Kindle 2 Screen Contrast – Light Text, Dark Background & Solutions

There are a lot of complaints coming in that the Kindle 2′s screen isn’t as good as Kindle 1 and the contrast is poor. This was also a major point of feedback from actual Kindle 2 owner reviews. I suspect something like 5% of Kindle 2 owners are finding that the screen contrast is too low to read comfortably.

Users who have this problem claim two parts -

  1. The background is a darker shade of gray than Kindle 1.
  2. The text is not black, and is actually darkish grey.

Here’s a video to help you understand why they might have issues –

.

For them, the combination of these two factors results in less contrast and lower readability. This issue might also affect low vision people.

Workarounds for the Screen Contrast Problem

Before we jump into actual solutions, there are 2 quick workarounds worth considering -

  1. Change the line-spacing and amount of lines per page using Shift+Alt+1-9. Remember to hold down Shift and Alt buttons and then press one of the number keys (1 or 2 or any number up to 9) to change line spacing. This ought to help at least some people.
  2. Another workaround that should help people is from ‘Nobody’ at amazon kindle forums -

    Use a cool colored light bulb (full spectrum light, not a warmer color) when reading. 

Real Solutions for Kindle 2 Light Text Problem

There are actually two quick, easy and effective solutions for this that Amazon needs to look into and implement via Kindle 2 firmware updates. Even better, these solutions will add on to each other, thereby making the Kindle 2 screen readability much, much better.

Both of these solutions and all images (used under permission) are courtesy Ted-San and additional information is available at the Kindle2UI page.

Kindle 2 Screen Contrast Solution 1 – Bolded Text Mode.

Solution: Let Kindle 2 owners opt to read Kindle 2 books and documents in ‘bold’ mode.
How Solution can be delivered: This is doable via a firmware update.
Estimated Effort: Low to Medium.
Example of the Solution’s Impact: You can already see the difference in blog posts etc. that use bolded text. Again from the Kindle 2 UI page, here is an image showing the difference –   

Difference that Bold makes

Difference that Bold makes

Here’s a video which shows (to some extent) how bolding looks better -

.

 This is a pretty effective solution, and it stacks on top of the other solution -

Kindle 2 Screen Contrast Solution 2 – Turn Off Anti-Aliasing for Font Sizes 1 & 2.

Solution: Stop using anti-aliasing for Font Size 1 and 2.
How Solution can be delivered: Via a firmware update.
Estimated Effort: Medium.  
Example of Solution’s Impact: Ted-San actually says that Kindle 2′s fonts would be superb (better than Adope Photoshop) if Amazon stopped using anti-aliasing for smaller fonts. His image pretty much sums it up -

Kindle 2 Font Size 1 - How to fix the contrast issue

  1. Kindle 2 Font Size 1 – How to fix the contrast issue

The image for Font Size 2 on the Kindle 2 is -

Kindle 2 Font 2 Anti-aliasing impact

Kindle 2 Font 2 Anti-aliasing impact

And finally, you can see the impact of anti-aliasing as we hit Font Size 3 on the Kindle 2 -

Kindle 2 Font Size 3 Anti-Aliasing Impact

Kindle 2 Font Size 3 Anti-Aliasing Impact

This image shows exactly why Amazon put in anti-aliasing. In a way this is the Law of Unintended Consequences. In trying to make fonts smoother and easier to read, Amazon messed up the readability for a portion of users (5% perhaps) at font Size 1 and 2.

My Unsolicited Recommendation to Amazon

Over-deliver! Let users have both options -

  1. Make readability better by choosing ‘Read Books in Bold  Font’.
  2. Make readability better by choosing ‘Turn off Anti-Aliasing”, and perhaps even make non-aliasing default for Font 1 and Font 2.

Also, long term – try to figure out a solution to get an actual white or nearly white background to get even better readability and contrast. I suspect this one will be a much tougher solution and might not even be possible. Delivering the two solutions mentioned before, however, would make this almost unnecessary.

People are returning Kindle 2s and threatening to. Other people are holding back from buying Kindle 2s. More importantly, even though only 5% or so of Kindle 2 owners are facing this issue, it’s the right thing to do. And the solution makes things better for ALL Kindle 2 owners. So I do feel Amazon will deliver a solution soon.

15 Responses

  1. [...] are screenshots of the Kindle set at lines heights of 2, 3 and 5. For yet other reading tips, see Kindle 2 Screen Contrast – Light Text, Dark Background & Solutions, from iReader [...]

  2. I agree that the background should be much lighter and would prefer white, I am curious why it was mentioned that white was probably impossible ??

  3. [...] i’m not the only one who thinks the screen is too low contrast. here are some solutions for the [...]

  4. [...] Kindle 2 Screen Contrast – Light Text, Dark Background & Solutions [...]

  5. I am wondering why a white background is not possible? The greyish, beigey tone of the background makes it really hard to read under any lowlight conditions. My Kandle blew out after just 2 books.

  6. Found this googling to see if it really isn’t possible to change the setting.

    The thing should have had a brightness/contrast setting right out of the box. Preferably a simple dial or slider button built into it.

    It’s usable but I don’t see why they’d make the background darker than an actual paper paperback novel’s. I thought the idea was to mimic natural paper.

  7. I arrived here having searched on google for a solution to the problem here described, but find myself sidetracked and instead taking an interest in the amazingly clear presentation of the problem and potential solutions. What a great use of expanation, video and graphics. Whoever did this page could easily excel at a major corporation, and certainly at amazon. The communication of information here is powerful, would be understood immediately by readers of all levels of tech experience and was a pleasure to read. You’d get an A plus in corporate communications from where I went to grad school. Thanks!

  8. Good practical fix. How can we get Amazon to take action?

  9. Folks, quit struggling and get a Nookcolor. I got one 2 weeks ago after squinting at my Kindle2 for 2 years and honestly, if I didn’t have so many books on it, I’d throw my Kindle away. There’s no comparison. You can change the background colors and brightness (continual, not discrete step changes), change the font type as well as size, and easily adjust the amount of white space around the text and between the lines. It’s all built right in to the setting and text options.

    • ukiyo-e, thanks for your comment.
      Kindle does have line spacing options. If you have a Kindle 2 then use Alt+Shift+1 (or 0 or 4 or another number) to adjust.

      And Kindle does allow changing font size and type – although type options are limited.

      Nook Color has a lot more options for bakgrounds/themes and it has the brightness control. However, eInk is better for reading – easier on the eyes + readable on sunlight.
      Nook Color’s backlight makes it much better for reading at night.

      So it’s pros and cons on both sides and not really ‘Nook Color wins everything’.

  10. Yep – just got my first Kindle 3G and its screen contrast is definitely too dark, and the lettering not dark enough. To some extent I have solved the problem with the leather cover with the light but it should not be necessary to pay almost $60 more for that. Come on Amazon lets have that firmware please!

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