Text options in the K3

Text options in the K3 

This was something I wanted to see, and I thought you might be wondering as well. 

Ever since the Kindle 1, the ability to change how the text is displayed has been important…and a bit controversial.  We can’t (officially) install our own fonts, and I don’t recommend using the “font hack” that is out there, because it voids your Terms of Service with Amazon (which could be a very bad thing…although I don’t think they normally do anything about it for the hack). 

We have, though, been able to change some things.  Originally, we had six text sizes we could use…we’re up to eight, now. 

I’m not going  to show you the text sizes, because, quite simply, my screengrabs (accomplished with Alt+Shift+G) won’t show true for you. 

I can, though, show you some of the other options. 

This is the basic default for me: 


The “typeface” is set on “regular”.  Let’s talk about that first.  You can think of “typeface” as font, although it isn’t, really.  It’s different versions of the same font.  A font is basically the shape of the letters, and the shape doesn’t really change here.  You can think of it like making your document bold or italic…it’s the same font, but it’s been…warped a bit. 

Here’s the same passage (it’s from Alice in Wonderland…a part where she is changing, by the way) with the typeface set on “condensed”: 

Condensed typeface

That one’s subtle, but notice how the third line ends on a different word?  More words fit on a single line…without changing the margin.  That might be worse for people with a lower visual acuity, but it may make them appear darker…that’s not clear in my screenshots.
This next one is more obvious, though…it’s “sans serif”:

Sans Serif

I think you can tell why some people have been asking for that since the beginning.  A “serif” is a little extra line at the extremities of a letter.  It makes the writing look fancier and old-fashioned…I’ve always figured that was from pens that would streak the paper as you lifted them off after you finished a letter.  “Sans” means without.  Look at the “m” in the third word.  In the regular font, it looks like the bottom of the m is wearing little shoes.  😉  In the “sans serif” they just look like posts.  If you have trouble separating one character from another due to visual issues, sans serif is easier…things don’t tend to blend together as much. 

Now, let’s take a look at line spacing.  That’s how vertical space is between two lines of text…how much room there is from the bottom of one line to the top of the next one.  The pictures above have a large amount of space.  Again, that will tend to make it easier to read.  Let’s take a look at the medium amount:

Medium Line Spacing

and with small line spacing: 

Small Line Spacing

Look at how close the bottom of the “y” is on the first line with the dot of the “i”.  In the “small” setting, it’s quite close…which would make it harder to read, again. 

However, if you can read with things close together, you’ll get more words/lines on a “page”.  More things on the page, fewer “page turns”, better battery life. 

One more option…words per line.  What this does is increase the margin, the background spaces to the left and the right of the words.  Here’s one with fewer: 

Fewer Words Per Line

and here it is with the “fewest” setting: 

Fewest Words Per Line

I really don’t know why someone would choose to have fewer words per line…the only thing I can think of is if they have really big hands or some sort of gripping device (some people with debilitating conditions, like muscular sclerosis, use those) that obscure the edges of the screen. 

A few other notes: 

There isn’t a setting here for “justification”.  When you set justification in a Word document (for example), you can have the sentences line up with the left side of the screen, the right side of the screen, or both (the last one is just called “justified”, the others are typically called “alignments”.  You see legal documents justified some times). 

You can also rotate the display to do landscape…but I didn’t think that would show well in these screengrabs. 

Finally, there are two formats in which Kindle store books come.  The most common one is .azw.  These controls should work with those.  The other one is the “dreaded Topaz” format…it will have an extension of .tpz (if transferred to your computer and then to your Kindle) or .azw1 (note the one on the end…that’s if you put it on your Kindle wirelessly).  It’s called a “dreaded” format because it messes up a lot of things. 

Topaz enables the publisher to embed fonts…and you may not be able to work with those like you can with the Kindle’s native font.  

I tried it with a Topaz book I had…and did not get the typeface or line spacing options.  It’s irritating, but I can understand that…the embedded font (and it does look different) may not have a sans serif option. 

More concerning is a report I read on the forum that someone couldn’t change the text size on a Topaz book.  That could be a real problem for those with print disabilities. 

I do think Amazon could disclose more things on the e-books’ product pages, including: 

1. Clipping limit 

2. Topaz or not 

3. Sample percentage (how much of the book is the sample) 

Honestly, I’d be less likely to buy a Topaz book.  I had this one because I got it for free.  🙂  I think it is a consumer information issue…and some people certainly might prefer Topaz editions. 

Well, I hope that helps.  If you have any other K3 questions, feel free to ask.  I’m liking mine…I still find the size too small, but I think I’ll adjust.  The weird part was not being sure whether it was in my pocket or not (I have big pockets).  I didn’t have that problem with my K1 or K2!  I’m getting used to holding it in a way so part of my thumb doesn’t hang off the edge…that’s just scary, somehow.  My SO (Significant Other) calls it “muffin thumb”.  🙂   

For more information on doing “screengrabs”, see this previous post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. 


12 Responses to “Text options in the K3”

  1. Denise Says:

    Thanks so much for all the text info. 🙂

    Have you installed the software upgrade yet? I installed it a few minutes ago with a bit of trepidation. My Kindle actually cycled through the software installation twice with resets in between. Now that the software upgrade is complete, the page refresh rate is much faster. Before the upgrade I could see an entire page’s content in black before the page changed.

    I’m interested in any changes and/or improvements you may find.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Denise!

      Well, honestly, I installed it too quickly to be scientific about the differences. I was pretty confident it was a good thiing, from what I’d read…and I wasn’t willing to risk the negatives for the sae of science. 😉 My Kindle’s been running smoothly…knock virtual wood.

  2. Marcus Says:

    Thanks for the Info about the Topaz books. I bought a few some months ago, without knowing that there a different kinds of Kindle files available at Amazon. I don’t like the tpz files at all because of the reasons you mentioned in your post.
    Is there a way to recognize Topaz files before buying them?
    @Denise: My K3 also circled twice through the setup while doing the update.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Marcus!

      If you download a sample first, I believe you can tell if it is a Topaz file.

      I think all the K3s do the update tango twice…that’s not unusual with software updates. It may need to install one thing (and restart to recognize it) before it can download another thing.

  3. Al Says:

    I would also like to see Amazon declare whether the book has DRM or not. I try to avoid DRM books, unless they are free in which case the book is worth exactly what I paid for it.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Al!

      Yes, that would make sense, too. The presence of DRM (Digital Rights Management) or not doesn’t bother me personally, but a lot of people don’t like it being there. I think it’s reasonable to disclose that. I don’t think I listed word count, either…that’s something I’d really like to see.

  4. Tony Says:

    What great info you provide. As a Kindle newbie I really appreciate your efforts.

    Here is a problem related to your post about font sizes, etc., and it bears on the sample system, as well.

    I wanted a copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam, of which there are many on offer.

    First I tried a free one, but the verse was “printed” like prose. No good.

    Then I got a sample of a priced version, but the sample did get through the introduction, and I could not see how the verse would appear. I gambled, bought it, and lost, when it appeared to be prose. Got a refund.

    Tried another sample, same problem.
    Tried another sample, same problem.

    I think there are two big problems here.
    1. Many (all?) versions of poetry do no appear as verse, and there does not seem any way to change this. Font size makes no difference.

    2. Very many sample texts do not actually show a sample of the main part of a book. They should do as the “Look in this book” system of the physical book offerings of Amazon.

    Can you help, or at least rattle some cages at Amazon?

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tony…and thanks for the kind words!

      You did the right thing, getting a sample. The formatting (and what appears in the sample) is up to the publisher. I have suggested that publishers put author bios, acknowledgements, that kind of thing, in the back of e-books for that reason. They have to have the rights pages, of course.

      Rattling Amazon’s cage, therefore, wouldn’t help…wrong cage. 🙂

      They do everything they can to protect us, with free samples and the seven-day “return” policy.

      You might want to try this version:


      It’s free…choose the Kindle version, and download it into your Kindle’s Documents folder (attach the Kindle to your computer using your USB cable). There are other ways to get it as well.

      I just checked, and it looks pretty good, once you get past the intro. I just clicked right and I was there. 🙂

  5. Tony Says:

    Thanks for that recommendation, which looks good on the screen.

    However, I disagree about whose cage to rattle. Amazon is not responsible for the third-party files it offers, but it is responsible for the descriptions. In this area the Kindle Store is sadly lacking.

    A few more examples. I have looked at several 18th and 19th century English books. In at least one case, only by examining the sample could I see that the text was an abridgment, not the whole thing! In looking for translations of Greek literature in no case was the translator listed, which is vital to know. Several verse works I sampled did not format as verse. Etc.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tony!

      The descriptions are generally written by the publishers. The formatting is done by the publishers. The abridgements would be done by the publishers. Listing the translator would be done by the publisher.

      When I managed a brick and mortar bookstore, we weren’t expected to write the summaries that were on the book flaps or the backs of the books, and this is pretty much the same thing, in my opinion.

      Amazon has been doing more quality control for a while. Books have been pulled for formatting problems (as in unrendered characters. Amazon also gives you that free sample…that’s a choice they make.

      I do think that there is more factual disclosure Amazon could require on the book pages…word counts, percentage of clipping allowed, that kind of thing. But I don’t think it’s up to them to write the book descriptions. Oh, Amazon also allows reader reviews…that’s often very informative.

      There are things that Amazon does that I disagree with them doing, and things that I think they could do better. I’d love for them to control the categories under which books are placed, for example. That’s also under the control of the publishers right now, and that leads to some odd (and misleading) choices…the same book in fiction and non-fiction, adult books in the children’s section, that kind of thing.

      My feeling? I want more choices of books to read. I don’t want Amazon blocking a book because it isn’t homogenized to meet standards they set. That seven-day “return” policy means that the market decides if the book is good enough or not.

      But you are welcome to disagree, of course. 🙂

  6. Dewey Says:

    I don’t own a Kindle yet but I’m looking. I do have a question. If you download a .TXT file from my home computer, via USB connection, are you still able to change the font size?

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Dewey!

      Yes, you can change the text size on a .txt file on a Kindle. On the new Kindles, there are 8 text sizes…plus, the Kindle can read your .txt file out loud to you…that can be nice in the car.

      You can also send the .txt file wirelessly to your Kindle via wifi for no charge. I find that more convenient, personally.

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