image Font hacks on E Ink machines can be scary.

Will you accidentally “brick” your Kindle or Sony—turn it into a useless piece of plastic?

I’d still warn of the risks. But this weekend I’ve been intrepidly testing the Kindle font hacks mentioned here earlier.

And they are a justified gamble for those who want bolder, more readable text to help make up for the poor contrast of E Ink displays.

You needn’t be a hardcore techie to undertake these hacks.

The hacks were a big reason I bought the Kindle when I saw a $180 used machine advertised on Craigslist.

As much as I loathe Amazon’s DRM and its focus on a proprietary format, TeleRead remains dedicated to serving the here-and-now needs of the e-book community. With the Kindles available internationally, the number of owners could greatly increase. And convenient hands-on could only help.

Another reason I ended up with the K-2 was strictly selfish. The Sony Reader hacks, as best I know, are far more complex,and I wanted a safer, simpler approach, which the Kindle one would be.

What do I mean by safer and simpler? Well, the font hacks from K Design Works involve essentially just eight easy steps.

(1) Plug in your Kindle’s USB cable.

(2) Via your desktop machine, download the file for the appropriate font. I myself am currently using update_arialRndNrw_install.bin, which K Design Workers says “may be too bold for many readers, but it shows the most dramatic improvement in the readability for low-light conditions.”

Have the file go to the root director of the Kindle.

(3) Unplug the USB cable.

(4) Go to the Kindle’s home screen and hit Menu.

(5) Choose Settings.

(6) Hit Menu again.

(7) Choose Update your Kindle and wait for the K-machine to go through its paces, even at first it doesn’t seem to be.

(8) After the machine reboots, enjoy your new font!

Please don’t rely on my instructions alone. Read the ones from K Design Works for the Kindle 2 or the DX. (Get guidance here and here if your Kindle stops working.)

Also, there might also be warranty risks. If you’re concerned, then update_uninstall.bin can roll you back to your original font set (I’m not sure if it covers up all the tracks). You might also look for stray files in your upper-level directory.

What a shame that Amazon should make us jump through these hoops. Ideally someday the Kindle will come with a number of built-in font choices.

The screenshot here is from a PC monitor with more contrast than the Kindle, and to me it seems to exaggerating the boldness.

To answer one question, yes, I’m still very grumpy about the lack of sufficient contrast in E Ink between text and background. Even with the font hacks, that’s still a problem. But thanks to the hacks, it’s less of one than before.

Remember, too—you can also use Mighty Bright-style lamp, which can clip onto the Kindle or an optional coverpack (careful not to use the clamp on the E Ink display).