Turning inner space into outer space

September 7, 2012

Impossible to justify a Kindle without hyphenation

The newly introduced Kindle Paperwhite ereader from Amazon certainly does look tempting. The white pages and built-in backlight seem perfect. Unfortunately, there is one thing I can’t get past — the lack of hyphenation.

Have a look at the accompanying picture, which is a screenshot I took from the Amazon website. Because of the lack of hyphenation, the words are spread out so that they line up evenly on the right side. In some cases, that places massive gaps between them. The worst example in this shot is the fourth line that reads, “mentions or advertisements in local.” Holy doodle, that’s gappy.

Amazon could get around this by offering users the option of rag right. The words would still line up on the left side, but would have a ragged edge on the right. Some consider this easier to read because your eyes don’t have to travel as far. If this is an option, I wasn’t able to find it.

But having justified type does look good. It’s what we expect because almost all print books are typeset this way. The difference with books is that some words are hyphenated at the end of a line so that the words can be spaced out more evenly.

So why no hyphenation in the Kindle? It’s not like the technology doesn’t exist. Page layout programs such as Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress have been doing it for years. Maybe hyphenation software would add to the cost of producing a Kindle, which is already selling at low margins — or maybe even a loss.

Whatever the reason, it stops me from buying one. If I’m going to have a device dedicated to one function — reading — it better be the best possible reading experience with no compromise.