The Latest Electronic Paper News
Look here for up-to-date news on electronic paper, including the latest information on display technologies, consumer devices and electronic content.
Amazon Shows Off Kindle for iPad
Amazon announces Kindle Apps for Tablet Computers (including Kindle for iPad), a rather polished e-reader application that both makes the Kindle itself look rather old-fashioned and explains why last week?s Mac version was so unfinished: The Amazon developers have clearly been spending all their time on this instead.
5 Things That Will Make E-Readers Better in 2010
Apple has put the pressure on e-book readers with its forthcoming iPad tablet. But Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Sony aren?t taking it lying down. Color, touchscreens and improved black-and-white displays are some of the innovations that consumers can expect to see in electronic-reading gadgets this year.
?E-readers today are where the pre-iPod MP3 players were,? says Robert Brunner, founder of Ammunition, a design firm that worked on Barnes & Noble?s Nook. ?It?s still very early and development is just beginning to ramp up.?
Since the launch of Amazon?s Kindle in 2007, e-readers have become a fast-growing category of consumer electronics products. But with the entry of the iPad, the e-reader market is at a crossroads. With its 9.7-inch color LCD screen, the iPad supports not just movies and web surfing, but also has an e-reading feature. Apple will also begin selling e-books for the iPad through its iTunes store.
But e-reader enthusiasts say that dedicated digital reading devices will continue to thrive despite competition from Apple.
Let?s take a look at five technologies that e-reader makers are betting on to keep their products relevant.
Better touchscreen and multi-touch could improve user interface in e-readers.
Touchscreens have been pivotal to the recent success of smartphones, so it is no surprise that e-reader manufacturers are looking at ways to bring the technology to their devices.
Unlike phones, e-readers are used primarily to consume content, which makes touch-based interaction a perfect fit. Flipping a page, clicking on a link or highlighting a paragraph is easier using simple touch-based gestures.
But touch on e-readers today is where it was on smartphones before the arrival of the iPhone: It?s primitive, not widely used and full of compromises. For instance, the resistive touchscreen on Sony?s e-reader does not offer the smooth, fast response that the capacitive touchscreen of an iPhone or a Motorola Droid can.
Adding a touch-sensitive upper layer to a screen also dims the display slightly, a real problem with the already low contrast ratio of E Ink screens.
?We are so used to responsive displays that if we touch something and it doesn?t react immediately, it is disappointing,? says Brunner. Nook has added touch into its secondary, 3.5-inch LCD touchscreen, instead of the larger E Ink display. Amazon hopes to take the technology to the next step.
The company recently acquired Touchco, a early-stage technology startup that could allow for a touch-capable layer to be embedded below the screen, instead of adding it on top as current touch technologies do.
E Ink is also working on its own to create touch-sensitive displays that put pressure sensors behind the display. The company hopes to have the first version ready by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, SiPix, another electronic paper display maker, is offering touchscreens that it claims are better than the resistive e-paper displays seen in devices such as the Sony Touch Reader. SiPix?s touchscreen will be available in e-book readers created by French company Bookeen.
Qualcomm's Mirasol technology promises low-power color displays.
If there?s one thing that most e-reader enthusiasts want from the next generation of devices, it is color.
Sure, die-hard readers will scoff at the notion that color could enhance the experience of reading plain text, and they?d be right. But color would be key to enhancing illustrations, photos, covers and maybe even the clarity of the fonts themselves.
Display manufacturers are competing intensely to solve this problem with a variety of technologies. E Ink promises to have a color screen available by the end of the year. Qualcomm is already shopping around its 5.7-inch color display called Mirasol, which could debut in an e-reader by fall. Meanwhile, Pixel Qi, a California-based startup, is showing LCD displays that can do double duty as color screens as well as low-power, black-and-white displays.
Now that Apple iPad has paved the way, e-reader makers could also be re-evaluating the LCD as an alternative to the bistable, low-power but black-and-white E Ink display. Despite its ability to offer full color and touch, LCD screens didn?t set the e-reading market on fire because of their low battery life and the perceived issue of eyestrain.
If the iPad is successful, it won?t take long for Amazon and other ambitious companies to produce LCD-based tabletlike devices that are optimized for digital books and magazines, says Brunner.
Flexible screens will be lightweight and shatterproof.
E Ink is talking about flexible displays for the next generation of its screen technology.
Flexibility doesn?t mean you?ll be able to roll up the screens and stuff them in your backpack, but it is key to making readers with larger screens light enough to hold conveniently in one hand.
Instead of a layer of glass (which is at the foundation of most displays available currently) the next generation of e-readers will have lightweight screens that are based on a metal foil.
?Flexible doesn?t mean the display is floppy,? says Sri Peruvemba, vice-president of marketing for E Ink. ?What flexible does mean is that it is lightweight, shatterproof and rugged.?
E Ink?s flexible displays combine a thin stainless steel foil transistor substrate with electronic-ink display material that is coated on a plastic sheet. That results in a screen that is extremely lightweight and slim, allowing for newer hardware design.
Weight is an area where E Ink can claim advantage over LCD displays. For instance, despite its glass, the 9.7-inch Kindle DX is about 27 percent lighter than the similar sized iPad: The Kindle DX weights 1.1 lbs compared to the iPad?s 1.5 lbs. With a foil-based substrate, the DX could be lighter by another 40 percent, says Peruvemba.
?When you get to a 11-inch screen size, if you put a glass substrate, you need two hands to just hold the device,? he says. ?That?s why tablets haven?t taken off for reading. People want a device where they can have a free hand.?
The e-reader interface has much room for improvement.
There?s more to a gadget than just good hardware. An elegantly designed user interface can put a gadget head and shoulders above its peers.
That?s where most e-readers have fallen short. E-reader manufacturers? focus on hardware design means their user interfaces often feel like an afterthought.
Almost all e-readers today lack the interactive experience that could make reading digital books truly interesting, says Brunner. ?If you look at the current products out there, they are they are just repurposing content from print and delivering it on a different medium without adding the value generated by that medium,? he says.
Meanwhile, Blio, e-reading software, has shown it is possible to develop an interface that could inject life into e-books. Blio is currently available for PCs, iPhone and iPod Touch. A similar interface for an e-reader could change the game.
Another way to enhance the experience may be through opening up e-readers to third-party apps, as Amazon has done with the Kindle. That could bring additional features to the devices and maybe even alternate readers with more elegant interfaces.
Better contrast in e-reader screens is high on the wish list of consumers and device makers. This photo approximates the difference between E Ink (left) and paper (right)
E Ink?s displays may be the current industry standard. But what they offer in clarity and readability, they lack in contrast: Their look is decidedly gray, like an Etch A Sketch.
The screens are also slow to change, sometimes taking as much as a second to switch between pages.
Fortunately for readers, the company plans to introduce new screens this year that will come with a faster response times and offer twice the contrast as existing products.
?The fundamental advantage is better contrast,? says Peruvemba. ?The blacks will be blacker and the whites whiter. That?s a major request from our customers.?
See Also:Plastic Logic Aims New Que E-Reader at Business Users Roundup: E-Reader Gift Guide Slim, Large Screen E-Reader Skiff to Debut on Sprint Why E-Books Look So Ugly
Photos: Jon Snyder/Wired.com
When we heard that AUO?s SiPix (Hsinchu, Taiwan) had announced a delay delivering its mass produced 6- and 9-inch electrophoretic panel (EPH) modules to makers of e-book readers (EBRs), we decided to look a little deeper to understand why. We checked in with SiPix?s business development director Bryan Chan to learn more.
According to the translation of the Chinese language Times article, SiPix is continuing to supply the much smaller RFID tag sized EPH displays for that market, but is apparently having some problems scaling up to larger 6- and 9-inch sized displays. According to the article, the issue relates to maintaining the static or fixed display state, which is a key characteristic of EPH technology.
Chan provided a "summary" of the translated SiPix report saying:Senior VP of AUO?s Consumer Products Business Unit, Dr. CT Liu, has now moved into the CEO position at SiPix full-time AUO has begun mass production of the 6- and 9-inch display products with 60% of the volume going to 6-inch models The bi-stability of the material (the ability to hold an image without power) was at issue and that the displays did not hold an image. It states that there was a material change to address this and that requalification is happening in Q2.
Chan told us he couldn?t officially comment on this last point, and that we should "go with the translated news story." He did emphasize that mass production of the display modules has not been affected, just the delivery of product to both BenQ and Acer while the "new material" goes through a final round of qualification by those vendors.
While the requalification of the 6" and 9" panels is set to occur in Q2, Chan said they are still on track to hit their 2M to 2.5M displays this year with 60% going to the 6-inch modules and the other 40% of production shared between the 9-inch modules and the much smaller RFID / Shelf label products.
There is probably more going on here than meets the eye. Loss of bi-stability can be caused by problems with the front plane or backplane. And, to say the requalification will not impact mass production of the display modules really means for customers other than BenQ or Acer. By having to requalify the panel, that will impact shipments to these customers and delay the introduction of EBR products in the market. However, it does appear that the problem showed up early in the production ramp, so it may be possible to make up for this delay as the year rolls on. At least this seems like a plausible explanation for a somewhat tangled story.
In previous conversations with the company, we do know that many months ago, there were issues with wave forms and update speeds, but the bi-stability of the material was never at issue?and always considered one of the display technology?s strengths. In fact, here?s a rundown of some of the strengths of the SiPix technology, as reported in our 2009 Insight Media EBR Report:Very rugged, due to rib microcup structure, so it is pressure insensitive Slightly darker black state than E Ink, so it has higher contrast Low-level multiplexing, otherwise parasitic crosstalk for smaller pixels Can fill cavities with separate colors to produce full color as additive or subtractive mode for high brightness Compatible with R2R manufacturing, for lower cost Low cost - suitable for price-sensitive applications, including smart cards and USB and Flash drive memories.
If anything, the news helps to underscore the difficulty that display makers face in moving from prototype display to full (mass) production with acceptable yields that create profit for the company. (Chan would not comment on specific numbers, he did say "?the yields are pretty good.") And even while this display module delay for the SiPix vendors may help bolster the E Ink dominance in the space in the short term (as well as help keep their Vizplex prices high) long term, a second supplier of EPH display material will only help benefit the entire EBR market.Reply to the author
[Updated 9:55 a.m. and 1:35 p.m., see below] Russell Wilcox, until recently the president and CEO at Cambridge, MA-based display technology pioneer E Ink, has left the company, Xconomy has learned.
In his 13 years with E Ink, Wilcox rose from the level of vice president of business development to the leadership helm, and engineered the sale of E Ink to Taiwan-based Prime View International (PVI) for $450 million last December.
As of this morning, E Ink?s website still lists Wilcox as president. However, e-mails to Wilcox?s E Ink address elicit an auto-reply stating that ?as of February 26, 2010, Mr. Wilcox is no longer with E Ink.? Wilcox?s LinkedIn profile states that his work at E Ink ended in February.
[Update] E Ink spokesman Sri Peruvemba, reached by phone today, confirmed Wilcox?s departure. In reply to an e-mail inquiry, Wilcox told Xconomy this morning: ?Yes I left E Ink at the end of last week after completing a transition and hand-off to PVI. It was the right moment to complete a super adventure for me, and E Ink will be in good hands under PVI CEO Scott Liu.?
Wilcox was the last member of the team that founded E Ink in 1997?which also included Joe Jacobson, Jerry Rubin, Barrett Comiskey, and J.D. Albert?to retain a senior management position. It is not known whether his departure is related to the PVI sale, although it is not unusual for a startup CEO to give up his or her role within the first year after an acquisition.
Named a New England Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 2009, Wilcox is credited with helping to raise $150 million in venture and strategic financing for E Ink and leading the company through a much-longer-than-expected period of technology and business development. As Wilcox explained in a lengthy interview with Xconomy in February 2009, it took about six years to create the first workable versions of E Ink?s signature electrophoretic displays, then to make them durable and robust under different operation conditions, and finally to make them affordable. It wasn?t until 2004, when Sony launched its Librié e-reader in Japan, that E Ink?s technology found a major outlet.
Wilcox became president and CEO of the company that year, and under his direction the company went on to become the leading supplier of monochrome displays to e-reader manufacturers, including Sony, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Plastic Logic. In fact, the publicity around the growth of Amazon?s Kindle e-reading platform brought so much attention to E Ink that many investors and other observers felt that PVI?s initial $215 million offer for the company was too low. A group of shareholders threatened to block the sale, and the Taiwanese firm eventually made a sweetened offer that included additional PVI stock. That stock subsequently increased in value much faster than expected, bringing the total value of the acquisition to roughly $450 million.
Wilcox earned a degree in applied mathematics from Harvard College in 1989, spent four years in the management consulting business with Corporate Decisions Inc., and returned to Harvard in 1993 to pursue an MBA, which he received in 1995. There is no indication so far about Wilcox?s plans for the future, but the motto in his LinkedIn page reads ?you live to your fullest potential when you pursue a challenging dream that builds lasting value for others,? and a status update on the same page from last week states, ?wondering how much energy could be saved if all plug outlets were intelligent.?Comments | Reprints | Share:
A couple of weeks ago, Paul reported on self-e-publishing site Scribd?s plans to add direct mobile download capability.
CNet reports that Scribd has now done so: Scribd-hosted documents can be sent to any of a dozen different e-book devices (including Kindle, Nook, iPhone, Palm, EZReader, and others) with two mouse clicks.
The documents are sent as PDF files via e-mail or SMS message link. At present, only DRM-free titles are supported, but Scribd CEO Trip Adler has plans to expand to copy-protected versions in the future.
Another part of Scribd?s mobile strategy is creating device-specific Scribd reader applications, which will be released later this year. Much as Amazon does with its Kindle Reader app, these will allow readers to download Scribd documents into their device and keep track of where they stopped reading.Digg us. Slashdot us. Facebook us. Twitter us. Share the news.
Copia is a new social reading platform and I had it explained to me by Anthony Antolino, their senior vice president. At the outset I must say that I was skeptical, after all another social platform? But I ended up being very impressed.
Copia is first and foremost a software experience that is designed to be interoperable and platform independent. It will run on your PC or Mac and on your smartphone or tablet. To the extent possible the UI will be the same across all platforms. Copia is a mixture of three things ? content, community and a bookstore.
Copia will be selling ebooks, in Epub with or without Adobe DRM, and PDF. The platform will also work with movies, music or any digital content. The community portion of the platform will also interact directly with Twitter and Facebook. This isn?t the easiest thing to explain if a few words, but here is the website and it will be going into beta soon.
Along with the social website, which will not require any book purchases to use, Copia will be releasing a series of e-ink readers which will have WiFi and 3G and will interact directly with the site. The user will be able to purchase books directly from the site with the readers and the readers will interact with the site in a number of ways.For example, using the site you can organize your collection of ebooks any way you want (whether the books were purchased from Copia or not) and then the reader will connect with the site and organize its books exactly the same way. Or you can do a note on the reader and then automatically have the site syndicate the note to members of your group, or just store the note for your own use. The ereader now becomes a collaborative real-time tool. A color TFT ereader will be available by Christmas.
Although not open to the public yet, Copia gave me a demo of the site?s capabilities and GUI. I have to say that I was absolutely blown away. It is one of the most clever GUI designs I have seen in years, and maybe one of the most clever designs I have ever seen, period.
Keep your eyes out for this guy. It?s going to be a big play in the future.Digg us. Slashdot us. Facebook us. Twitter us. Share the news.
Great news for Blackberry owners. According to this Amazon news release the Kindle ereading software is now available on the Blackberry platform. It has the same Whispersync technology that is used in the Kindle and iPhone and so can keep your ebook in sync between your Kindle and your Blackberry device. Interestingly, the website lists the software as beta.
It can be downloaded here, and supports the Bold 9000, Bold 9700, Curve 8520, Curve 8900, Storm 9530, Storm 9550 and Tour 9630. You can download a link to install the program from the link above, or you can type amazon.com/kindlebb into your Blackberry browser.Digg us. Slashdot us. Facebook us. Twitter us. Share the news.
Today, we are introducing a new addition to our Kindle family of wireless reading devices: Kindle with international wireless.
With this new Kindle, you can get your books, newspapers, and magazines delivered wirelessly while at home or abroad in over 100 countries. Whether you're in New York, Paris, Mumbai, Beijing, Tokyo, or Sydney, you can think of a book and be reading it in less than 60 seconds.
Kindle with U.S. and international wireless can be preordered today for delivery in two weeks.
Thank you for making Kindle the #1 bestselling product across the millions of items we sell on Amazon.com. It is also the most wished for and the most gifted item on our site. Your response to Kindle has exceeded our expectations, and energizes us. We are truly grateful.
Sincerely,The Kindle TeamThis is syndicated from Amazon Blogs, and written by Kindle Editors.