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E Ink Unveils Color E-Reader Display 164

Posted by Soulskill
from the convergent-techvolution dept.
Kensai7 writes with news that E Ink, the company who builds the displays used in Amazon's Kindle, Barnes and Noble's Nook, and Sony's Reader, has launched a color version of their e-reader screens. It will first be used by a Chinese company called Hanvon Technology. Other companies will be watching and evaluating how well it works before integrating it into their own designs. Quoting: "Unlike an LCD screen, the colors are muted, as if one were looking at a faded color photograph. In addition, E Ink cannot handle full-motion video. At best, it can show simple animations. These are reasons Amazon, Sony and the other major e-reader makers are not yet embracing it. Amazon says it will offer color E Ink when it is ready; the company sees color as useful in cookbooks and children’s books, and it offers these books in color through its Kindle application for LCD devices. Sony is also taking a wait-and-see approach."
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E Ink Unveils Color E-Reader Display

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  • Magazines (Score:4, Informative)

    by Quantus347 (1220456) on Monday November 08, 2010 @04:56PM (#34165998)
    It says the big US companies are waiting to see whether it will be useful for cookbooks and children's books, but wouldn't the color aspect of it have an immediate market with the magazines and periodicals that those same companies are pushing so hard to distribute on their devices?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by OFnow (1098151)

      Right. Color charts in "The Economist" are barely intelligible on Kindle.
      So Amazon saying color is just for cookbooks/childrens-books is silly.

      • by fafaforza (248976)

        Well, they can't list every application they'd use it in. If they mentioned The Economist charts, would someone in turn complain they didn't mention Forbes's pie charts?

      • by definate (876684)

        Hows about textbooks? Most of mine have graphical representations trying to depict the math, to give me an idea on how I should be picturing it. Without colour to define one line from another, all you're left with is changing lines into dotted and dashed lines, which is fucking annoying and quickly becomes confusing.

    • I took my son sailing on sunday and tried to take a picture in full sunlight with my new android phone. I couldn't see the screen at all. E-paper, even if it is slow and monochrome, would be quite useful in that environment.

      • Except that trying to line up a photo on a B&W screen with a 1 fps refresh rate on a rocking-and-pitching boat is easy. Actually, what you needed was an optical viewfinder.

        • The problem is the UI. The camera app kept getting itself into a funny mode and I couldn't see enough to reconfigure it. I can point the camera well enough without a viewfinder.

          • I can point the camera well enough without a viewfinder.

            Then either you're a very good photographer, or a very very bad one who can't tell the difference (or just doesn't care, I suppose).

            • I can point the camera well enough without a viewfinder.

              a very very bad one who can't tell the difference (or just doesn't care, I suppose).

              Sure, its a quick, dirty snap on the boat with stuff moving everywhere. These days you can take ten in sequence and pick the best anyway.

      • by cyfer2000 (548592)
        enjoy your nights.
      • How bout a camera?
        Seriously phones are crappy cameras.
    • Most magazines are very, very fussy about color quality. The muted aspect of the Kindle would probably mean tailoring any images destined for it, a lot of work. The iPad LCD display (or other upcoming tablets) is a lot more like a computer display in terms of how you process images.

      So I don't know that many magazines are chomping at the bit for devices that use the new eInk either.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Belial6 (794905)
      Honestly, if the color is halfway decent, use them in the digital picture frames. The color doesn't have to be spectacular, just halfway decent. The main reason I never bought a digital picture frame, much less multiple picture frames is that I couldn't rationalize running a computer monitor 24/7 just as a piece of art. Throw in an ultra low power clock and wifi so that the wifi can be turned off except on a predetermined schedule for updating the SD card, and you have a real winner.
  • by Slutticus (1237534) on Monday November 08, 2010 @05:00PM (#34166050)
    ..embracing color. Children's books and cookbooks? That's it? Really? What about textbooks? I can see significant increase in e-reader use for textbooks if they had color capability. Not every HS and college student is going to have the luxury of having a pad/slate device. Color provides an extra dimension of information without physical space, pretty useful IMO!
    • by TheEyes (1686556)

      ..embracing color. Children's books and cookbooks? That's it? Really? What about textbooks? I can see significant increase in e-reader use for textbooks if they had color capability. Not every HS and college student is going to have the luxury of having a pad/slate device. Color provides an extra dimension of information without physical space, pretty useful IMO!

      It's because the color is washed out and doesn't look good. You may as well just build an IPad knock-off and have vibrant colors instead. Color eInk just isn't ready for the consumer market yet; it will be, but not this year.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JaredOfEuropa (526365)
      Textbooks and reference material also require faster screens, so that fast page flipping and quickly entering search terms become practical. I use an e-reader for prolongued reading (fiction, etc), but I have an iPad for reference material, textbooks and magazines; simply adding color to the e-reader would not make it good enough for those tasks.

      I'd love a device that combines both display technologies. I remember a company called Pixel-Qi working on an LCD that had a backlit and reflective mode. It l
    • I don't know about you, but current eReaders just are not conducive to the way I use textbooks. The half second delay to turn a page is nothing if you're reading from start to finish for pleasure, but would be quite painful if you were trying to browse for pertinent information. The delay also makes typing in search queries awkward and tedious. I'd much rather use a full tablet device with the much faster response time and presumably more processing power available, especially if the book and interface w

      • by timeOday (582209)
        I think another major factor blocking adoption of digital textbooks will be the elimination of resale. Most people don't bother to resell paperback novels, so the price for a Kindle version vs. a paperback version can be about the same. In contrast, many students DO resell textbooks, so publishers would have to reduce the price of the digital version accordingly - which I'm guessing they'll be very slow to do.
    • Cookbooks are amongst the best-sellers of the publishing world; makes sense that they would be a focus. Anyway, the e-ink display sizes are a tad small for textbooks.

      Cookbooks, the code snippets of the food world.

  • by TheCouchPotatoFamine (628797) on Monday November 08, 2010 @05:00PM (#34166058)
    ... they want to sell what they have on their shelves and it's way too early to make all the buyers go out and rebuy a planned-obsolescence upgrade. If they wait, they won't anger all their christmas customers with finicky "i'll wait for it" choices.. you know.. for the good of the product.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grumpyman (849537)
      Though the publishers could compensate their "cost" by offering "color" version of the same book for 2x the price.
  • Amazon says it will offer color E Ink when it is ready

    AKA, once it can display full-motion videos ^W ADS.

    We've heard something similar about today's half-baked HTML5 ^W^W adobe flash replacements from the likes of youtube.

    • Amazon's interest in the technology involves replacing their current tech which can't do video either. Say what you will about Amazon, but their philosophy and strategy around Kindle is clear and consistent. Battery life and paper-like contrast and visibility are king. Barnes and Noble went LCD, but Amazon so far seems that they are sticking to E ink. The fact they haven't moved is either because there's some unspecified hit to battery life, the black and white contrast is degraded, or the price is too

  • E INK FTW (Score:3, Interesting)

    by metrometro (1092237) on Monday November 08, 2010 @05:03PM (#34166112)

    The fact that ANY consumer product (nevermind a whole category) has succeeded with black-and-white screens is remarkable, and points towards to some hard to beat advantages of the E Ink technology: they were strong enough to outweigh the fact that on first impression, the screens looks cheap.

    With the addition of color (and the assumption of steady improvement to contrast and color gamut), it's entirely possible that e ink will be wrapped on all kind of things -- dashboards, airport signage, ATMs -- where power is an issue.

    • by Guspaz (556486)

      Early e-ink displays might have looked cheap, but current e-ink displays look significantly better than an LCD showing a monochromatic image. It looks much more like printed text, and the lack of a backlight makes it easier to read.

      That and the low power requirements are, I think, the two major advantages of e-ink. The lack of colour and the low refresh rate are the only major disadvantages.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        The white is still not as good as real paper. I don't mean anything fancy, I mean normal office paper and normal laser printer.

        • Many books though aren't printed on the bleached paper one typically uses in printers though... I think the largest collection of B&W print on really "white" paper is my shelf of textbooks...
        • by fafaforza (248976)

          But do you want it to be perfectly white? May be a good idea in a dim environment, but step out into sunlight and that white paper becomes overtly bright, almost blinding. I have an eInk reader with the new Pearl screen, and it is very much improved, and offers excellent contrast in low light.

        • I have an iLiad, and the display is about the same quality as newsprint. All other things being equal, I'd prefer a book, but it's a lot more convenient when I'm travelling or when I have a pile of papers that I want to take into the park to read - it's lighter and doesn't get blown away by gusts of wind (at least, not in the kind of weather where I think reading in the park is a good idea).
        • One thing I have noticed is that office paper and non-fiction books are about the whitest paper commonly seen. Fiction books are less white and newspapers can't really be called white at all. Whiteness makes a document look more professional and is obviously an advantage when printing photos etc but i'm not at all convinced it's needed to make text comfortable to read.

          I've even known people who need to have things printed on special paper and/or use filter sheets or filtered glasses because office paper was

        • reading black text on a white background is hard on my eyes, I can't speak for anyone else. I'm much happier with E Ink than to read off a bleached white background. Look at any book that is meant to be read and doesn't have pictures, you're probably not going to find a whole lot of bleached white paper.
      • My son got a new model Kindle on the weekend, I have to say the display is absolutely excellent, way way better than i was expecting. It is easily the best sunlight readable display I have seen.

      • My point was that ANY black and white display looks cheap, despite the advantages you correctly note.

        • by Guspaz (556486)

          But if you're only viewing black and white content, how does the black and white display look any cheaper than the colour display?

          I have a Kindle 3. I use it for one thing and one thing only; reading books. If you looked at me using my kindle, you'd never have any way to know if it had a colour or monochrome display. And yet somehow the mere fact that it's monochrome makes it look cheap?

          The lack of colour hasn't held back eBook readers because the vast majority of content that users want to read on them doe

    • by thue (121682)

      Well, there is a lot of books and PDF files which are nothing but black and white text, for which the current ebook readers are fine. So it is not a surprise to me that ebooks have taken off.

    • by sehryan (412731)

      This isn't the first time. Remember the original Gameboy? It destroyed pretty much every color competitor that tried to go up against it.

    • I'm looking forward to when full colour e-ink displays that use zero power to display an image are very cheap and can be made to be as big as a normal poster, they'd be almost perfect for replacing traditional photos/paintings/posters on your walls
      The basic ones wouldn't have any battery in them just a connection port you plug a laptop or module into to change the picture and then it stays that way until you want to change it again.
      The more advanced ones would have some sort of extremely low power standby
    • by Quirkz (1206400)
      I dunno. If most books were color, it might be remarkable that b/w screens are succeeding. But since the majority of the books I read are black and white to begin with, I consider it just kinda normal that the e-book reader is also grayscale.
  • Virtually indestructible waterproof color e-ink tablet with WiFi and replaceable scratchable surfaces, so I can toss it around like a book.

    Bonus round: built in drivers to act as a USB display.

  • ... quantitatively, what does that mean? How fast could it update a whole screen? If it's faster than 1/10 of a second, that may not be enough for full video, but it's probably at least fast enough to feel responsive.
  • by countSudoku() (1047544) on Monday November 08, 2010 @05:32PM (#34166492) Homepage

    This just in to the /. news room; The TSA has announced that E Ink Color E-Reader Displays are now banned from domestic flights worldwide. The little electronic eInks might be related to toner in toner cartridges and thus a threat to the safety and sanity of the worldwide local traveling community, at large. A spokesman for the TSA had this to say; "I don't know what all is in there, but those colors could be made to look like a powerful explosion or some such thing, or another. Heck, I just don't like the look of that contraption. It looks like some sort of controller for human zombie robots or somethin'."

  • FTA:

    “Color is the next logical step for E Ink,”

    Really? I'd have thought that "refresh rates that aren't measured in epochs" would be the next logical step.

    Perhaps they've improved since the last time I picked one up, but it was depressingly unresponsive. That, and the poor contrast ratio, was not really grabbing my attention.

    I love the idea of e-ink; using ambient light is both low-power and easier on the eyes. But I don't feel the urge to get one with the current state of the (commercially a

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Speed is really a minor issue. It only needs to be as fast as flipping a page for a reader. Color and IMHO resolution is a major issue.
      I subscribe to Motorcyclist, Cycle World, Rider, and Classic Motorcycle. They are about the only magazines I still read.
      Without high resolution color screens they are not going to be on an Ereader. Same for Car and Driver, Road and Track, Popular Science and so on.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    From what I know, B/W E-Ink doesn't do smooth animations and full motion video either, so I don't understand why Sony or Amazon are not jumping on using color E-Ink displays.

    I think you got to understand the target market better. If you want full color, high resolution, smooth animation/video displays, then use LCD or OLED technology. If you want an e-book reader with color graphics and simple interactive graphs, then use E-Ink.

    I think the biggest failure of E-Ink will be to try and compete with LCD. The

    • because I doubt consumers will accept colors that don't jump out at them having been used to color LCD screens for so long.

      I guess it really depends on how muted those colors are, if its like the screen is always dark or fuzzy its DOA.

      I won't touch the new Nook (color LCD) or an iPad simply because battery life and usability out doors is so compromised.

  • by Yvan256 (722131) on Monday November 08, 2010 @05:58PM (#34166912) Homepage Journal

    Make the damn thing so that we can cut it to a desired size and easily control it without needing an expensive built-in or external controller and everyone who builds arcade cabinets will finally have dynamic marquees that looks almost as real as the real thing.

    LCD panels may be more bright, but you can't easily cut that. Normal marquees may be backlit but it's not quite the same as LCD.

    Plus, we'll be able to have slightly rounded dynamic marquees, instead of being limited to flat ones like with LCD.

    • by Junta (36770)

      I don't think E-ink displays can be cut any more easily than LCDs. Similarly, wishing to 'magic away' the controlling electronics doesn't seem a feasible request.

      Ultimately, I doubt any of these technologies would be a convincing replica for backlit colored plastic if you are going for accuracy, though LCD might come closest by virtue of being the only one to be based on translucency rather than emission or reflection, though I don't think it would mimick it accurately anyway.

      • by Yvan256 (722131)

        All I'm asking for is an interface that can be used by hobbyists with a low-cost micro-controller.

  • Although I love my Alex eReader [springdesign.com], I am little disappointed that e-paper is being used as a display instead of being used like paper like it was originally conceived.

    The basic idea was that you'd get a special electrostatic printer that you'd load with a ream of e-paper and print out your documents as usual, then, when you're done with a document just return it to the hopper so that some other document could be printed on it. It was supposed to be the ultimate recyclable paper.

    I suppose that it was never rea

    • The problem with e-paper's original vision is that printouts would likely get bent or torn or whatever, and then put back in the printer, which would then jam on the damaged paper. I like the idea, but I don't think it's practical.

    • by flnca (1022891)
      That printing technology does exist. There was a Slashdot article about it a while back. Can't remember from which company, though.
    • by flnca (1022891)
      The printing solution exists, from Toshiba [bbc.co.uk], using erasable plastic sheets.
  • by chappel (1069900) on Monday November 08, 2010 @06:23PM (#34167232)

    I've been waiting for years for color e-ink to mature enough to make a good digital picture frame. Something cheap, lightweight, with great viewing angles, daylight readable, non-reflective, awesome resolution, takes no power in between refreshes - heck, you could set it to only switch 1x day and run it for a year on a small battery.

    Sounds like they are getting closer - keep at it, guys!

    • by Belial6 (794905)
      I have thought the same thing. The one addition I would add is a wifi chip that is set up to only turn on and connect on a schedule. Even if the picture changed hourly, and 1x a day the wifi would power up and download any new data that was waiting from the network, you would still have awesome battery life. Good enough that you could hang it on the wall without plugging it in, and only need to swap out the battery every few months. Plus the bigger the picture, the more battery power it could hold behin
      • by flnca (1022891)
        TFA says the device does have WiFi ... the only question is if there's a way to program it in some way. E-Ink earlier complained that with better drivers, a lot more could be done with the display. This video [youtube.com] shows off various E-Ink displays, some running color videos ... it is possible to some extent with the right software, so I figure with the right drivers, it could be used as a regular computer display, which in turn would enable the development of arbitrary applications.
  • Yesterday's technology available... TODAY!!! ~rimshot~
    • by flnca (1022891)
      Why? People waited decades for that technology, but that doesn't mean it's old ...
  • by _Shad0w_ (127912) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @02:41AM (#34170728)

    I like the idea of having a light weight e-Reader which I can carry reference books on. But most of my reference books have colour diagrams, illustrations and figures. They really don't work in black and white - or at least are not as visually appealing, which is important when you're reading something.

    I'm not sure why the NYT thinks not being able to play FMV is a problem. I don't want to watch video on an E-Reader; I want to read books. I've already got devices which I can use for watching videos while on the move - though I seldom use them for that - but they suck for reading because of the glossy reflective displays. I just want a device for reading books on the move. In colour.

    If Amazon were to bring out a new Kindle with a colour display I might actually buy the damn thing.

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