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 – [wpvideo yJmdUa7v].

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 – [wpvideo sDUPpTKX].

 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.