Change the font on your Kindle without hacking it

Alert! This post was written in June 2011, and while at that time the Calibre plugin worked fine, it does not support the latest Kindle models. See the official plugin thread for details.
— 21 Oct 2012
Even More Alert! Commenter Vab March has an even easier solution for Kindle Touch, and I’ve confirmed it works for Kindle Paperwhite 5.3.4 as well. If the Calibre plugin won’t work for you, maybe this will:
  1. Creating a folder named “fonts” with 4 font files like mentioned above.
  2. make a blank file (by Notepad, but delete the extension afterwards) named “USE_ALT_FONTS in root folder
  3. restart

Thanks, Vab!
— 12 Apr 2013

I finally updated my installation of Calibre the other day and started playing around with the plugin manager under Preferences, and I found out that the Kindle Collections Manager plugin has a secret power: it can let you add a new font to your Kindle without requiring any sort of hack or jailbreak. If you want a different font but don’t want to mess with all the other risks/delights that come with hacking your Kindle, this is a nice clean alternative.

To use it, get the most current version of Calibre, then go into Preferences, scroll down to the green puzzle piece icon, and enable the Collection Manager plugin. The plugin you want is called “Kindle Collections”.

The plugin’s main purpose is, you guessed it, to help you manage your collections on your Kindle (which are a real pain to edit directly on the device). But there’s an extra settings pane where you can do your font replacement magic.

The developer has detailed instructions on this MobileRead Forums thread, but here’s the quick overview.

First, you have to find a compatible font set. Here are the requirements:

  1. It must be Truetype or OpenType format
  2. It must have four files, one for each of these variants:
    • regular
    • bold
    • italic
    • bold italic
  3. It must be renamed using this naming convention, where [name] is the font name and “ttf” is the extension (even if it’s an OpenType font):
    • [name]-Regular.ttf
    • [name]-Bold.ttf
    • [name]-Italic.ttf
    • [name]-BoldItalic.ttf

The plugin’s dev says Droid Serif is a good example of a compatible font set, if you’re not sure where to start. You can also check out the main Google Web Fonts page, and look for fonts that have a gold “4 variants” label.

Next, do all these things, preferably in the order given:

  1. Press the Home button on your Kindle, then connect it to your PC.
  2. Using your computer’s file browser, navigate to the Kindle volume and create a folder on the top level (next to “Documents” for example). Name it “fonts”.
  3. Copy your four renamed font files into this folder.
  4. Start Calibre and wait for your Kindle to show up, then select the “Kindle Collections” menu option.
  5. In the submenu, select “Modify Kindle Settings…”

  6. In the “Modify Settings” pane, check the “Allow using user font” checkbox and use the drop-down selector to the left of it to choose the font you just added.

  7. Hit the “Save” button, then eject your Kindle from Calibre. On my computer, I then have to quit Calibre before I can unmount it from OS X, but that may just be a quirk on my end.
  8. After a few seconds, your Kindle will reboot.
  9. Open a book, then press the “aA” button to go into font settings. Select the new “alt” option to activate your new font.

Two things to be aware of:

If you can’t open the book, the font you’re trying to use isn’t compatible. Repeat the process above but either select a different new font or select one of the default fonts, then eject and let the Kindle reboot.

If you tire of your new font and go back to your original system font on the Kindle, your new “alt” font will get sad and go away. To get it back you’ll have to repeat the procedure above.

That’s it! Sadly–and most likely because I’m doing it wrong, but I got distracted by the font issue and never went back to try again–my first attempt at actually editing my collections failed. I could see them in Calibre, and I was able to add new titles to one, but after I ejected the Kindle and it restarted, everything remained the same. It could have easily been my fault, though, so I still recommend it.

If you need better and more detailed instructions, or you want to ask the developer for help or give feedback, check out his MobileRead Forums thread. It’s the most official source of info on this plugin, and it looks like he’s still active on it.

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