The standard typeface for the Kindle, Caecilia, works well enough: it’s a well-designed, high contrast slab serif that matches the needs of the low-contrast, low-resolution Kindle screens well. It’s also not even close to being a really great reading face. The new Kindle Paperwhite has gorgeous typography, by all accounts, but if you have an older Kindle, you don’t have to buy a new one to start getting some of the benefits of better typography.
I recently discovered that it is possible, with a fairly small amount of effort, to put whatever fonts you like on your Kindle, without jailbreaking. Here’s how.
- First, find the font you want to use for your Kindle.
Technical requirements: It’ll need to be either OpenType (
.otf) or TrueType (
.ttf) to start. You ultimately need it to be in
.ttfformat – some instructions I’ve seen suggest the Kindle will recognize even a
.otfas long as the extension is changed, but I’m not sure if that’s true. There are online converters you can use, and for best results if you have
.otffiles, you should convert them to
Make sure you’re doing this legally. Use a font that doesn’t forbid conversion in its End User License Agreement. You can find lots of free fonts on the web, many of them with open licenses. You might start at DaFont.com and FontSquirrel, which have very long lists of free fonts
- Appearance suggestion: Find a medium weight (thickness) font. Thinner fonts won’t display well and will be hard to read. Many of the free fonts you can find online include multiple weights; generally you’ll want to use a Medium rather than Regular weight for the base. One great free font that might work well even in its normal weights is the free Crimson.
You’ll need font files named
[fontname]-BoldItalic.ttf. They don't have to have these names when you find them; all you really need to do is find the regular, italic, bold, and bold-italic versions of the font file, then rename them to match this format.
One friend used Liberation Sans (free at DaFont.com), so his fonts ended up being named
LiberationSans-BoldItalic.ttfafter renaming them.
- Connect your Kindle to the computer, and open it in Windows Explorer or Finder (depending on whether you're on Windows or a Mac). At the base directory of the Kindle (the same level where you'll see the
documents, create a new folder called
fonts. Put the font files you created in step 3 in the folder. Note: you must have all four files outlined above.
- From here, the steps differ depending on whether you're on a Keyboard, or a Touch or Paperwhite. (If some enterprising reader wants to tell me which category the base model with just a five-way fits into, that would be excellent.)
- Install Calibre (you can find the download for your operating system here). Calibre is great general software to have for your Kindle anyway.
- Once you have Calibre installed, you'll need to install the Kindle Collections plugin.
- Go to the Plugins button (it may be in the extended part of the menu; there's a button on the right to enable it). If you click the drop down next to the Plugins button, you'll see the option Get plugins to enhance Calibre; choose that.
- It should bring up a menu titled User Plugins, and just below that a drop down labeled Filter list of plugins. Make sure that Not installed is selected. Looking through the list, find Kindle Collections (it's third from the top on my list). Install it.
- You'll be prompted to add the plugin to toolbars or windows. I'd add it to The main toolbar when a device is connected and The menubar when a device is connected.
- It will prompt you to restart Calibre, do so.
- Now, back to Calibre: if you have it up, it should note that your device is connected, and you should be able to look at all the books on it. You should also see the Kindle Collections button and menu item (again, it may be in the extended toolbar area). Click it and then select Modify Kindle settings.
- Now, we'll actually enable the font on the Kindle:
- Under Font Family, choose the new font you added (opt for the one with a regular name if there is one with an underscore or other strange character in there).
- Check the box labeled Allow using user font.
- Click Save. You'll be prompted to restart your Kindle. In case you miss the on-screen instructions on how to restart the Kindle, here's a quick walkthrough:
- Eject it from the computer.
- Once the Kindle comes up, go to the home screen (click Home).
- Click Menu and choose Settings.
- Once the Settings menu is up, click Menu and then choose Restart.
- Once the Kindle comes back up up (and it'll take a few to come all the way back up and reload your library), load any book. Click the Aa key to change your font settings, and under Typeface choose alt if it's not already selected. Adjust your preferred font size, words per line, and line spacing as desired, and away you go.
Kindle Touch/Kindle Paperwhite1
Create a blank file called
USE_ALT_FONTSat the root level of the Kindle (the same level where you created the
- If on Windows, launch Notepad and save a file with that name to the Kindle. Make sure it has no extension. Delete the extension manually if necessary.
- If on Mac or Linux, launch the Terminal (Mac: Applications → Utilities → Terminal) and create the file by typing
touch USE_ALT_FONTS. The file will be created in your home directory; go ahead and move it to the root of the Kindle. (*nix nerds can obviously do this the easy way.)
- Eject the Kindle from the computer. Perform a full restart on it (Menu → Settings, Menu → Restart).
- Open up a book or document, and try changing the font. You should see your font there.
If you do not, return to the home page, tap the search icon, and type in
;fc-cacheand hit the return key on the screen keyboard. Wait a few minutes; the Kindle will sort of flash the screen and then reset to the normal view. You should now be able to select the font you installed.
Note: if you change the fonts by moving new ones into the font directory, this final step is the only one you need to do; you don't have to do a full restart each time.
And that's it! You should now be up and running with a typeface of your choosing - enjoy your reading!