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Electronic Paper's Past and Future 154

Posted by kdawson
from the updating-in-your-pocket dept.
Iddo Genuth sends us to TFOT for his extended series of interviews around the question of how electronic paper will change our lives in the next few years. The article leads off with the "father of e-paper," Nick Sheridon, who came up with the idea almost 35 years ago at Xerox PARC, and goes on to explore how e-paper may evolve past its current incarnations in the likes of the Sony Reader.
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Electronic Paper's Past and Future

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  • I've heard good things about them, specifically the battery life. Does anyone own an E-Reader? I was thinking of getting Sony's. Any thoughts?
    • Re:E-Readers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kris_J (10111) * on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @10:39PM (#21005729) Journal
      My main thought is that since it's by Sony it'll be drenched in poisonous DRM.

      I owned a Newton Messagepad back in the day. I've read fiction, non-fiction, short stories, novels, news articles and heaps of other stuff on everything from a PDA to one a laptop connected to Second Life. The only place ebooks have a decent chance of success is to replace the two tons of textbooks most schools require their students to carry. Otherwise it's hard to beat the convenience of Dead Tree Format.
      • Re:E-Readers (Score:5, Informative)

        by chill (34294) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @11:51PM (#21006173) Journal
        The latest incarnation of the Sony Reader plugs in to a USB host and shows up like a drive, to drag files over. It can handle .txt and .PDF as well as JPEG and MP3. Feel free to totally ignore installing their software and never using DRM. I have one and it is fantastic for taking with me when I travel.
        • by AVee (557523)
          So what is it, did they screw up on there DRM scheme once again or did they finally make one properly usable device?

          Not that it matters much, it will take a lot more before I start buying Sony again. For starters, I'm not going to spend a single cent on a company that calls me a thief [arstechnica.com] for making a legal copy of legally acquired music. That's just sponsering an upcoming lawsuit against myself, which to me seems really stupid.
          • by chill (34294)
            I was amazed that they didn't find a way to screw this over in the end. The only thing I can think of is someone messed up. :-)

            Anyway, Sony Music != Sony Electronics, but I understand your point.
            • by AVee (557523)
              As far as I'm concerned Sony Music == Sony Electronics, they both hide behind the same www.sony.com, and more importantly, they feed the same shareholders.
          • by dgatwood (11270)

            Not that it matters much, it will take a lot more before I start buying Sony again. For starters, I'm not going to spend a single cent on a company that calls me a thief for making a legal copy of legally acquired music. That's just sponsering an upcoming lawsuit against myself, which to me seems really stupid.

            I was boycotting Sony long before that. I've thought their electronics were mostly junk since the mid 1990s.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by dioxide (149116)

          The latest incarnation of the Sony Reader plugs in to a USB host and shows up like a drive, to drag files over. It can handle .txt and .PDF as well as JPEG and MP3. Feel free to totally ignore installing their software and never using DRM. I have one and it is fantastic for taking with me when I travel.

          Eh, you can, but you're going to get the best results regarding display quality (because you can control font and size), as well as not waiting (feels like an eternity) for the reader to format the file itsel

          • by bhiestand (157373)

            for the record, i own one of these, and i absolutely love it. my only real gripe is the lack of backlighting, but i think i might be able to hack something up to make a frontlight that wont send a glare back at me.

            I own one as well and can't find anything bad to say about it. Backlighting is currently technically impossible. Since it's e-paper, trying to put a backlight in is like trying to put a backlight on a book. You want to/have to light it up from the front. I use a normal book light for mine.

            One thing I want to point out here is that Sony isn't lying about the battery life. One charge lasts me about 10,000 page turns. I've used my reader nearly continuously for ~2 weeks without needing to recharge it.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by dargaud (518470)
          Can it handle cbr/cbz files for comic book reading like CDisplay does (besides the fact that it's only B&W) ? Heh, that's literature too !
      • Otherwise it's hard to beat the convenience of Dead Tree Format.

        For many things, the dead tree format is obsolete. The obvious is simply missed. Newspapers and other formats for distributing the current events is old by the time it's printed. Get a newspaper if you want yesterday's news. Go online (a form of e-paper) and read Google News, Yahoo news, MSN news, API, etc. An offline publication in either a dead tree format or e-paper format is by defenition a record of history, sometimes as recent as a d
        • by Kris_J (10111) *
          Browsing a dozen news sites on a PC is not the same thing as an ebook.
        • Re:E-Readers (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Fred_A (10934) <fredNO@SPAMfredshome.org> on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @06:16AM (#21008191) Homepage

          The obvious is simply missed. Newspapers and other formats for distributing the current events is old by the time it's printed. Get a newspaper if you want yesterday's news.
          Much of the stuff in papers (or at least the few proper newspapers that are still available here and there) is way beyond the one liners that passes for instant news nowadays.
          I regularly read newspapers that are days old and never minded their lack of "freshness".

          Apart from a few very specific things (maybe stock markets or the weather), freshness has no impact on the interest or validity of news.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by p0tat03 (985078)
        Actually IMHO college textbooks are the LEAST likely place for ebooks to take off. College students like myself, being poor as we are, like to sell their books after their courses are done. There have been eBook initiative tried in some schools, but the lack of resale ability really killed it. I can get about 70% retail value for my books after I've used them, why would I pay something like 50% of the dead-tree price for something I can't sell later on?
        • Re:E-Readers (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Andrew Aguecheek (767620) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @04:15AM (#21007609)

          Depends on the subject. One of the most irritating things about being a law student is that by and large your books go out of date really fast. Almost every book from my undergraduate degree, which I only completed earlier this year, is now in a different edition. E-books would be really useful from our perspective. Not to mention the fact that libraries can only stock a limited number of journals and case-books.

        • by sayfawa (1099071)
          I can get about 70% retail value for my books after I've used them, why would I pay something like 50% of the dead-tree price for something I can't sell later on?

          But who says you would pay 50% for the digital format? Lots of e-books on your favourite torrent site. I have just about every physics and math text I've ever heard of in pdf or djvu format. If a student doesn't have an ethical problem with that then surely paying nothing for something they get to keep is better than paying 30% for something the
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Dragonslicer (991472)

          I can get about 70% retail value for my books after I've used them
          Can I come visit your planet?
          • Throughout my university years, I've consistently sold my textbooks for 90% to 95% of original price (after having bought them new from the bookstore). Two main things I did: first, I treated my textbooks very nicely; second, I found a student who was in the year behind me, and basically consistently sold my textbooks to him, so that he didn't have to worry about having to hunt for textbooks (or buying it from the bookstore, with tax --damn GST), and I didn't have to worry about finding a buyer. (Also hel
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by rthall (240128)
          I once got 17 cents for a textbook I paid $50 for.

          If I had the choice, I would go e-book all the way.
      • I personally own an ukranian Jinke Hanlin ( http://www.jinke.com.cn/Compagesql/English/index.asp [jinke.com.cn]) clone - Lbook (http://www.lbook.com.ua/ [lbook.com.ua]).

        I have two models, V8 - which doesn't have an OS and runs on Epson cpu and V3 - that runs LINUX and runs on ARM 200mhz processor.

        Both are great. Both have MMC/SD card, no DRM. V3 can display PDF and DJVU files. Both have SDKs for you to tinker with. While V8 is very basic and you have to use ANSI C to code your things, V3 is somewhat more powerful.

        Nevertheless, as

      • The only place ebooks have a decent chance of success is to replace the two tons of textbooks most schools require their students to carry. Otherwise it's hard to beat the convenience of Dead Tree Format.

        See, for me, the exact opposite is true. I have precious little time for recreational reading these days... But back in college I was a voracious reader. I carried around a Palm PDA loaded up with literally dozens of eBooks. It was terrific to be able to carry around a dozen books in a form factor that

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @10:46PM (#21005785)
      Rumors are flying around that Amazon is going to release their own e-ink device any day/week now. A version of it went through the FCC a while ago since it might have a wireless modem in it. It will probably be more expensive than the Sony, but might have the ability to download newspapers and magazines directly.

      Bookeen is coming out with their own device any day now that's really similar to the Sony reader but will use different file formats. They all read RTF, TXT, etc... but if you want to buy a new book, it's likely to have DRM in the file. The DRM file format that the Sony uses is different from the DRM files that the Bookeen and Amazon Kindle will use.

      The Iliad is bigger and can render letter size PDF files without the hassle of the smaller devices. It has wifi and a writable screen that you can take notes with... but it's supposed to be slower and more than twice as much money.

      I want one really bad, but I'm waiting to see what Bookeen and Amazon finally release before I throw down my cash. Sure they're all kind of expensive, but you can load up with free classic books from Project Gutenberg and you'll save money in the long run (if you read a lot and are too lazy/busy to make trips to the library).

      http://www.mobileread.com/ [mobileread.com]
      http://www.engadget.com/2006/09/11/amazon-kindle-meet-amazons-e-book-reader/ [engadget.com]
      http://www.engadget.com/2007/10/03/kindle-edition-books-appear-on-amazon-reader-launch-imminent/ [engadget.com]
      http://www.bookeen.com/ [bookeen.com]
      http://www.irextechnologies.com/ [irextechnologies.com]
      • I hope that's not it. That is one ugly beast. And what's the deal with all the buttons? Do they seriously expect people to want to type on a 1 hz display?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Maximilianop (903017)

        Sure they're all kind of expensive, but you can load up with free classic books from Project Gutenberg and you'll save money in the long run (if you read a lot and are too lazy/busy to make trips to the library).

        QFT, I'm a novels enthusiast but books costs, difficulty to take along and lazyness to go to the book stores makes me read one to two books a year tops, I don't read on a PC cause it really messes my eyes and I don't own a laptop.

        I'm waiting for e-ink based devices to grow in popularity, include an optional back light for night reading as the ones I've seen don't come in such a flavor, and for virtual libraries becoming popular web 3.0 era e-businesses. Once all this happen (and we know the last one WILL

      • by swillden (191260) *

        Sure they're all kind of expensive, but you can load up with free classic books from Project Gutenberg and you'll save money in the long run (if you read a lot and are too lazy/busy to make trips to the library).

        If you want a break from the classics, you can also get lots of sci-fi and fantasy from baen.com. Much of it is somewhat "pulpish", but I find it entertaining. They sell most all of their books for $4 each DRM-free and in various formats (HTML, RTF, Rocket e-Book, Mobipocket and MS e-book), and they also have a "free library" designed to get you hooked. The free library features books from almost all of their authors, so you can get a good idea about whether or not you like their stuff without spending

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tftp (111690)
      Sony's e-paper reader is a disaster, I looked at it at Fry's and couldn't force myself to like it. Ghosting, low contrast, and most unpleasant is the low speed of updates (about 1 second to flip the page, with awful flickering all the way.) It is also a single purpose reader, nothing more. I ended up buying a Sansung Q1 Ultra, it is not perfect but at least it is a usable tablet with a Windows OS so you can load stuff onto it, run Mozilla, do things (802.11 + Bluetooth) and in general I like it. The hand
      • I kind of agree in theory with tfip here. I have not seen an eReader but a couple of prototypes.

        Several years ago I was lucky enough to meet the MIT team that developed eInk. At that time, I saw their little proof of concept device. It was a thin copper strip about four inches long and half an inch wide. Mounted on the strip were four or five square plastic covered blobs that enclosed the eInk ping pong type balls. The balls were half white and half black. There was soldering here and there around the coppe
      • by swillden (191260) *

        Sony's e-paper reader is a disaster, I looked at it at Fry's and couldn't force myself to like it. Ghosting, low contrast, and most unpleasant is the low speed of updates (about 1 second to flip the page, with awful flickering all the way.) It is also a single purpose reader, nothing more. I ended up buying a Sansung Q1 Ultra, it is not perfect but at least it is a usable tablet with a Windows OS so you can load stuff onto it, run Mozilla, do things (802.11 + Bluetooth) and in general I like it.

        I prefer a single-purpose reader. In fact, I find a good e-book reader to be a better reading experience than paper. The problem with tablets is battery life. I own a couple of Gemstar e-Book readers, and I really like them. They're light and compact enough that I can carry one in the place of a paperback, backlit so I can read in the dark, have an adjustable font size so I can read at arm's length when that's convenient (for example, while on a treadmill), and only need to be recharged once every wee

        • by tftp (111690)
          How would your tablet do on a day where you're traveling for 12+ hours, without access to an AC outlet?

          I don't know how the tablet would do, but I would be really wasted after traveling for 12+ hours regardless of access to an AC or DC outlet. I definitely would not want to read for all this time. On a few occasions when I had to cross the Atlantic I read for a while, then slept as much as I could, then it was dinner time, then some work (on a laptop) then some more slumber, then landing. You'd be hit wit

    • Re:E-Readers (Score:5, Informative)

      by tlhIngan (30335) <.slashdot. .at. .worf.net.> on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @10:56PM (#21005857)

      I've heard good things about them, specifically the battery life. Does anyone own an E-Reader? I was thinking of getting Sony's. Any thoughts?


      They're actually quite nice.

      The e-paper screen is *beautiful*. The only thing you'll miss is a book light. It's very nice and contrasty (but more like black on a dull grey background), and the text isn't buried under glass, but appears on the surface, like real paper. It's a nice matte surface, so glare is a non-issue, and is extremely readable in all lighting conditions except pitch black (like a regular book).

      The bad thing - if you want to use its internal memory, you need to use Sony's software (a poor imitation of iTunes). But luckily, it accepts Memory Stick and SD cards. Just plop in it text files, RTF, or PDF files onto your SD card and away you go (making this the OS agnostic way of using it - just need a card reader and external card). The other issue is ghosting - when the screen updates, the parts that were black don't return all the way to background color, but leaves an imprint. Not to worry - another refresh will fix it. Might be slightly irritating if the book lines alternate.

      The other bad thing is when it needs to refresh the area - what happens is it inverts the entire screen, then writes the new image to it (in an effort to alleviate the ghosting).

      But the screen is really nice, you can easily forget about such issues. Just remember the flashlight if reading beneath the covers.
      • Re:E-Readers (Score:4, Informative)

        by chill (34294) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @11:53PM (#21006189) Journal
        The new model will show up as USB Mass Storage, so you can just plug it in and drag files across. No more Sony software.
      • by NickCatal (865805)
        One thing that is worth highlighting is that the display looks absolutely fantastic. The new reader supposedly has a much faster refresh rate (I'm sure this will speed up even more over time) and it is very easy to read off of. It is somewhat nice not having to look at a bright backlit display to read books and such.
    • Best gadget I've ever bought. _SO_ good. Fictionwise have the rest of the stock and they've rebranded it, but its the same (awesome) device.
    • by Calledor (859972)
      First of all the PDF functionality is non-existent despite the claims. However the .doc .txt translation is fan freakin tastic. Pictures are pretty crisp and the major bugs with it were patched. I imagine sony has some evil rootkit what have you on my computer, but quite honestly the program hasn't done anything I can think of as invasive, and other than being a little slow it's ok. Right now I have a slight gripe with the browsing ability on the reader itself when there are lots of books or documents o
      • by steveg (55825)
        If you make your own PDF files, they work just fine. I have a couple of SED scripts that convert .txt files to .tex, or I use html2latex to convert HTML. With a .sty file optimized for the Sony reader, I get font sizes and layout just the way I want them, and the Sony honors table of contents hyperlinks that are embedded in PDF.

        I actually prefer my PDFs on the Sony to the native LRF. Yeah, you can resize and reflow the LRF files, but the ebooks I've tried that were LRF based had so much white space that
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by supergnom (802002)
      I am a happy owner of an iRex iLiad, which has a fairly large display (8" vs the Sony's 6, 16 gray shades vs 4), and it is absolutely brilliant for reading. I used to read some books on a Sharp CL860, but the eInk is so much better on the eyes it's hard to describe. I can write on it, which makes it excellent for academic purposes - I read and make changes to quite a few papers and articles. And it is excellent for Sudoku solving. :-)

      The sweetest thing though, is that it runs Linux and has an increasi
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by cafard (666342)
      I'm the happy owner of one. After years spent looking at e-books and never finding one whose functionality/price was good enough, i almost found the holy grail. Battery life is brilliant, though something like 10 times less than advertised (i think they advertise 7500 page turns of autonomy, and my experience is that i can read books up to 800 pages on a full charge).

      On DRM, the reader's best supported format is the sony one (.lrf files), which provides the best rendering, and which *can* support a DRM laye
  • the question of how electronic paper will change our lives in the next few years.

    Two words: porn.
  • One Question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sqrt(2) (786011) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @10:32PM (#21005677) Journal
    Can I still write on it?
  • Well, (Score:5, Funny)

    by K.os023 (1093385) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @10:38PM (#21005727)
    From TFA:

    Q: When do you predict we will see the real e-paper revolution?

    A: It has already started but will become a real mass market in about 2012.


    So that 's what the Mayans were worried about!
    • Having recently tried to find a company that could sell me any economical form of electronic paper I can tell you it's damn near impossible. I had a special project I wanted to use it in. I didn't need color or high resolution. I just needed a really cheap, low power, thin, flexible, screen. The best response I got offered me a tiny bit of paper for around $3500. Hardly the stuff they could be making cereal boxes out of. *sighs*
      • Yeah the prototype kits are pricey. I've wanted to play with some of these panels for a while, but not at the current prices. If you go to E-Ink's website and follow the links through to the store they have kits with the 5/6" screen for $2000!! and the 8/9" screen for $4000.

        Not quite as pervasive as paper just yet...
      • by JohnFluxx (413620)
        What about irex? They sell ones right now:

        http://www.irextechnologies.com/products/wheretobuy [irextechnologies.com]
        • by MikeFM (12491)
          Do they actually sell the paper by itself or just as an eBook? I need the paper itself.
          • by JohnFluxx (413620)
            So buy the ebook, and take it apart. I'm sure you can download the specs of the actual screen to find the connectors. Plus you can probably salvage the video controller and CPU as well.

            An electrical engineer should be able to do that for you.

            • by MikeFM (12491)
              I'm looking for several yards of the material. Buying eBooks and taking them apart to attain the material isn't a price conscience method. One of the points of ePaper is to be nearly as cheap as paper.
  • by vlk (775733)
    When the display can be folded and put into a pocket, when I am able to read all of it on a single charge, when I can effortlessly pull down background info from varied sources - let me know, I'll be buy 10 of them.
  • I think durability will be the biggest problem.

    People are rough with things. Especially students, one of the ideal user groups for this kind of thing.

    The low-power portion is desirable, but my guess is that most of these things will end up in frames.
    • by RuBLed (995686)
      If you make them inexpensive enough, I'm sure its a good tradeoff. Besides, this time we only need to replace that single paper, the data is tucked somewhere safe unlike ordinary paper where the data is destroyed with the paper.

      But I still like to brag my game manuals or books around though. You see books are not only meant for reading. If one thinks of it as only a reading material, I believe that person had never owned a book. (Cue: Internation Space Station moisture problem :D )
  • Oh, and if, as is mentioned in the article, they have some sort of promotional giveaway of e-paper with ads/slogans etc... grab one quick!

    They'll stop giving them away when a "hack" appears online to add battery life, memory, rewrite the OS, etc. :)
  • I don't know... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RalphBNumbers (655475) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @11:01PM (#21005893)
    I'm actually not sure that stable-image type displays (what I would generically consider e-paper) are going to be the first widespread paper-replacement. As nice as their low power consumption is, their bit depth, color, contrast, and refresh rate are all horrible at the moment. And while they are certainly improving in those areas, things like LCDs and OLEDs are improving in power consumption and form factor as well.

    I came to this realization when I looked at the new 505 revision of the Sony Reader's marketing, and it occurred to me that I'd rather get an iPod touch. Recharging every few days instead of every few months is a sacrifice I'd be willing to make for real web content and video (while Sony could probably put some sort of basic very-static web browser on it's reader despite the display's low refresh rate if they wanted to support HTML, video and quick interactivity are going to be out of the question until there are fairly major changes in the display technology). And, as more and more content moves online, from static paper to dynamic computer screens, moving content is only getting more prevalent (rollovers, pull-down menus, AJAX widgets of all sorts, and even content in flash and other plug-ins)...

    I kind of suspect that e-paper has missed the window where it could have widely succeeded with a refresh rate measured in seconds rather than milliseconds. Stable-image type displays may have to get their refresh rates down into the low-double-digit milliseconds (and coincidentally gain high bit depth color and decent contrast) before they can take on to the mainstream.
    • Re:I don't know... (Score:5, Informative)

      by chill (34294) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @11:48PM (#21006165) Journal
      Really? Then you don't read. The Sony Reader's screen is 100x better than an iPod for reading something like a book.

      The Sony screen is 6.9" x 3.9", whereas the iPod Touch's is like 3.5" x 2.2" -- not even close. Add to that it is usable in full, direct sunlight and has an almost 180 degree viewing angle and much higher contrast ratio and for READING, not browsing, ePaper blows the iPod (and iPhone) out of the water.

      Screw web content. Believe it or not there are people with attention spans not defined by MTV. Try a few of these [literature.org] on the iPod Touch and then the Sony, then get back to me.

      Totally different targets.
      • by m2943 (1140797)
        I read a lot on mobile devices and I find that screen size and screen resolution makes little difference for reading literature; they are only important for diagrams or reference works.

        In fact, what matters most for reading is that the device is pocketable, and a small screen device is far superior to imitation books.
        • Re:I don't know... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by martin-boundary (547041) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @04:56AM (#21007831)
          That doesn't seem right. My experience is that if the screen is twice as big, one only needs to press the scroll button half as often. There's nothing more annoying than trying to read a novel while pressing a button each time one has read 5 or 10 lines of text. It's an optimization between portability factor and annoyance. There's a reason books come in standardized sizes.
          • by m2943 (1140797)
            My experience is that if the screen is twice as big, one only needs to press the scroll button half as often.

            Talk about stating the obvious.

            There's nothing more annoying than trying to read a novel while pressing a button each time one has read 5 or 10 lines of text.

            I can think of plenty of things more annoying, like not having the book on me in the first place, having to deal with slow refresh, carrying multiple devices, etc.

            It's an optimization between portability factor and annoyance.

            Given that pushing a
        • by steveg (55825)
          I have a Sony Reader, as well as an old Palm that stays in my pocket.

          There are advantages to the Palm, primarily the fact that it *is* in my pocket, so it's nearly always available. If I find myself somewhere with a little time to kill, I can always reach in and read on the Palm -- I generally have two or three books residing on it.

          On the other hand, the Sony is a bit large to carry in a normal pocket. In the winter, if I'm wearing a coat, it will fit in an inside jacket pocket (if a mass market paperback
      • Actually, I read quite a bit, including many full novels, and I do at least half of that reading these days on a computer display of one sort or another. In point of fact, I've been actively avoiding buying new paper books for a while now simply because all of my bookshelves are full and I have no space for more (I'm looking at giving them away and getting taller ones at the moment).

        And, having played with a Sony Reader (the 500 model) for a while, I can definitely say that it does not have a "much higher
        • by anethema (99553)
          I almost have to agree with the grandparent here. If you have seen the Sony reader and something like a PDA, then chose the PDA for reading, I cant imagine you are a very avid reader. Reading staring into fluorescent bulbs for hours on end is MUCH harder on the eyes than reading from e-paper. The background is a bit greyish, but I would still say, compared to a PDA or similar device, the screen is AMAZINGLY easy on the eyes. And, like a book, you can read it in any light from full sunlight to single candlel
    • by Gadzinka (256729) <rrw@hell.pl> on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @12:47AM (#21006511) Journal
      You missed the point. E-paper as the name implies isn't a replacement for computer screens. It's a replacement for a printed paper as in newspapers and books. Most of the people still get their knowledge from dead trees and e-paper for them is more or less just like paper, only better, since you can "print" on it many times.

      I am an avid ebook reader using Palms for the purpose for years, but as soon as I can get an e-paper reader without stupid limitations at a reasonable price (which for me is anything south of 250eur), I'll go that route. I mean, that would be the best of both world: paper book with the ability to (non-destructivelly) bookmark, annotate, search, copy text at will.

      Robert
      • An avid reader on palms?

        What software do you use, and where do you get your books from? One of the main reasons I bought a Treo was to use it as an E-book reader, and I have been very disappointed. I have tried e-reader, adobe reader, plucker, and a few others, but found them all to be disappointing- either annoying conversion programs are required, or the text is just unbearable to read (scrolling every 5 lines or so gets old quick).
        • There's an excelent GPL program for Palm OS: Palm Fiction [sf.net]. It doesn't need any conversion programs, it can read plain .txt, .html, .rtf files, also in .zip or .gz compression, straight from the memory card. I used it on m500, Tungsten T3, TX and now on Treo 650 and I'm glad I've found it. The UI is so much configurable, I sometimes consider it a drawback.

          The only thing Palm Fiction lacks IMO is webpage and documentation in English ;)

          Of course it doesn't read any proprietary, encrypted formats, but since I'v

      • E-paper as the name implies isn't a replacement for computer screens. It's a replacement for a printed paper as in newspapers and books.



        While it may be true that the current e-paper projects aren't looking to replace computer screens, the technology will eventually be incorporated into them. If it's easier to read e-paper than an LCD screen due to better contrast and less glare, then why would people continue using LCDs?

    • Re:I don't know... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mark-t (151149) <markt@ l y n x.bc.ca> on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @01:30AM (#21006711) Journal

      There are two significant advantages to epaper that LCDs and OLED's simply cannot match.

      One, epaper is a reflective technology, rather than emmissive, so the brighter the area in which one views it the better (just like a book).

      Two, epaper draws no power whatsoever to maintain a static display, none, zero, zilch. It only requires power to update the display. Once changed to what is desired, the power source could be disconnected entirely and the last image stored on the display would remain. No powered display technology can top that.

      Refresh rate is not a huge issue for epaper, as long as it is geared towards displaying content that is relatively static.

      So the biggest problems with the technology are just poor resolution and the price for color displays. Even more unfortunately, these areas do not seem to be improving at a promising rate.

    • Who cares? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bm_luethke (253362)
      Other than a specific crowd that will purchase anything neat (and I am very much in that group) who cares about any of those issue?

      To largely replace paper books we need a minimum of large size, lots of contrast, rugged construction, light weight, and generally usable anywhere for long periods of time. We are no where *near* that. Add in cost and being able to make marks on it being a requirement for many applications and we have some real issues.

      Size, rugged, and battery life do not go together. I need som
    • by battjt (9342)
      I'm ignorant of most of what you describe, but bit depth?! Newspapers are 1 bit. The original NeXT was 2 bit gray and beautiful. Looking at my screen right now, the only color is in my RSS icons, the scroll bar and just a few other hot controls. I remember that making the jump from 2 bit gray on the NeXT to 24 bit color wasn't nearly as useful as we thought it would be. The first time someone showed me a color NeXT and said "Look!", I couldn't figure out what was different.

      I thought these epaper device
  • Price (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Fengpost (907072)
    The Sony's PRS-505 is at $299. I will wait until the price drop to 199. I have seen the epaper made from E Ink, it is very easy on the eyes and the latest Sony ebook has made a significant advancement in the refresh rate.

    There are tons of copy right expired content online. I can't wait to curl up on the couch and read a good classic novel.
  • I don't think epaper will make a huge difference in our life in the years to come. The biggest reason is that it's overpriced. A laptop is a good example. Laptops go from $400 to thousands. On the upside, they will save you money after you have used at least 400000 (four hundred thousand) sheets of paper roughly. It is also more environmentally friendly and efficient. Not to mention more organized and smaller! However you've also got battery life... It works just as well without the price and no batteries r

    • We already have that, it's called a Palm IIIe. It's smaller, more organized, has great battery life, oh and it has some sort of widely sold stylus type input device. Just don't drop it.

      It is also more environmentally friendly and efficient. Not to mention more organized and smaller! However you've also got battery life... It works just as well without the price and no batteries required. If you could make some sort of pocket book that had an easy input method such as a widely sold stylus and a battery l

    • by Verte (1053342)

      they will save you money after you have used at least 400000 (four hundred thousand) sheets of paper roughly
      Unless you get some monetary benefit out of having several hundred pieces of paper organised and indexable. Having all your documents neatly stored and easy to carry around could make this electronic paper pay for itself.
  • Backwards (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rgaginol (950787)
    Great, we've managed to replicate yet another crappy input device which is still many levels below direct neural interfacing. Seriously, we're almost 2010... c'mon guys, I'm not lashing out until the Logitech (TM) Direct Neural (TM) connection hits the shelves. And cerebral subprocessors... I mean, I'm still trying to do maths with my woefully inadequate brain - and why can't I use Google by thinking about it??

    People from 20 years in the future will laugh at us for our crappy IO devices. Still, they'll all
  • I've heard about e-paper and the way it's going to revolutionize our lives for about 5 years now. I've never seen one device that has it, and I've only heard about this Sony thingy so far. If this stuff was really so good other manufacturers should have embraced it by now and we should have a hard time avoiding it, no? For me e-paper is just like Linux on the desktop: always just around the corner.
    • by MythMoth (73648)
      I don't really understand why the Sony Reader isn't more popular. It's infinitely nicer reading text on the reader than it is trying to read it on a laptop. You can use the reader outside in direct sunlight and the screen is clearer than in dim lighting conditions. And unlike a paperback (otherwise the superior medium) you can carry thousands (literally) of texts in a pocket and still move.

      I own one and use it constantly for reading project Gutenberg texts (pre rendered for the device and downloaded from ht [mobileread.com]
    • by pjt48108 (321212)
      Hey, at least the e-paper revolution is only 5 years away. We've been going to Mars in twenty years for the past fifty years, you know...
  • Change our lives in the next few years (hey that is what the article says, blame the editors)? Might be tricky, since we don't actually have e-paper available right now, and no clear date when it will be either, how exactly is it going to chance our lives?

    THE BLOODY STUFF DOESN'T EXIST YET.

    I am sure a cure for cancer will change our lives, but it doesn't exist yet, so it won't be in the next few years.

    Real paper is incredibily cheap and can be easily recycled, do we really want to replace it with somethi

  • So in the future, we can have e-voting machines which leaves an e-paper trail for accountability!
  • by 3seas (184403) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @02:35AM (#21007081) Journal
    ... we are going to cut down even more trees...

    I'm not a tree hugger as trees are just crops that take monger to harvest, but the point is clear.
  • Seriously. With e-wallpaper I could change the entire look of my house without having to pay decorators, move furniture or get paint/wallpaper paste all over the carpets.

    With the added bonus that if I don't like how it looks, I'm not stuck with it until I can afford the time/money to do it again.
  • ,,,somebody invents electronic rocks and electronic scissors.
  • by knorthern knight (513660) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @05:29AM (#21007971)
    Just as VCRs were starting to take off, Polaroid launched "Polavision" [wikipatents.com]. It was a moviecam that used a one-shot film cartridge that produced rather grainy movies. Polaroid always compared the low-cost moviecam against $2500 VHS moviecams. Main problem... the 10-minute film cartridges were damn expensive. By the time you bought enough 10-minute cartridges to equal a 2-hour VHS cassette, you'd spend more on the cartridges than the cost of the $2500 moviecam... ouch. AND THE VHS CASSETTE COULD BE ERASED AND RE-USED, while the Polavision cartridges were one-shot devices, like 8mm and "Super-8" film. Polavision was intended as a competitor to 8mm and "Super-8". 8mm and Super-8 were anihilated by VHS moviecams, and Polavision also fell victim to VHS moviecams.

    Fast-forward several years. "Browsing devices" are the "VHS moviecams" to epaper's version of Polavision. Before anyone starts ranting against web-browsers, let me point out...
    1. the ORIGINAL web, as developed at CERN, was text-only with browsers like lynx
    2. you can read files on your local drive with Firefox or IE or Lynx
    Note that I said "browsing devices", not PDAs, or micro-laptops. I think that cellphones with browsers are going to be far more of an epaper-killer than laptops...
    • there are a lot more people already lugging around cellphones/smartphones than will ever buy single-purpose "ebook readers"
    • many cellphones/smartphones already have browsers built-in
    Which do you think the average person WHO IS ALREADY LUGGING AROUND A CELLPHONE/SMARTPHONE more likely to do for casual reading...
    • buy yet another $200 device that they have to lug around, or
    • use the cellphone/smartphone THEY'VE ALREADY PAID FOR AND THEY'RE ALREADY LUGGING AROUND to accomplish the same task
    In a world where cellphones/smartphones/PDAs do not exist, a $200 stand-alone "ebook-reader" might have a market. In today's world, fuggedaboutit. Most people will end up sticking a USB stick into a cellphone/smartphone/PDA and reading text directly with their browser. Verizon subscribers, however, will find that their cellphones are crippled, and they have to upload the file to their account, and Verizon will charge them by the kbyte for the uploads.
    • by swillden (191260) *
      Unless my phone's screen is pretty close to the size of a paperbook page, I'm not going to want to read on it.
    • by JohnFluxx (413620)
      Um, how about size differences. I want my phone to have a 1" screen. I want my ebook to have about an 8" screen.

      Do I have to put my text in bold as well to yell back again?
  • Q: What do you think will be the "killer application" of e-paper?
    A: Color.

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
  • by WillAdams (45638) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @08:01AM (#21009055) Homepage
    (I wrote this up for the bookpeople mailing list....)

    The local Borders store set up a display w/ one of these yesterday and I spent a while playing with it. Initial impressions:

      - nice size, _very_ thin
      - crisp, sharp greyscale display --- very readable
      - uses GPL software (there's a list of utilities in the user manual as well as notes on where to d/l the source for the software)
      - decent interface w/ sensible buttons and okay layout
      - supports pdf, txt, rtf, bmp, jpeg, gif and png files as well as the proprietar? BBeB books (.lrf and .lrx)
      - plays mp3s
      - switches from portrait to landscape and back quite easily
      - nice magnification mode

    On the downside:

      - ~2--3 seconds to switch from one page to another sometimes one gets a distracting flashing
      - sometimes one gets ``ghosting'' if the new page has a lot of white space where text or image was before
      - the text H&J when displaying text files and .rtfs is _awful_, allowing widows and orphans and pages to end on a hyphen
      - the font used for displaying rtfs uses oblique, not italic for emphasis
      - sidebars of some of the text font characters, ``i'' most egregiously is not good resulting in poorly spaced text
      - urls in .pdfs which break at a line end become two distinct hyperlinks (this may be a problem in how the user guide .pdf was created)
      - while one can play an mp3 while reading, controlling the mp3 functions require going all the way back to the main menu --- would've been better to've over-ridden the number buttons for use as audio controls while an mp3 is playing.

    One can't help but wonder if the status bar at the bottom can be turned off --- it displays a persistent page number --- perhaps people will format .pdfs especially for this and leave page numbers off?

    More information on the reader at:

    http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CategoryDisplay?catalogId=10551&storeId=10151&langId=-1&categoryId=16184 [sonystyle.com]

    Apparently this is an updated model and the text updating used to be even slower.

    Borders didn't seem to have a mechanism for selling BBeB books in their stores though which is strange since they can be stored on memory cards (Sony proprietary sticks and SD memory cards).

    William
    (who found it inspiring enough to want to put some more effort into getting his Fujitsu Stylistic to boot off of a compact flash card in a CF-IDE adapter, since he uses that to read a _lot_ of ebooks and the hard drive noise is distracting (and to make them, see http://members.aol.com/willadams/portfolio.html [aol.com] which includes my version of _The Book of Tea_ which is in the TeX Showcase))
  • None of the examples given in the article embody my ideal electronic ink application; none of these devices would come even close to getting me to give up paper books. I think Neal Stephenson had it right in his novel Diamond Age: an e-book should look and act just like a paper book—with some additional benefits, of course. The format could be anything between a small, thin, pocket-size paperback or something like an unabridged desk dictionary. There would be maybe a hundred pages or so in the ebook I

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