This was one technology that just kills me never acheived any market success. I had bought an OLPC through the buy/give program and sent the OLPC to my neice (after I poked around at the device—I was VERY curious about the device).
The part that was truly flooring to me was the screen. It was much faster than e-ink and, for the time, quite high resolution in its grayscale mode.
As I read through this article, it’s like a graveyard of dreams past. Mirasol is another I’d forgotten about that I remember thinking would be ubiquitous.
And that says nothing of the battery consumption (pixel qi tech switches off the backlight in 'outdoor' mode so power draw is even less)
So you're right, the current screen tech has not completely solved sunlight problem.
If Kindle doesn't adopt a given technology, it won't be commercially viable in the US.
With no competitive market place for e-reader products, consumers buy whatever good enough technology Amazon sells.
There might very well be a high end screen tech that people would pay for, much as how Apple discovered people are willing to pay for higher resolution LCDs on their laptops and smartphones
But without hardware diversity in the e-reader market, that higher price point may never be found, and as such many promising technologies will never have a chance to be further developed and come down in price.
For the people who don't buy their e-books from amazon, I think the market is quite competitive. I mean, if you are reading PDFs, unless you like really small type or spending a lot of effort converting, you are going to buy one of the myriad A4 sized e-readers from various vendors. Most of the gutenberg readers I know use an off-brand e-reader if they buy new.
>With no competitive market place for e-reader products, consumers buy whatever good enough technology Amazon sells.
I own a handful of high-end e-readers, many of which run android. How come none of those android devices, for instance, my A4 sized Sony e-reader, run the amazon app available in the play store?
I suspect that it's mostly that the Sony, in spite of being a much better reader for PDFs than my oasis, is simply not a better device for reading books that are formatted for the kindle.
(I'm not saying that there isn't a problem... I'm just saying that the monopoly is almost entirely in the convenience of the kindle book store. Agreements with publishers. And I am claiming that there is much competition for the (much smaller) market for e-readers for content outside the amazon kindle e-book ecosystem)
And tiny. Amazon has by far the largest in the US market, from numbers I just googled and haven't verified, Amazon is 83% of ebook sales in the US, and probably and even larger % if your consider "ebooks read on a digital paper device".
Hardware technologies cost hundreds of millions to develop, and years of active sales to refine and bring prices down. Amazon has a "good enough" tech in their Kindles, so the market is stagnating, outside of some cool stuff like Remarkable, which isn't a new display tech stack, nor are their sales numbers going to support development of new techs.
You talk about price point, but Notion Ink was not even that expensive. If you compare it to other options at the time there was some small premium for the new screen, but it didn't even register for me as a factor when choosing what to buy.
The problem as I see it is:
1) Pixel QI has worse parameters (brightness/contrast levels) in the e-ink mode. The existing screens already have problems with brightness. They don't really look like good ink on good paper, the contrast is lower. This one looked (at least in all the marketing materials) like it has even lower brightness, it would be even harder to read from it.
This might have been a quirk of bad marketing? Sure, I don't really care. If they can't show me why the screen would be better, how do they expect me to buy it?
If you buy an e-reader, you want the e-ink mode to be superior, not the other way around. That's the reason you buy the device, for e-ink mode. Pixel QI wanted me to buy an e-ink screen, but sacrificing e-ink experience...
1.2) As a consequence of the screen technology, any Pixel QI device would have a much worse battery time than an e-ink, so that's another advantage of an e-reader gone.
2) There is really no need/ no use cases (for the average consumer, but since we are taking big markets, that's what matters) - for the screen that can do both modes, but does the e-reader mode poorly.
Do you want to read in poor lighting conditions? There are alreay e-readers with backlit displays or just lamps... Which is better for the eyes anyway, it's not even that comfortable to read from a brightly lit screen in a dark room.
3) Existing e-ink screen can already be used with for example android and other apps. IT doesn't just have to be books. They are monochrome ofcourse, and you have to be a little finicky in certain apps, and you can't watch videos, but aside from that they are actually quite useful. This is the setup I have right now. I can read books, but also use most other static-screen apps like calendar, browser, audiobook etc.
4) (minor one) The original product with this screen (notion ink) went too heavily on new untested software (they made a completely different type of interface, with completely new workflows, which to me looked really questionable in terms of usability at all - and even if they would show up as being useful - I would not trust such a small company, which already undertakes a huge task of delivering the first Pixel QI product, to also simultaneously focus on creating a new type of interface, supporting it, polishing it, etc. It's not an easy task.) Android was already under way back then, I just wanted an android box!
Basically they tried to position themselves as a "standard ereader killer" ("kindle killer"), but the most annoying feature of Kindle is its closed garden of apps and proprietary formats. And what would be the point of Notion Ink if it would be just another closed garden?
Onyx is an interesting company. Their devices are amazing IMO (e.g. the Boox Max 2) but some of the issues that people encounter has tended to scare me a bit. I still hope to get a 13.3" Android-based e-reader some day.
Also my informal and anecdotal survey of how people use technology - mainly on the NYC subway - doesn't really bring to mind many people reading on e-readers. It usually a real book.
I hate the physical limitations (weight, damage, water) of books. I am indifferent to touch.
In short: I usually walk around with my current two or three books that I'm reading, plus several dozen Comfort Books that I could re-read for the Nth time if the mood strikes me, in a very convenient form-factor that doesn't need light.
On the other hand (as other people have said), I read complicated PDFs (usually role-playing game supplements), Comics, and technical books on a phone / laptop / tablet, depending on what's handy. In those cases it's not about the ergonomics of long-term reading, it's about having a responsive color screen.
For technical books where I’m using four fingers of my left hand to bookmark four different pages to flip back and forth to? Hate e-readers. They are simply far slower than paper at random access.
For anything where I’d like to appreciate the artistry of the book or its contents? Hate e-readers.
That said, full text search is the one electronic UX element that I wish paper books had!
Kindle - $15
Paperback (new) - $10
Paperback (used) - $6
Paperback (library) - Free
The Kindle version is a significant premium and I don't think there is a matching convenience factor. It's unfortunate that is the case because I'm sure it'd be a lot more eco-friendly and efficient to distribute ebooks.
I still love paper books but these situations always make me miss my kindle.
1) I always have my book with me. Have to wait 15 minutes in a waiting room, take out the phone. At home I have my nice large tablet.
2) Page sync works great. Read 10 pages on tablet and move to phone and it starts off on the correct page. Same when I switch back to the tablet.
3) Buying a new book is super simple and instant. (Note that if traveling internationally, be sure to buy/download extra books from home before you leave as Play may not sell you books if you are abroad. Reading always works.)
4) Free samples keep me from buying books I've already read or don't like.
5) You can import any books you already own and still get all of the above.
The only issue I have with standard tablets/phones is that full daylight reading kills batteries but you still get most of days usage so even this isn't that big of an issue. Not enough to switch back e-paper which is too single purpose for my wants/needs. Sure they are nice for reading by the pool but I can't look up were to eat lunch on it so I still need my phone with me which defeats the purpose.
In general, what I have looked for in an e-reader consists of the largest screen that I can afford (since pdfs don't scale well, IME), a micro sd slot to enable me to copy/sync books as I need it without being on the network, some basic functionality to save book markups, and maybe a web browser.
 Some examples: Entourage eDGE (sic), Sony Libre, Sony Readers (PRS-500, PRS-505, PRS-300, etc.), Pocketbook 9.7", B&N Nook Simple Touch (still have it, running Android 2.x rooted).
Edit1: more e-readers.
Being able to read in direct sunlight is a nice bonus.
Unfortunately I think the answer was always "it's complicated, non-standard and not worth it"
Things may have changed since then, I just wanted to share...
My girlfriend is quite happy with her second-generation Paperlike Pro. There is apparently now a third generation with higher resolution.
There are some disadvantages (of e-ink in general). It's not fast – the mouse cursor feels laggy, but typing is OK. You might have to tweak various appearance settings to make things look better in black and white – they have software to help with this for Windows, but not for Mac. Lastly, it's not particularly cheap.
Dasung do mention programming as one use case and demonstrate it here: http://www.dasungtech.com/sta/en/type.gif
They say it's "nearly as fast as LCD". It has different modes to choose from, with different trade-offs between speed and image quality. And the new generation might be faster that the one I used.
Here is a 13.3 inch e-reader which you can also setup as a secondary screen (HDMI input), and connect to any computer as an extra screen:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1J3oemOfPlk or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCnPMKvXWas
So you are getting both a fully-fledged e-reader and an extra screen.
As a daylight-readable LCD it looks like it was great, but I guess not that many people need that.
I wish they would have developed a Pixel Qi version with a AMOLED (not sure if that is possible), as that way we could have nice colors combined with a readable screen in bright sunlight. I still want to have a Pixel Qi screen for my smartphone every single time the sun is so bright that I have trouble reading anything on it.
Until now, I was wondering what happen to the technology. It is just sad, that they weren't able to make the whole thing an economical success.