Tuesday, April 28, 2009

eBook Reader Screens

There has been a lot of talk lately about eBook device screens, so I thought I would add my thoughts to the mix.

Stephen Windwalker wrote recently about the future of E Ink and what he expects we will see in versions of the Kindle coming in the next few years. He based his predictions on information from the makers of the e-paper screens and on the assumption that Amazon will stick with that technology indefinitely, and the predictions sound very plausible. My concern with that possible roadmap is that the "full-color" device Stephen mentions for 2011 will probably be quite anemic in actual color. The current color E Ink technology is limited to pastels, and from what I can tell will always look washed out and not true to the actual colors being displayed. The technology just seems flawed in that regard.

Note: As mentioned in the comments, I originally misread and misquoted Stephen in this post. After he graciously pointed that out to me, I have adjusted my previous thoughts. My sincerest apologies, Stephen.

The most interesting news recently is that PixelQi is developing a screen with three different settings: low-power black and white, e-paper, and full-color LCD. It sounds to me like this technology has some great value and will become a condender in the marketplace. Add to that Mike Cane's guess that PixelQi might be providing Apple with screens for its rumored tablet/eBook device, and we have some tantalizing reasons to stay up with the news.

However, I'd like to point out that three screen display modes is still that: different display modes. Just because I am outside do I have to stop seeing color? That might work well on an OLPC, but I like the best possible display on my devices.

That's where a little-known and seemingly ignored technology comes into play. I don't remember where I first heard of the Qualcomm mirasol display, but I am pretty sure it was not in relation to eBooks. The mirasol technology is reflective like E Ink, but it is full-color with faster-than-video refresh rates. Yes, you heard me right. We could have an eBook device that uses the same power consumption as the current ones, but with color and video. Where do I sign up?

The bummer is that the technology is still in development. Qualcomm has successfully deployed monochrome screens, but apparently making the full-color ones is more difficult.

I think the major players in the eBook market are barking up the wrong tree. E Ink is fine for basic devices, but I would much prefer the mirasol screen to a washed-out, pastel, slow-refresh E Ink screen that we might possibly have in two years.

Here is a sales video that might be interesting to the more sales or techie-oriented among us, and here are some interesting pictures of the full-color screen in different lighting situations.

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Blogger Steve said...

Hi Joshua, I don’t mind being called “wrong” and I don’t mind being misquoted, but I’ll admit it gets my Irish up a wee bit when someone misquotes me and then calls me wrong for what he said I said. Fortunately I am a lenient judge, and your sentence is nothing more than to go back and read my post and then make the appropriate correction in yours. To help you get started, here is what I said about the possibility of a color screen for the Kindle at any time before 2011:

“2009 Kindle-Compatible TouchTablet

* Although bloggers have been buzzing for months about a large-form Kindle (first in 2008, and then, when that didn’t happen, in 2009), most of this buzz has been self-feeding, and I admit that I’ll be happily surprised, but still surprised, if there is a large-form e-Ink Kindle display in 2009. Maybe he needed to be more reticent about events closer to launch date, but Wilcox didn’t even mention 2009. He was very specific in mentioning 2010 and 2011.

* Much more likely: a large-form, backlit, energy-intensive, high-end Kindle-compatible iPod TouchTablet with a price point in the $599-$699 range.”


April 28, 2009 6:00 AM  

Blogger Joshua Tallent said...


You are completely correct. I have revised the my post above. Please accept my sincerest apologies.

- Joshua

April 28, 2009 8:27 AM  

Blogger Steve said...

Thanks, Joshua. I appreciate your addressing this so promptly and graciously, and I certainly understand how easily such things occur.


April 28, 2009 8:37 AM  

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