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A flexible E Ink screen that could be in the 2014 Kindle (cnet.com)
96 points by davidw 1509 days ago | hide | past | web | 81 comments | favorite

The 13.3" e-reader from Sony mentioned in the article is interesting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZSGZkEEVfQ&t=3m25s

I often find myself leaving my Kindle on the shelf because it isn't suitable for reading PDFs.

Is this going to be a real product or just POC?

Alas, with Sony being the manufacturer, if this is ever released, it will probably be walled off and only use the SonyCloud or some bullshit.

That's a sweet e-reader. Hopefully they'll support MOBI/EPUB files. If so, this is the first e-ink product that I've seen that I would want to upgrade from my old Kindle DX. Very nice. I could get a lot of use out of a product very close to this. All I want is document/book consumption. I don't want browsing, I don't want games, I don't want music or motion-sensors. Just do one thing and do it well, please.

Oh sweet. My Kindle DX died and I had all but resigned myself to getting whatever new iPad they release next month. Looks like I can stay monochrome for years to come! :-)

The DX is back (or was?) in stock @ Amazon, in case you were not aware.

There are a bunch of e-ink readers out there already that do well with PDFs. I have an e-reader made by PocketBook (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PocketBook_International) which is 10.5 inches long and does PDF very well. Amazon also made a bigger Kindle called the DX. That one wasn't quite as good as PocketBook at doing PDFs, in my opinion, but it offered all the other Kindle features.

It will be nice if Sony makes a 13.3" e-reader. Hopefully the software won't be terrible...

I would be all over an eInk smartphone. I would gladly accept all of the disadvantages of eInk for that battery life.

Someone was showing off this really incredible concept phone where the screen was BOTH eInk AND a regular LCD screen in one. Basically the eink display would constantly show your notifications, and you could turn it on (LCD) to get full apps, web-browsing, etc.

Unfortunately it was a concept by a really small company, so I don't know if we'll ever see it come to market.

Motorola had an eink dumb phone in 2006. (http://betanews.com/2006/11/28/motorola-unveils-9mm-entry-le...)

Samsung had, er, this thing in 2009. (http://gizmodo.com/5251232/samsung-alias-2-e+ink-flip-phone-...)

People complain about input lag - see some of the comments about the Mozilla firefox phone. I guess they'd hate the refresh rate of the eink.

And isn't a lot of the power going to WIFI or 3G, rather than the screen? How much advantage is there?

Just from personal experience, Android always reports my display as consuming the majority (around 60%-70% usually) of my battery, anytime I've cared to check. That's for general usage as a phone/music player.

Hmm. My screen's been on for 2h 22m out of 2d 10h 22m (about 4%) and it's used 3% of the consumed battery. 49% of the consumption is cell standby, 47% is phone idle.

YMMV of course, but 70% screen consumption seems way high to me.

I guess I don't check except when I'm low, and if I'm low, it's due to using it and having the screen on. If I leave my phone "off" (that is, I don't actively use it, but the radio is on), then the display is less (for a N1 I have on me, it says screen is 20% this morning, and it's done nothing but sit there for a day).

In other news, the light bulb in my refrigerator is always on, anytime I've cared to check.

In other words: chances are that you only check power use when your display is on. If the display is off 80% of the time and all other components stay on full time, that would sink the power use of the display to around 25%-30%.

Your comparison is flawed. The Android power meter shows the power consumption that has happened over a period of time, not just what is consuming the power the most right when you look at it.

If I disable WiFi, then check the power consumption, WiFi still appears to be consuming approximately 4% of the batter compared to 42% by the screen, which is the top listed item, and dwarfs the number 2 item, Android OS at 9%.

If I run without WiFi for a period of 24 hours or so, then presumably the WiFi battery consumption would drop to 0%, or at least begin approaching 0%, but either way, this is a far different test than just seeing if the refrigerator light is on.

The usage report is cumulative, not instantaneous. The act of checking probably isn't a significant fraction of their phone usage.

So if for a given usage pattern the screen does consume 60+% (which is what I often see) then keeping it off all the time certainly helps ... but also makes the phone a lot less useful!

Those other components don't take much power. My phone lasts a week idle, and the hours it lasts with the screen on would go up tremendously with e-ink, especially outdoors. The backlight takes an overwhelming majority of power for such activities.

The big problem with that Moto phone was that it was using a segmented e-ink display, like a e-ink calculator screen. So it could display phone numbers well, contacts poorly, and texting was a joke.

Onyx are "apparently" releasing one shortly (this quarter).



EDIT: updated link

It's sad that color e-Ink still seems to be nowhere within sight. It seemed for a while that Pixel Qi's hybrid screens were on the horizon, but I haven't heard much about that lately.

I personally love the e-Ink screen on my Kindle Keyboard 3G. I wish I could upgrade to the next generation, but Amazon has gone with the wisdom of the day and eliminated buttons from the newer generations of Kindles. I also wish I had a screen with high enough res to read PDFs comfortably. As it is, without the ability to reflow PDF text, paging through the document is an awkward experience.

Kindle DX isn't good for this?


It's just expensive old tech at this point. It's ok, but the screens in the newer Kindles meant for reading are much better.

Too big! I've got good eyes, so I prefer a small, high-res screen. I love the size of the regular Kindle models

Kobo Aura HD is pretty good too - high resolution ~8" screen

You've set up something for Amazon links that adds your affiliate link on the end? I don't mind affiliate links, but that's pretty sneaky.

That's not an affiliate link. Affiliate links are tag=, not ref=

Please get your facts straight before lambasting a guy providing a link.

Forgive me for making an incorrect assumption. Why provide the amzn.com link instead of the normal amazon.com link then?

And what is the ref= for?

I acquired this link from the Amazon icon used for sharing via email. I thought it would be looked upon more favorably than the long Amazon link in my address bar. Sorry for giving offense.

Oh right, I didn't know. So I guess the "ref" is for Amazon's own use. Wow did I lose karma for a simple mistake.

Also saying they've set up something to add their affiliate link implies they own amzn.com, which to be clear is not the case. http://www.who.is/whois/AMZN

The ECTACO jetBook Color 2 is color e-Ink: http://www.ectaco.com/jetBook_Color/

Here is a review of the first jetBook color. Haven't seen much on the 2nd model: http://goodereader.com/blog/electronic-readers/ectaco-jetboo...

It's rather expensive, which would be my guess as to why it hasn't had a rapid expansion of market share.

After using both a Kindle Keyboard and a Kindle Touch, I much prefer the touch screen. I wouldn't mind having page turning buttons though.

Switching orientation to landscape makes most of my PDFs readable, at the cost of scrolling three times per page. It's not fun, but if necessary you can put up with it.

Is there anything that lets you "reflow" PDFs, so as to make them more readable on Kindles?

Only in the sense you can convert PDFs to native format through your Amazon account.

It works fine when you have a clean PDF with nothing but serial text (e.g. a novel).

Completely useless if your document is a less than perfect OCR job, if it has reasonably complex tables, math or non-Roman text (especially laid out in parallel with English translation). In other words, there's basically no way to read physics or Chinese philosophy papers from JSTOR with it.

Your average programming book might make it through okay, but might not. At the very least it's going to kill the indentation of any code samples (very bad for Python books).

Yes, Amazon will do that conversion for you. It works OK, but I gave up on doing it for science white papers. Graphics are lost and it only works if the PDF is formatted the right way, so it was enough of a pain that I stuck to printing stuff out.

I use Readability to take web pages, get rid of pagination and beam the raw text to my Kindle, and I love it.

yes, k2pdfopt does a great job of making PDFs readable on Kindles, etc.

I too am mulling over purchasing a new Kindle during an upcoming trip to the US, and am not wild about touch screens. Also, I'm quite sure that shortly after I buy the silly thing, they'll announce the new ones.

My advice: Get a cheap basic ereader. Turn off all the features you can(airplane mode works). Use Calibre. Every 2-4 weeks charge it and put books in it (not too many!). Forget about upcoming models. It's a book. You wouldn't care if a new edition of a novel came out with a different cover and font.

Mine is just for reading books (not articles, reports, emails, blogs, etc). When I pick it up, I relax. I read books. Completely different to the ADD experience of picking up my ipad. Strangely, I went back to reading fiction after buying it.

That's good advice, but I need it for work:


Funny you should say that; I would still buy one of the older models rather than buy from the current lineup. Maybe some surprise will come from the next Kindles that will change my mind, but I've evangelized the Kindle Keyboard 3G (it was once called the Kindle 3 with 3G) to my friends and family, as you get Internet access internationally without wifi.

It's amazingly handy while traveling to be able to read the news, check for important email, etc, without roaming. The current Kindles with 3G limit you to a small subset of the net, but the Keyboard is unlimited.

I use the same and think it's pretty good. My only gripe is that the slots for where the cover/light connect aren't very sturdy. I have young kids who have bent the cover back many times and because the plastic is so thin at that point, the slots have cracked. You now have to jiggle the kindle around to get the light to turn on since the connection isn't good.

Yeah, I have one of those, and would miss that feature, although I've only really used it seriously once. See above/below, though.

I own an Onyx Boox M92. It is a great device. I read tons of PDFs on it.

One issue is their choice of connector: they ship with USB mini connections, which are prone to stop working. Another is their web browser: it is unusable.

I'm really excited to see what the Sony product will look like! At 13 inches it's even better to read large PDFs than my Boox.

Another happy M92 user here. It's a big enough size to read technical books fairly well.

My dream e-reader has a 8.5*11 display (standard paper size), high res, color, glow-lit, and can flip pages as fast as you can flip them on a physical book.

It's exciting to see this come closer to reality every year.

What is your use model? I find the smaller Kindles are perfectly suited to novels etc.

Really, it isn't surprising how different use models benefit from different e-reader profiles. Ever notice how textbooks are monstrous 12x16 beasts while novels are often 3x6 or somesuch?

> My dream e-reader has a 8.5*11 display (standard paper size), high res, color, glow-lit ...

Don't leave out full color display by reflected environmental light -- or is that what "glow-lit" means?

By glow-lit, I mean using embedded LEDs to illuminate the e-ink display, such as the Nook, Paperwhite or Aura do. After using it for a while, I like it very much. It enables me to read comfortably in less-than-brightly-lit situations, which is most of the time.

Okay. I only mention environmental lighting because I have a GPS unit with a color reflective display -- in the field it's readable in direct sunlight, a great advantage. So I know it can be done. As to whether the display can be made beautiful and have the high resolution people expect, I don't know, but I suspect it's feasible.

e-ink phones are an interesting idea.

If I look at apps most people use, most could just-as-good e-ink versions: phone, contacts, sms, skype, viber, mail, whatsapp, weather, radio, podcasts, buses/trains, ebooks, banking. Some could have functional but slightly lamer versions: Camera, browser, dating. A few can't be done: videos, video calls, games.

I think it's got a decent chance at success. But someone has to have the balls to really make it work. You can't just stick android on it. The Apps & OS need to be different or its going to feel like using an android phone that's been in the pool.

It's something that can be done in theory, with a few fundamental changes to resource qualifiers and, maybe, drawing primitives. It's close enough to be tempting, but I believe it would be a better design to use e-ink as a secondary display.

That, of course, reduces the power benefits of e-ink in such a product. Only when an e-reader is in use would the color display be drawing zero power.

But, if you add up all the issues, tempting as it may be, a monochrome e-ink Android would just suck too much. An e-ink OLED combination might be just right.

But where is the actual advantage to using it? Better battery life, sure, but most people are fine charging their phone once per day.

Viewing in daylight, for one, and text is still easier to read on it than on LED.

And I think you understate the battery life aspect of it. Getting it from one to two days is of limited value, but right now people's behavior is driven by the pattern of charging the phone at night. They want to use their phone more, except they don't want it to have run out by 2 PM, so they moderate their usage. If they knew they could use it with abandon and have it last until they went to bed, they would. Or so goes my theory.

> right now people's behavior is driven by the pattern of charging the phone at night.

Exactly. With e-Ink the screeen would always be on, showing the time, messages, inbox or whatever, no need to "pick up phone -> click power - > swipe to unlock" every ten minutes.

This is a pretty big feature for me. I am tired of barely being able to read my screen when I am outside. I would also like a longer battery life but I am able to deal with current battery life and is not the primary concern for me.

Battery life. It's a big advantage to some people. Maybe most people are OK charging every day, but a big minority aren't.

Camping, multi day festivals, unplanned promiscuity, overnight business trip to someplace with different sockets. 24+ hr traveling (EG London to Sydney). Even outside of these, people ask for chargers all the time.

Trade off is worth it to some people. Especially if they rarely do the things e-ink is is bad at like games and videos.

Gnome 3 might work well, but you won't be able to middle click.

I don't really care about color or refresh rate. I want a poster sized display for fairly static content.

I want colour, and don't care about refresh rate - I want a 13" reader for comic reading.

I want the exact same thing, but in a 60" model, to have changeable artwork on the wall.

And I want a waterproof ebook reader for reading in the bath.

And i want a flexible A4 (around 14 inch) e-ink panel with touch screen and a slim USB cable (preferably USB OTG). Storage, processing, network and battery to be provided by my phone.

Me too. I use my e-reader to keep lots of recipes. Would like a spill resistant machine.

Now that is a great idea.

>The company has managed to add some color to its technology. With those digital price tags, for instance, there will be a red e-ink option to help draw attention to sale items.

I did not know that color had been a possibility with eInk displays. That, combined with the increased resolution and removal of artifacts when updating, makes me a little more excited for the technology. I'm hoping they improve the technology even more, I would dearly like to see this proliferate. Ideally, I would like to see it reach most of the capabilities of modern LED displays, but I will not hold my breath.

eInk has been one of the most disappointing tech developments in recent history. First mass-market devices came in 2006-2007 iirc, and there has barely been any evolution in the display tech since. The screens are still small, slow, 16level grayscale, low-contrast, and low-resolution. eInk really had a lot of promise and hype when it was new, but these days it seems just stagnated.

Maybe it hasn't progressed as quickly as one might like, but I think it's a brilliant development: it's very good for actually reading books without notifications and beeps and whistles and all kinds of other crap popping up on the screen. Also, the devices have fantastic, stress-free battery life, weigh very little, and don't bother your eyes like LCD.

In other words,"most disappointing" seems a bit exaggerated.

I have Kindle 3rd gen and it is awesome device (I think it blows away both kindle 4 and Paperwhite) but I am thinking about getting something with Nexus 7 2013 display if it kicks the bucket. The display in the nexus seems like it can give the kindle a run for the money for comfortable reading.

I have a Kindle and a Nexus 7. Both are nice devices, but serve very different purposes. You can certainly read on the Nexus 7, but it's an LCD screen: eye strain. Also, there are continuous distractions, and sites like this one are just a few taps away.

Taken all together, this means the Kindle is way better for just reading - you can really lose yourself in the book, something that I can't do at all with a regular tablet.

That's where the disappointment stems from; the first gen devices were so nice and promising, but the tech didn't "go anywhere" from that.

They've definitely improved the contrast and resolution over the years, and the screens are small for business reasons, not technical ones. Compare a 1st Gen Kindle against a Paperwhite, and it's pretty impressive. I think people are just spoiled by semiconductors, where things get twice as good every other year. Real products don't work like that.

It's great tech in specific niches, but it seems to improve at a glacial pace...leaving it in that niche.

The original work was in 1996! Hard to imagine that it isn't far better than it is by now.

I honestly wonder if that is due to patents.

It seems that eInk technology has reached it's limits in terms of contrast. I was disappointed when I compared the new Kindle Paperwhite to my Kindle Keyboard. With the Paperwhite's backlight off, the contrast seemed a little worse - blacks were a little more grey.

While I definitely wouldn't use one every day, a smartphone with e-ink screen sounds like a great idea for a more functional version of the SpareOne http://www.spareone.com/spareone/spareone-plus-emergency-pho...

Tangent: Any word of building e-ink tech into ceramics? A dynamic display that has the look of a Sharpie on china.

I'd love to see this! Though I can only think of toys that I'd expect to see on ThinkGeek, like a coffee mug powered by thermoelectricity that would display the temperature of the beverage within, or a plate that could display the name of the food being served on it (updated by swiping the plate across an RFID or NFC pad or something). Would make a great whiteboard too, especially if you could also draw on it with dry erase markers (especially especially if you could then capture the drawing, etc.)

Still sort of waiting on a read AND write eInk solution ...

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