Kindle Typesetting Improvements

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.


When I turned on my Kindle Paperwhite today, I received a nice surprise.

It automatically downloaded an update: version 5.6.5. When it finished, a note popped up describing new Kindle typesetting improvements.

This is a cool development because Kindle typography has been very limited. The new Kindle typesetting has appeared on various devices over the course of the past several weeks. This is the first time I found a note with the update.

Before you publish a book with the new features in mind, you want to get a feel for how many devices use the new Kindle typesetting engine, as well as how many books implement it. Presently, the new features work for about 500,000 Kindle e-books, but within a year, that should be a few million. (There are nearly 4 million Kindle e-books at the moment.)

So if you publish today, the new features probably won’t matter. But within a year, it appears that they will. (Except for customers using a device—perhaps an older Kindle—which doesn’t support the new engine. It may not have yet even finished rolling out to customers with new devices.)

The new typesetting engine is geared toward an improved reading experience: subtle typography tricks to create faster reading, less eye strain, easier word recognition, and a nicer look to the digital ‘page.’

Following are some of the improvements:

  • Kindle introduced the new Bookerly font. I opened a page where the justification was quite poor, and changing the font to Bookerly. The justification improved tremendously.
  • Justification is supposed to be improved. I didn’t really notice this except with the Bookerly font, though maybe I just don’t have one of the books that fully benefits from the new typesetting engine.
  • There is supposed to be improved spacing and improved character positioning. The Bookerly font may be more Kindle-kerning friendly.
  • One of the new features is hyphenation, which has me concerned. For weeks, I’ve read about Kindle hyphenation that doesn’t hyphenate in the proper breaking positions. However, the note that came with the new typesetting engine claims that it will hyphenate properly. I haven’t yet seen a hyphen, though I checked out several books. So I’m hopeful, but waiting to see it firsthand before I get too excited.
  • There is supposed to be more natural spacing and more words per page (so less clicking or swiping to paginate).
  • Drop caps are supposed to be much improved. I opened every book on my Kindle and downloaded many recommendations and top sellers from Kindle, yet I didn’t see one drop cap. That’s because most e-book formatters have learned to shy away from the drop cap because of formatting problems they’ve discovered in the past. If you happen to know a book that has drop caps that was likely to be among the first to adopt the new typesetting engine, please suggest it in the comments. I’d love to check it out.
  • Another feature was a smart card with smart lookup, which works with the dictionary, Wikipedia, and x-ray. These are great ways to improve vocabulary and comprehension, and to take notes or make flash cards. It’s also great for educational books.

The note said that it had changed the order of my books on my device, showing those with enhanced typesetting first. However, when I checked my book list, the order appeared unchanged. First on the list was a book from 47North, one of Amazon’s own imprints. Yet I didn’t notice the new typesetting features (except for the cool Bookerly font) with this book or any other book that I downloaded today. If you happen to know of a book that definitely works with the new typesetting features, especially one that includes drop caps (but it’s okay if it doesn’t), I’d love to check it out.

Have you received a similar update on your device? Which device? Have you noticed the new features? What do you think of them?

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
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  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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16 comments on “Kindle Typesetting Improvements

  1. I’m looking forward to trying it out.

    I’m confused about something: I’ve used drop caps for Infinite Waters. The indentation was a bit more than I’d like, but it looked fine otherwise. Will new readers automatically see the new typesetting when they download the book, or do I have to resubmit the manuscript?

    • Amazon has said that they are adding this new formatting to ebooks automatically.

      I am assuming that is true, but all i know is that Amazon hasn’t shared details on how you and I can add the new formatting.

      Also, there was a mention of a new version of KindleGen in the ebooks that have the new formatting.

      • Hi. My Kindle Paperwhite 2 was automatically updated to 5.6.5 on Sunday. Bookerly became available, but there were no changes in typesetting.
        Yesterday, after reading Nate’s comment, I removed and and downloaded “Inheritance” (Sharon Moalem) and ligatures/kerning/hyphenation are started working. I tried the same procedure with another book, without any improvement.

        So the new typesetting features are really specific to new downloads of some books.

    • I think you have to wait until Amazon adjusts the formatting of your book for the new typesetting engine, unless you were one of the lucky 500,000. They plan to have a few million ready within a year, so it should be coming.

    • I happened across a Kindle e-book at today and noticed just below the description, in fine print, it says: Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled. So I checked one of my Kindle e-books to see if it did, and my detailed guide has this enabled, too. So you should check your books and see if you can find this. Now we know where to look: on the Kindle edition product page, just beneath the description (at least on the full site).

  2. I think Amazon has chosen to create this technology just to be one step before mobi file. You cannot buy kfx file from publisher and you cannot send kfx files to your account except putting it using your USB cable with a computer. And Amazon generally sell ebook with a price higher than publisher. This technology gives Amazon a step further and, in my view, it’s a great decision because the page flipping and the capability to navigate rapidly without losing the current page is very addictive. Great move from Amazon. Now, you can use calibre with a plugging to convert your mobi to kfx.

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