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.