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Old 01-18-2007, 11:06 AM   #1
dstampe
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Modifying fonts as a fix for display contrast

I've been studying why the e-ink display is so unreadable with the typical fonts (my vision isb't very good in the first place), and I believe one of the biggest issues is that single-pixel black strokes in fonts are very low contrast (more grey than black). Thicker strokes (at least 2 pixels) have much better contrast.
The solution for me (at least for RTF files where font and style manipulation is possible) was to use 16-point Arial in boldface. This creates broad strokes at all sizes with the built-in sans-derif font. Trying this with serif fonts gives rather poor results, as the serif font in the Reader appears to have extremely thin horizontal strokes, and using boldface mostly widens the vertical strokes. Also, converting everything to boldface makes some books hard to read (i.e. where one character's dialog is shown in boldface)
Rather than converting each book I want to read into RTF, reformatting, and importing the RTF file (with the inevitable loss of content at each step), what about changing the reader's default font set to bolder fonts? Something like Bitstream Vera Sans Bold or Bitstream Vera Serif Bold might be a good starting point.
The other reformatting issue that I think most users agree on is that the fonts used in most books are just too small. I'm not an expert in fonts and tools (haven't fooled around with that stuff for about 10 years, an eternity for this field), but I wonder if it is possible to "tweak" the font files themselves so that it is rendered larger than intended by the Reader's current software--for example, change something in the font data so that, for example, the Reader requests 12-point and ends up rendering 16-point instead. (This obviously involves both the font format and font rendering engine).
It might also be possible to modify (hopefully with some tool function rather than glyph by glyph) to increase the stroke width of the fonts to inmprove legibility of the display. Maybe there is a font data header item for weight that will have this effect.
I'm not an expert in fonts (don't really have time to become one at the moment) but I know a number of developers are currently working on multilingual fonts, and so might have the required knowledge (or at least some link to documentation that might help in evaluating this).
Implementing this would be a huge improvement over reformatting each document, converting to graphical form, etc. Any book loaded would automatically be displayed at a more legible size. Perhaps a pre-complied flash image could be developed and posted so that any user could increase font size by re-flashing the Reader.
Downsides migh be that PDF formatting might break, it would have to be tried.
So, does this sound feasible? Can anyone post a link (or enough keywords to Google the information) on the type of fonts used (to research the font format) and how these are interperted by the Reader's software?
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Old 01-18-2007, 01:07 PM   #2
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My favorite high visibility font is Tiresias and it even shrugs off the effects of the error dispersion being applied to PDF documents by the Sony Reader. Most PDF generators can embed it into your PDF documents. It will not be available in RTF unless you do the re-flash procedure to add it as an available system font. It is available as a True Type font so it can be embedded in BBeB documents.

http://www.tiresias.org/fonts/index.htm
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Old 01-18-2007, 05:39 PM   #3
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Tiresias is indeed a great font. I have always found that Bookman Old Style to be the best fornt for me when reading printed matter. It is an open font that is very easy on my eyes. The worst (IMHO) text font is Baskersville -- everytime I read something in that font for more than 10 minutes my eyes start to hurt and I have to stop.
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Old 01-18-2007, 11:15 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RWood
Tiresias is indeed a great font. I have always found that Bookman Old Style to be the best fornt for me when reading printed matter. It is an open font that is very easy on my eyes. The worst (IMHO) text font is Baskersville -- everytime I read something in that font for more than 10 minutes my eyes start to hurt and I have to stop.
Bookman is nice but it doesn't survive error dispersion as well as Tiresias (which was designed to look good after being fed through a cheap hotel cable system into cheap hotel TV sets.)

My favorite brain melter is anything Gothic. That gets painful in way less than 10 minutes.
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Old 01-19-2007, 06:26 AM   #5
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highly readable monospaced font

For me the all time favourite for use on terminal consoles and other places that require monospaced font is Terminus font.

You can find it for example here:
http://www.lowing.org/fonts/
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Old 01-19-2007, 12:30 PM   #6
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Thanks for the font pointer.
Tiresias is somewhat better than other bold sans-serif, as it fits more characters per line. It does seem a bit "blobby" at small point sizes, but this seems typical of small, bold fonts with high character density.
Which exactly of the Tirsias fonts are you using? Tiresias PCFont seems to be the only one with hinting to look good at low resolutions, but also has thin strokes at those low resolutions.
I don't think this font could be used as a distributable flash image, though, as it's not public domain.
Other than re-flashing, I'm not sure what the status of tools for embedding fonts is. Do PDF files with embedded fonts keep these if preprocessed by the CONNECT software? It looks like embedding fonts in LRF files is progressing, but most of the tools for converting other formats to LRF don't seem to have the capability to make font face or size changes, thus the need to go through the RTF stage.
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Old 01-19-2007, 04:10 PM   #7
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Well that was disappointing and a bit expensive. Researched and purchaed the Tiresias font (LPfont type, as it had bold and italic versions), then found the following things:

- If embedded in a PDF file, it can't be extracted by the latest Acrobat reader with local fonts disabled (maybe some fonts have embedding permissions disabled?? Maybe some font format issues?). The font may have been used in the readerIt may have used the correct font in the reader, but the font was very small so it's hard to tell.

- In the reader, bold, italics, etc. are not displayed. (See below for speculations).

- Apostrophes and some other punctuation marks were lost (missing glyph symbol).

So at least with a direct conversion from RTF to PDF (using a trial version of the Adultpdf converter) this didn't work. Any other recommended converters that support font embedding?

I suspect part of the problem with bold etc. is that the OpenType font engine in the Reader simply unpacks existing fonts, and requires higher-level software to emulate bold, italics, etc. Maybe the Postscript implementation can't handle this.
Are there bold and italics versions of the built-in fonts? Those doing the international font patches should be able to say. In any case, I have not been able to get these to work.
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Old 01-19-2007, 09:58 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dstampe
Are there bold and italics versions of the built-in fonts? Those doing the international font patches should be able to say. In any case, I have not been able to get these to work.
There are only three built-in fonts, all of them are regular.
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Old 01-19-2007, 10:15 PM   #9
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For the generic (base fonts) in a PDF they rely on the installed fonts in the platform they are read on -- be it a PC, Mac, or Sony Reader. As a rule the PDF writers do not embed Ariel (Swiss, etc), Times, and Courier. All embedded fonts in a PDF are not able to be extracted even if the document is unlocked. This is why no font foundry objects to Acrobat. Just as you do not need to own a font to view a print ad with a special font in it, you do not need to own the font to view a PDF with a special font in it.

I have never used AdultPDF to create PDF files. Many people seem to like PrimoPDF however I am not sure if it embeds fonts or not. I use a somewhat outdated (at least 2 versions) Adobe Acrobat and it works fine for me.
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Old 01-19-2007, 11:34 PM   #10
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Did some more testing--I think the problem was due to the PDF printer. Using PDF995 seems to work reasonably well, although the document name (same as the source file unless PDFedit995 is used to enforce a title
) and page formatting (margins wroung unless standard sizes are used) are still not optimal. At least the desired font is properly displayed, all characters show, and boldface works.

There are a lot of tools out there, obviously not all of which work. I'm sure PDF995 has its problems too, but it seems to be a reasonable starting point.

Tests on fonts show that Tireasis LP 14 point is very readable under all light conditions, with an A6 page size (slightly larger than desired, but PDF995's page sizing support seems a bit flakey). This works reasonably well with full justification, although spacing between words is a bit uneven due to the low number of words per line.

In better lighting conditions, Franklin Gothic Demi Condensed 14 point is even better, as it allows more characters per line and looks more evenly spaced. However it is a bit small and might benefit from a larger font size which would remove some of its advantages. Many fonts also have missing apostrophes and occasional kerning errors.

Main negatives to using PDF eith embedded fonts compared to RTF: page turns take at least twice as long, and files are larger (this may be less of an issue with large files, assuming the extra size is just the font). Another issue is that (at least with these PDF files) text is not reflowed, so "resizing" simply zooms in to eliminate margins, headers, and foorters. There are only two sizes that differ only slightly, not 3 like RTF files.
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Old 01-23-2007, 05:41 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dstampe
I don't think [Tiresias] could be used as a distributable flash image, though, as it's not public domain.
Has anyone tried the free Bitstream Vera fonts? They're based on the Prima Sans, Serif, and Mono families that are hinted for low res use.

Last edited by chrissam42; 01-23-2007 at 05:42 AM. Reason: removed unnecessary quote bit
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Old 01-23-2007, 08:57 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by chrissam42
Has anyone tried the free Bitstream Vera fonts?
These have also been extended as the "Deja Vu" font set www.dejavu.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page , with several added styles and more international characters (including Cyrillic). These seems pretty good, similar to the basic Windows fonts.

Here is a link http://www.geocities.com/hartke01/ to a list of free fonts and tools.

In terms of legibility, I've tried the Deja Vu Sans Condensed Bold, which is quite legible. However, it has a "Boldface" bit set (or something) so Word will not allow boldface properties to be applied to it. If this could be fixed (or even,for embedding, if the "bold" bit is ignored by the Reder's rendering), then using the bolder version of these fonts might be a good start.

As for the idea I started the thread with, I did some research into the OpenType font system and the TrueType fonts. The OpenType algorithms and tables that are in the font files cannot be directly used to scale the face: the point size and display resolution are used to calculate "pixels per em", and the glyphs in the fonts are encoded with coordinated of fractiona "em"s. The scaling for the coordinates can only be changed be a power of 2 for a TrueType font. So creating a font that displays larger than specified would mean enlarging each glyph and changing kerning and other tables. Probably it would be easier to patch something in the Reader software, unless there is a font tool out there that can do this scaling.
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