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Color E-Book Displays Coming From E Ink Next Year 219

Posted by Soulskill
from the new-spectrum-of-displays dept.
waderoush writes "E Ink, which makes the monochrome electrophoretic screens used in the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Sony Reader line, and other e-readers, is gearing up to supply manufacturers with the first color versions of its displays by early next year, according to an Xconomy interview with T.H. Peng, a vice president with Taiwan's Prime View International, which bought E Ink last year. Peng argues that E Ink has nothing to fear from the e-book apps on the Apple iPad and other devices with color LCDs, which, in his view, produce more eye strain and aren't as suitable for digital reading. Nonetheless, the company says its first color screens in 2011 will have newspaper-quality color, followed within a couple of years by improved versions that can handle magazine-style content."
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Color E-Book Displays Coming From E Ink Next Year

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  • by Pojut (1027544) on Monday March 15, 2010 @01:44PM (#31484426) Homepage

    How about you first find a better process for making monochrome e-ink displays so the devices that use them aren't ridiculously priced?

  • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Monday March 15, 2010 @01:47PM (#31484480) Journal

    No one makes money on Niche products by making them less expensive. They could find a way to cut a dollar off production costs and they'd still charge you an arm and a leg.

  • Re:Bendable (Score:2, Insightful)

    by calibre-not-output (1736770) on Monday March 15, 2010 @01:48PM (#31484508) Homepage
    If they make an e-ink screen that smells like an old book, I'll buy it.
  • by perpenso (1613749) on Monday March 15, 2010 @01:49PM (#31484518)

    Peng argues that E Ink has nothing to fear from the e-book apps on the Apple iPad and other devices with color LCDs, which, in his view, produce more eye strain and aren't as suitable for digital reading.

    E Ink certainly has less to fear from Apple since E Ink could sell their screens to Apple just like they sell to Amazon, Sony, etc. If the eye strain issue becomes a concern Apple could simply offer an iPad version, or a new product derived from iPad that is more focused as an eReader and not a gaming/multimedia platform, with an E Ink screen. I think it is premature to say that Amazon and Sony has nothing to fear.

    --
    Perpenso Calc [perpenso.com] for iPhone and iPod touch, scientific and bill/tip calculator, fractions, complex numbers, RPN

  • by 91degrees (207121) on Monday March 15, 2010 @01:51PM (#31484540) Journal
    Yes, early adopters often get shafted. Rapid obsolescence is one of the costs of the bleeding edge.
  • by Pojut (1027544) on Monday March 15, 2010 @01:55PM (#31484620) Homepage

    There is a science to optimizing cost vs. production costs vs. demand. For niche product, the consumer's cost is going to be high.

    That's just it though...the only reason why it is such a niche product is because they are prohibitively expensive.

    If the readers dropped down to $150 average for a GOOD one instead of a no-name bad one, I would buy an e-reader tomorrow. I doubt I'm the only person who doesn't own one just because of cost.

  • by Caue (909322) on Monday March 15, 2010 @02:00PM (#31484722)
    The reasons I love printed books are still overseen by the manufacturers: lendability, durability, exchangability, highlightexability, pencilnoteability, trashability (when I simply don't enjoy the book, like reading dan brown for the first time.. urgh.)
  • by grahamsz (150076) on Monday March 15, 2010 @02:02PM (#31484786) Homepage Journal

    Probably the same reason you didn't have a computer until the mid 80s.

  • by buruonbrails (1247370) on Monday March 15, 2010 @02:09PM (#31484868) Homepage
    Just read from E-Ink screen to feel the difference. I was skeptical about E-Ink too before having tried it out. It looks almost exactly like the real paper. So, now I can't imagine using LCD for prolonged reading when you can use E-Ink device or (even better!) good old paper book.

    By the way, another key advantage of E-Ink is energy consumption: it doesn't use battery when static, and uses quite a small amount of energy to redraw the page. Due to this feature, eBooks can run for weeks or even months on a single charge.
  • by perpenso (1613749) on Monday March 15, 2010 @02:09PM (#31484888)

    How about you first find a better process for making monochrome e-ink displays so the devices that use them aren't ridiculously priced?

    Why? Mono is probably a dead end technology. It may be better to get to color as quickly as possible and then concentrate on process improvements. A color Kindle would be a much better commercial product. It is difficult to imagine textbooks moving to electronic media without color. Regarding the possibility of reduced eye strain with mono, perhaps a reader app on a color device could choose to only show black and white for pure text content.

    --
    Perpenso Calc [perpenso.com] for iPhone and iPod touch, scientific and bill/tip calculator, fractions, complex numbers, RPN

  • by Vanderhoth (1582661) on Monday March 15, 2010 @02:16PM (#31484982)

    That being said, if it wasn't for early adopters, who end up getting screwed, I don't think some technologies would have taken off.

    DVDs for example might not have been, or have gotten, as big as they are now if it wasn't for the people that went out and spent thousands of dollars on the original players and hundreds on the original DVDs.

    Some companies use early adopters as their statistics to either continue or discontinue production of a product.

  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Monday March 15, 2010 @02:21PM (#31485068)

    After an hour? No. After 12 hours a day, 5 days a week? Yes. If I've been sitting in front of a computer screen for several hours and close my eyes I can feel the muscles unwinding. It's not something I'm conciously away of until I look away from the screen, but the muscles of and around my eyes are constantly tense when reading off a monitor.

    As for the refresh rate of e-ink, for me it is almost exactly equal to the time it takes my eyes to travel from the bottom to the top of the page. The only time I notice it is if I need to go back/forward several pages, then the slow refresh is frustrating since you have to wait for a page to display before you can move to the next one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 15, 2010 @02:26PM (#31485130)

    Why? Mono is probably a dead end technology. It may be better to get to color as quickly as possible and then concentrate on process improvements. A color Kindle would be a much better commercial product. It is difficult to imagine textbooks moving to electronic media without color.

    I'm sure black text on white background will look so much better on color screen!
    Really now, you forget what *ebook* readers are meant for.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 15, 2010 @02:31PM (#31485216)

    After an hour? No. After 12 hours a day, 5 days a week? Yes. If I've been sitting in front of a computer screen for several hours and close my eyes I can feel the muscles unwinding. (...)

    The GP didn't say "after an hour". He said:

    Am I the only one who *doesn't* get eye-strain reading text on LCD's hour after hour ?
    (...)
    I use a Mac all day, reading text on LCDs, and it doesn't bother me in the slightest.
    (...)
    I've lost count of the number of times I've spent days poring over PDFs and somehow managed to not notice this 'eye strain' that LCDs apparently cause. I actually *prefer* to read documents on the screen rather than printed out on paper...

    But nevertheless in your reply you decided to ignore pretty much everything he said.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 15, 2010 @02:41PM (#31485366)

    Just read from E-Ink screen to feel the difference. I was skeptical about E-Ink too before having tried it out. It looks almost exactly like the real paper. So, now I can't imagine using LCD for prolonged reading when you can use E-Ink device or (even better!) good old paper book.

    You make a good point about trying an E-Ink screen for himself. But he did say:

    I actually *prefer* to read documents on the screen rather than printed out on paper...

    So if E-Ink "looks almost exactly like real paper" and he "actually prefers to read documents on the screen rather than printed out on paper" I don't see how he is going to "get it" if he tries an E-Ink screen.

  • by TheMidget (512188) on Monday March 15, 2010 @02:52PM (#31485550)
    Yes, and with DRM, your notes will be gone as well, when they decide to pull the book.
  • Eh no? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday March 15, 2010 @02:59PM (#31485644) Journal

    He was a LATE adaptor. If he had bought his palm pilot at the beginning, then he would have had one for a long time before the color version.

    And if you buy an E-ink device now, you are also a late adaptor. Bleeding edge was passed long ago.

  • Re:Bendable (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ephemeriis (315124) on Monday March 15, 2010 @03:06PM (#31485748) Homepage

    A few years ago I saw a demonstration by Philips on TV of a bendable e-ink screen. I think bendability is more important than colour. If the screen is bendable it can behave more like a real book.

    I'm not sure how much I care about the ability to bend my books.

    Yes, paper bends... As I turn a page it bends... But bendability isn't really something fundamental to the function of a book. A book's primary purpose is the display of information.

    I mean... Is a magazine somehow better than a 500 page novel just because it's more bendable?

    Are hardcover books somehow inferior to paperbacks, simply because they're less bendable?

    I have a nook, and I read plenty of books on it. And I have never, ever found myself thinking you know what would make this ereader perfect? If I could just bend it...

  • by Belial6 (794905) on Monday March 15, 2010 @03:09PM (#31485782)
    There is also the problem of some technologies always being bleeding edge. CPUs being the most obvious example. If you waited until CPUs stopped becoming obsolete in a few years, you might just now be considering your first computer. Display screens...Not so much of a problem. Although, that will depend on how much they scale. If the manufacture scales as well as CPUs have...

    You can skip the black and white while waiting for color.
    You can skip newspaper quality color waiting for magazine quality color.
    You can skip the single screen magazine quality color waiting for the dual screen clam shell color.
    You can skip the clam shell screens waiting for the six screen 'book'.
    You can skip the six page screen waiting for the 12 page book.
    You can skip the 12 first gen book waiting for the book that has sub 5ms refresh times.

    If there is ~18 months between releases, you could be looking at another decade before you get any kind of e-book reader.

    I don't think that most people have really thought out what they will do with this kind of tech. Books have been their selling point because it was the best that the tech could do in it's crude state. Future e-ink will be as similar to the Kindal as the Vic-20 is to Windows 7 connected to the internet.

    Even before they work on refresh rates, magazine quality color will wipe out the much of the non-"fine" art industry. When you can buy a poster size sheet of this, and it can maintain a poster quality picture without using any electricity, people will start reconsidering buying print. When you can buy a poster sized sheet for $50, you will see people considering it for use as wallpaper. When you can get this quality with sub 5ms refresh times, you will not only see people wallpapering with it, you will see it replacing TVs and computer monitors. Why bother mounting a fixed size TV to your wall when any or all of your walls can become TVs dynamically.

    I don't know how well this tech will scale in size and price, but I would suggest treating it like any other tech. If it does what you want at a price you are happy with, buy it now, and accept that things will bet better and cheaper in the future.
  • Why colour? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rix (54095) on Monday March 15, 2010 @03:10PM (#31485812)

    How many books have colour in them anywhere other than the cover? I'm not going to pay a premium for that, so monochrome readers will continue to dominate until there's negligible price difference.

    Textbooks are unlikely to factor into the mainstream readers, which are optimized for reading novels.

  • I disagree (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rix (54095) on Monday March 15, 2010 @03:46PM (#31486474)

    Primates who never read are not people, at least by any reasonable definition.

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Monday March 15, 2010 @04:07PM (#31486858)

    How many books have colour in them anywhere other than the cover? ... Textbooks are unlikely to factor into the mainstream readers, which are optimized for reading novels.

    E readers are in their infancy, we can't draw many conclusions from such a small market primarily populated with early adopters. The public at large has not "voted" yet. A reader that offers textbooks (elementary, high school and university) would probably become the mainstream reader. Color is used quite heavily in textbooks and a mono device essentially forsakes this market.
    --
    Perpenso Calc [perpenso.com] for iPhone and iPod touch, scientific and bill/tip calculator, fractions, complex numbers, RPN

  • by sg3000 (87992) <sg_public@NoSpam.mac.com> on Monday March 15, 2010 @04:11PM (#31486928)

    Yeah, I bought a palm pilot and then one month later they announced the color version. I'm not getting bit by that again. I'll just wait for the color this time.

    I think it will be a while for a color Kindle. Admittedly I skimmed the article, but they sound vague about when E-Ink will have a color version available. On one hand, they're saying the color version screen will be available at the end of the year, but then they say:

    X: What can you tell me about your technical ideas for creating better color displays? Is adding color simply a matter of tweaking the company’s existing microcapsule technology, or do you have to go back to the drawing board and approach it in an entirely new way?

    SP: Even if we slightly describe it, we will probably reveal stuff that we are not ready to talk about. There is more than one approach, and exactly which one we will choose in the future, we don’t know.

    So they haven't picked an approach yet? That doesn't sound like they'll have something ready in the next nine months.

    The question of when they would have color technology has been bandied about by E-Ink since their inception. I read back in 2005 that Intel Capital invested in E-Ink with the hopes of getting a color-capable version and customers have always been asking for it. A color version is something they've been struggling to bring to market for a while. If they're still trying to figure out approaches, they could be a minimum of 1 years away for a prototype, and even longer for a color Kindle available in volume.

    So, in short, if you want a Kindle, don't wait for the color version. Or just buy an iPad :-)

  • Re:Bendable (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 15, 2010 @06:22PM (#31488796)

    Anyone who considers themselves a "real" anything so they can look down on other people is a sad sack.

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