Monday, October 17, 2011

Step-less text size

I just realized that since these days I have a very nice Windows laptop (honestly, Samsung is on a roll in the past couple of years with the quality of their devices), it might be fun to download the Kindle For PC app and see what it looks like.

Well, apart from using the ugly Times Roman font that is so common on Windows (but which was not designed for screen use like Verdana or Georgia) it looks pretty nice, and it's a lightning fast app. Opening a book is instant, which is a good thing.

It seems to have only very basic functionality though, not many options. This is true of most ereading apps sadly, except for MegaReader where you have so many adjustments possible that it makes you dizzy. But one thing it does have is: step-less text size adjustment. Zippidy! And may I add: Doo-dah.

Depending on the formatting of the specific file, very often when I use the Kindle for iPad app, I am sad that it only has like five or six different text sizes, and often the one I want it right between two of them. The steps are very rough. Step-less is the right way to do it, just a simple slider, changing the size of text on the page in real time, so you can fine-tune it to your exact taste or needs. (One might prefer a slightly larger text on days when one is tired for example.)

What disappoints me is that almost all ereaders and apps have these rough steps (Instapaper is another exception, an excellent app), because it can really not be that hard to program, and it seems to me to be such an important thing for readability.

While I'm being snarky and critical, what's up with Kindle and the apps only having one font? (I really don't like Times Roman) Apple's iBooks app at least has several fonts to choose from, and MegaReader has every durn font which is installed on the device. Seeing as the audience for the Kindles and apps are book readers, they must be generally intelligent people who won't curl up crying on the floor if they are given more than one choice, n'est pas?


Stephen A said...

One of those incredibly frustrating cases of a problem which was solved decades ago but has been broken by designers and control freaks.

Don Knuth (the guy who literally wrote the book on algorithms) found the reprints of his books so ugly that he spent a sabbatical programming metafont and TeX. Metafont allows you to generate fonts of any style or size with complete control of every parameter.

As such we could generate optimized antialiased fonts of any point size we desired.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...


Surely, even on tablets it should not be a *technical* problem to provide step-less text sizes? Or at least many more steps than six.