which Kindle borrowed from Nook 1 for K3). I read somewhere that Kindle uses Demi-bold in place of Regular (accounting for thicker strokes), and also that at least with K3, they've created bitmap versions for at least some of the sizes so that they get the best results possible. I don't know if either thing is true but they've certainly put more attention on it than B&N, given the results.

    Then again, since the rendering is done by Adobe's library, maybe B&N doesn't have as much control over things (apart from font selection).

    I may have to root my Nook Touch just so I can substitute Demibold for Regular & see how that works out. Also that would make it possible to do screen captures that would be more conducive to certain types of analysis than taking photos. Maybe there's some way to hack the preset text sizes as well. I'm not interested in Android Market or K4Android, as it just looks like an exercise in frustration to find apps that work well enough with the hardware, but it looks pretty easy just to root (10 minutes, they say) and I'm pretty sure at least font substitution is possible, which would be at least interesting and potentially rewarding if it actually worked well. Unrooting is pretty easy also.

    I'm curious to learn if Kobo Touch has the same issues (again, possibly due to Adobe dependency), or whether the recently acquired ability to load custom fonts is supposed to mollify complaints. I think there's really no need for more fonts, "just give me one good one", but as you say, no accounting for taste.

    And yes I also have performed justification & margin hack on my Kindle. Love 'em both!

  10. Tom,
    I'd forgotten that Amazon has explained on their product page that they HAVE tweaked the fonts further from the default pearl screen settings.

    "Clearer Text and the Sharpest Display

    Electronic ink uses actual ink to create crisp, print-like text similar to what you see in a physical book. Kindle's proprietary, hand-built fonts take advantage of the special characteristics of the ink to make letters clear and sharp."


    I do tend to prefer the Caecilia too.

  11. You might be interested in this thread over at Mobileread:

    I thought it was interesting that Kobo Touch seems to have the same issues as Nook Touch, and for the same reason. Also I notice the screen shot shows lack of any hyphenation. That could be because Kobo is not using the latest Adobe SDK, or because they've turned hyphenation off in the stylesheet they are applying. Either way, it makes it a less attractive device to me. And then there's all the features that only work with content downloaded from Kobo.

    Also it seems my idea of substituting the 'demibold' ('Heavy 85') Caecilia for the 'regular' ('Roman 55') font on Nook Touch may have some merit in terms of getting thicker strokes, more approaching Kindle's. I assume the same tactic would be true in terms of improving the other fonts as well (where demibold fonts are available). Rooting looks increasingly likely for me, though I'm not sure when I'll get to it.


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