Serif or Sans Serif on Ebook Readers?
September 6, 2012 3:07 PM   Subscribe

Is there any consensus as to whether serif on sans-serif fonts are easier on the eyes when using e-ink based readers?
posted by Yakuman to Technology (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
For what it's worth, I had a dyslexic boss who would be all "GAAH get those serifs out of that document - I can't read it!" whenever I used a serif font, so for the dyslexic subset of users I believe that sans serif is easier to read.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:27 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Apparently it's ambiguous.
posted by pombe at 3:36 PM on September 6, 2012

Yeah it has way more to do with the design of the typeface and the technology it's being displayed on, than whether or not it has serifs. Anyone who tells you otherwise won't be able to back up their claim with any research, or really, anything more than strong feelings (based on old typesetter's tales passed down from generation to generation).

There are fonts designed and hinted specifically for legibility on-screen (your Verdanas and Tahomas), though that really was intended for aliased display. There are modern typefaces, designed for sub-pixel rendered, anti-aliased display on LCDs (Calibri is one). I could imagine there are technical particularities of the eink display that might benefit from a custom designed font (the cells are hexagonal, right?), but I'm not specifically aware of any. And beyond a certain dpi you would just start treating it like print.

Most devices today just anti-alias/subpixel their text and call it a day. We're kind of in a shitty place for legibility these days IMHO: waiting for all our devices to increase their resolution so we don't have to resort to those tricks.
posted by danny the boy at 4:22 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Jakob Nielsen: Serif vs. Sans-Serif Fonts for HD Screens
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:22 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

With typography there's generally a trade-off between legibility (instant identification of letters/words) and readability (the flow of words and sentences). In print, the rule-of-thumb is to use serifs for readability and sans serifs for legibility. But for lower resolution computer screens that equation is usually reversed when it comes to readability. The Amazon Kindle's Caecilia is a slab serif which occupies a middle ground. Its serifs are not as fine as traditional serif typefaces which means that it works better at screen resolution.

That's a long way of saying that it depends. Not all serifs are created equal. In this case a slab serlf provides a nice balance between legibility and readability.
posted by Jeff Howard at 5:48 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

A lot of it is simple personal preference. Myself, I despise serif fonts.

An intelligent device designer will, if it is at all possible, make it a user choice. Amazon did on my Kindle Fire, and I have it set to use Verdana.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:24 PM on September 6, 2012

I'm not sure what your role is in this, but one thing to keep in mind is that a typeface with a larger x-height (or "torso", according to Bringhurst, though I haven't seen that term elsewhere) is going to be more legible than one with a smaller x-height. That is, on a 12pt face, if the height of the "x" form (assuming the letters have a uniform x-height) takes up a greater proportion of the 12 points, it'll look larger (and be easier to read) than one where the "x" takes up less of the letterform's height.
posted by Alt F4 at 7:06 PM on October 1, 2012

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