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I am specially preparing some PDFs for use on E-ink devices. I have noticed that the appearance of the text on these screens is not exactly the same as the appearance on a book, or the appearance on a computer screen. Are there any strategies for selecting fonts which will appear good and improve readability on these devices?

  • If I must select a font from a specific collection, what features should I look for in that font that indicates that it will be most suitable for use on E-ink?
  • Are there any special fonts specifically designed for use on such displays? Is there any research showing that any particular font provides the best or improved readability on E-ink?
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4 Answers

Some fonts typically seen on E-Ink devices are Times, Palatine, Plantin, Sabon, Georgia, Gill Sans, and Rockwell. It is widely accepted that serif fonts will be easier on the eyes than sans-serif fonts. I've done some searches and it seems that many people like Plantin. In the end it comes down to personal preference. Try out a few and see which ones you like. Hope that helps.

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"It is widely accepted that serif fonts will be easier on the eyes than sans-serif fonts." Eh, not really. –  DA01 Oct 30 '12 at 5:25
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Nice answer! p.s. Serif fonts always go down well in books because people are used to serifs in books, but there's quite a bit of debate about whether serifs really are inherently better for that sort of thing, or whether it's simply a historical artefact of familiarity. We've got an open question here on that, hoping for some factual evidence-based answer to resolve that question for good, but so far, no clear answer and the question just gets murkier and murkier... –  user568458 Oct 31 '12 at 10:58
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Thanks for the clarification, that is exactly what I meant. I'm actually doing research on that very topic currently. I'll have to contribute my findings. –  ethayne Oct 31 '12 at 13:48
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The limitation is primarily that of resolution. eINK is getting pretty good, but not quite as high resolution as your typical paper. So, just as you would for screens, you might want to lean towards typefaces that have a lower contrast between stroke weights. Avoid the Bodonis, for example.

As long as you pick a sturdy text face, the readability is likely going to be more influenced by the total package...margins, leading, letterspacing, page design, etc.

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It's also lower resolution than most LCD screens too. Typical e-reader (eg. Kindle) resolution is 800x600 pixels. So basically any font that's designed to be readable at small sizes will do. E-readers tend to have very good anti-aliasing and therefore render fonts quite shape-accurate, rather than relying on hinting like for example Windows. –  thomasrutter Nov 16 '12 at 4:35
    
True about the anti-aliasing. The key aspect of resolution, though, is the PPI of the screen. So, while the pixel dimensions may seem low, the small size of the screen actually produces a relatively high PPI compared to your average desktop screen (though still typically lower than a retina display on an iOS device). –  DA01 Nov 16 '12 at 5:50
    
Good point. The Kindle (and most 6" e-readers), despite having a low pixel dimension, has a ppi of 167 which is higher than most desktops and many laptops, and higher than the original (pre-retina) iPad. –  thomasrutter Nov 18 '12 at 7:53
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I think serif is very well but more bold than usually in books.

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Hi, welcome to GD.SE! Could you please add a little more information to your answer? It's not incorrect, but it would be much useful for other people if you explain why you think serifs are the best option. –  Yisela Mar 18 '13 at 20:56
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As far as I am concerned the effect of low resolution on e-ink screens is quite similar to the appearance of the newspaper where low-quality paper with high soaking ability tends to distort fine details of letter shapes.

So I would probably recommend the same typefaces that are used for setting the text in newspapers - low-contrast, with thicker serifs and larger counters - something like Zócalo Text, Swift, PF Adamant etc.

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This is actually a good analogy. The way eInk renders is not unlike the effect of ink spread on porous substrates (such as newsprint). –  DA01 Mar 19 '13 at 6:24
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It is a good analogy, especially considering 166ppi would be appropriate for 85 line screen halftones. Note however that newspapers do not use halftones to create text so the resolution is way higher for the typefaces in actuality. I DO note that a google image search on "Nook Simple Touch" with "images larger than 4 megapixels" comes up with a lot of photos of the e-ink device with serif typefaces at book size which appear perfectly legible. (I am aware that the analogy is about dot gain or spread: I only mention in the interest of less technical readers) –  horatio Mar 19 '13 at 16:18
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