So which is easier to read, at least for me?

(1) My $290 Oasis without The Way We Live Now in all bold or (2) my modest 2013 Paperwhite with the same file in boldface?

The answer? The Paperwhite by a long shot—even though it normally sells for just $120 and is now discounted to $100.

Alas, I couldn’t achieve all bold without first bothering to run the file through the Calibre e-book management program. Calibre is a marvel but not the handiest of workarounds for the nontechnical majority of e-book fans.

I’ll still share a tip here for Calibre users who pang for all-bold on the Oasis and other Kindles. But before we get there, I’ll make a point. I’ve been begging Amazon for years to offer either a “bold off / bold on” switch in the software or else a variable boldface adjuster similar to what the rival Kobo e-readers have.

pta-fam-reading2_thumb.jpgAmazon bills the Kindle as The Official E-reader of the National PTA, using the photo to the left. Ideally Jeff Bezos, Kindle designer Chris Green and others at Amazon will eventually come around. Don’t they care about certain kids with learning disabilities and others whom the all-bold could benefit? And shouldn’t educators care about the spirit, if not the letter, of accessibility legislation? Tablets like Amazon’s Fires are no substitute. E Ink devices can offer distraction-free reading for the very kinds of learners most likely to benefit from it.

The boldness issue also should be of interest to older people with diminished sensitivity to contrast, and I’m one of them. Why must I have to add the AWOL boldness, file by file?

And what about DRMed books? You can’t add all bold to DRMed books without technically violating the anti-circumvention part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. But it’s perfectly legal to add bold to nonDRMed books. So keep reading, after I share more details about Amazon’s need to make the how-to obsolete. Inherently, the Kindle’s E Ink tech offers less contrast between text and background than do the usual LCDs. It’s high time that Amazon responded. All bold would at least increase the perceived contrast.

The circumstances of my bold experiment with the Oasis and the Paperwhite selling for a fraction of the $290

The Paperwhite screen in the photo is behind a screen protector built into a waterproof case, so that’s a built-in disadvantage. And yet its greater readability for the contrast-challenged, compared to the Oasis, is still quite evident.

Within the Aa menu, I set the type size to position number five (Aas from the left) on both the Oasis and the Paperwhite and used Helvetica. The type is on the Paperwhite is a little larger, but not enough to make a difference. Needless to say, I did not mess with the photo—taken with an iPad—other than to crop it.

And, of course, there is nothing special about the Paperwhite. I just ran the displayed file through Calibre to achieve the bolding. But why did I have to? Not everyone has my technical skills. What’s more, couldn’t everyone benefit from the ability to lower the screen lighting of the Oasis and other Amazon e-readers and tablets to reduce eye strain and extend battery life? You don’t need as much brightness if the perceived contrast is greater.

If anything, I feel even more passionate about the contrast issue than before I got the Oasis and confirmed for myself how odd it is for Amazon not to offer an all-bold option even on a $290 e-reader depicted as a luxury item.

That said, I’m going to consider many other things when I do a full review of the Oasis for TeleRead. The page-turn buttons are true progress! Nondisplay ergonomics are very good. And, yes, in line with earlier reports, I do see at least one text-to-speech file—not proof but perhaps a hint that the Oasis will eventually get Bluetooth and text to speech. For years I’ve asked Amazon to restore TTS to E Ink Kindles. Is nirvana around the bend?

Len Edgerly, TeleRead contributor and Kindle Chronicles host, is also rooting for a bold option

Kindle Chronicles host Len Edgerly, a contributor to TeleRead, looked at a bolded file I sent him (of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, which, like The Way We Live Now, is a classic in the public domain).

In line with his earlier thinking, he concluded: “I can see how much more readable the font is, but to my eyes it feels as if it is shouting at me, and I would prefer the unbold version. That doesn’t mean, of course, that the bold version might be very helpful for some readers.”

Exactly! Len and I are not asking to Amazon force all-bold on everyone: we simply want it available as an option.

The how-to, finally

To see the original Project Gutenberg version of The Secret Agent file Len downloaded, go here.  And here is the link to the bolded version I created for him with Calibre. Enojy the view on your new Oasis (or Paperwhite or other Kindle!). Use the e-mail-to-kindle feature and treat the bold file as a document; it’s possible that if you don’t, you won’t see the bold.

Also, if you want to read your own files in all-bold, here are some instructions on setting Calibre up for all-text bolding.

Once again—we Amazon customers shouldn’t have to mess with this! Give us that bold switch or, better, the slider, Jeff!

Correction (included in this post): The first version said the Oasis was $280. I guess I’m still experiencing sticker shock. Actually the price is a full $290, rounded off, for Prime members, and that’s without taxes. If you don’t want to see ads or if you want a 3G connection, not just WiFi, you’ll pay still more.

Related: Len’s Oasis review for TeleRead as well as his YouTube video for The Kindle Chronicles.


  1. Sadly, there *was* a way to change font weights — and, basically, everything about the typography — back in the good old days of firmware 5.4x and below; using KoReader. I still have KoReader on my PaperWhite 1 and, with left justification, unlimited font sizes, choices & weights, customized paragraph spacing etc. this device is every bit as pleasantly readable as my Voyage.

    In fact, I’m so aggravated with Amazon for removing the ability to run KoReader that my next e-reader definitely won’t be a Kindle.

  2. @BDR: My sympathy! I strongly encourage you and others to write jeff@amazon.com. He and his marketers need to pay less attention to focus groups and more attention to real users. Jeff Bezos is actually said to read people’s feedback.

    In the case of the bolding options, Amazon’s conduct is just plan bizarre. It could add them without any serious tradeoffs. Slightly higher support costs? Maybe. But not that huge. Just a switch or slider, as I’ve suggested. Plus, there could be a whole menu area for advanced users. Maybe they could pay a little extra for it, kinda like the ad switch-off.


  3. RanolfT: All bold needs to be free!!!!!!. But if Amazon feels it would go bankrupt offering support for a Moon+ Reader Pro-number of options, then people could extra for that. Of course a simple “reset” could keep costs down. So could decent documentation, including videos. David

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail newteleread@gmail.com.