Archive for e-Reader News
The Toshiba BookPlace Mono and Booklive Reader by Lideo are two Japan exclusives that popped by to say hello at SID Display Week 2013 in Vancouver. Obviously, with a new e-Reader we were all over it, and seems to do quite well in Japan. How does this e-Reader stack up against the competition and is it a worthy investment?
The Booklive Reader by Lideo features an older version of e Ink Pearl with a resolution of 600×800 and 16 levels of grey. It has 4 GB of internal memory, but you only have 3 GB of practical use. There is no expandable memory, so you will not be able to load more content in via MicroSD. There is a 800 MHZ processor, which tends to make things a bit speedy.
When you look at the competition in Japan with the Sony PRS-T2, Kobo Glo and Kindle Paperwhite, they all have higher resolution then than the Booklive. This is an important factor to consider if you are into Manga, Graphic Novels and image heavy content. Resolution on PDF images, are fairly important for the types of books that are popular in Japan. The price is right though, you will spend around 7,000 yen, making it more affordable then the competition.
You can think of this e-Reader as a terminal. You only can connect to the Booklive eBook store, which has around 75,000 titles currently available. There is no internet browser, and it lacks critical essential social media features like Facebook and Twitter. It connects via WIMAX to the store, and there is no charge for data to download books, you just have to pay for them.
The Booklive has a touchscreen display that you use to pinch and zoom and click on content. It has four physical home buttons on the bottom, similar to the old Sony designs. You can hit back, home, settings etc. Finally, you will get around a solid month of use, before you have to recharge it. This falls in line with most readers, when you engage in casual reading.
The Booklive e-Reader is very simple in design, in terms of UI and the overall layout of the menu. When you first fire it up for the first time it asks for your birthday, sex, email address and name. The main screen comprises of your bookshelf, which shows the cover art by default. You can tweak the settings so it shows it in list view instead, which is useful for larger book collections.
Speaking of book collections, it supports EPUB and PDF, but you can’t load in your own books. For some reason this e-Reader only works with purchases made directly from the store built into it. This might turn a ton of users off, but will curb book piracy.
You can turn pages by tapping or flicking your hand in a gesture, obviously being a Japanese exclusive you tend to turn pages to the left. There is a big refresh issue with this unit, as every single page turn creates the flickering as the e Ink screen refreshes. There is no options to configure it, such as to make it refresh every three, six or nine pages. There are six different options to increase the size of the text when you are reading EPUB books, and no options to change the types of fonts. You can also make highlights and look words up in the built in dictionary. The main gripe of most reviewers in Japan is that the dictionary is weak compared to the competition.If you want to search, you can do it via the virtual software keyboard, which is actually one of the best features on this device.
One of the best features is being able to adjust the brightness. This is useful, since most Manga has different art styles. Some use very hard lines and some very soft, it is great to be able to turn up the brightness of the screen to give you the best Manga experience.
When you are finished reading a book, at the end of it, are links to continue reading the series. Normally, you can purchase a single issue, and if you like it, continue to buy more. Instead of making you search the next issue within the Booklive store, you get links to buy it. You can’t buy in bulk though, but most stores don’t really have a great shopping cart system on e-readers. If you subscribe to newspapers though, the new issue is delivered to you every day.
You would buy this e-reader if you are loyal to the BookLive market place for newspapers, eBooks and Manga. It is more affordable than most other e-Readers currently available in Japan. Sharp, Toshiba, Sony, Amazon and Kobo all compete heavily in that market and sometimes its hard for the smaller players to stay relevant.
In the end, I would not recommend this e-Reader. It is mostly slow and unresponsive, and the inability to load in your own books may be a deal breaker. There is a ton of eBooks available to buy, but it doesn’t matter much if all of your competition as higher resolution screens and better hardware. I would likely recommend Kobo, Kindle or Sony models better than this, mainly because of the better software and the ability to buy books in different languages. Sometimes you want to learn a new language by reading books, but Booklive only sells books in Japanese.
Interesting Design, looks unique
Virtual Keyboard is very well done
75,000 eBooks in the store
Sluggish and Unresponsive
Full e Ink refresh on every page turn
Inability to load in your own PDF or EPUB Books
No Bulk purchases of books from the store
The Toshiba BookPlace Mono e-Reader is a Japanese exclusive that just landed in that market a few weeks ago. For the launch of this new device, Toshiba revised its old ebookstore Blio and transformed it into the BookPlace. How does this e-reader rank up against the competition?
The Toshiba BookPlace Mono features a six inch e Ink Pearl Display with a resolution of 1024×768 pixels. It uses IR technology from Neonode, instead of the traditional capacitive touchscreen. Underneath the hood is a Freescale i.MX508, 800MHz processor and 512 MB RAM. It has 4 GB of internal memory that can be expanded further via the Micro SD card.
The MicroUSB cable both charges the unit and facilitates the transfer of data to your device. It is hyped up to last a few months or around 8,000 page turns. WIFI is the only way it will connect to the internet and the Toshiba BookPlace eBook store.
This reader, when connected to the internet and browsing the store, is woefully slow. On the main page of the store are 3 or 4 different images hyping up manga, cookbooks, kids books, and other price points. This results in slow navigation because of all the different graphics that are loading up at once. When you are not online, and just browsing the various menus, it tends to be snappy.
One of the cool things about the BookPlace Mono is the inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack. This allows you to listen to music and audiobooks, but there is no physical speaker on the e-reader.
The overall design is very unique. The screen is deeply sunken into the body of the unit, to accommodate the IR touchscreen display. It also has a physical home button, to bring you back to your main screen. Really, it is quite a solid e-reader and the main selling point is buying content from the Toshiba BookPlace eBook store.
The entire UI is in Japanese and there is no way to load in different languages for an English crowd. Toshiba is focusing exclusively on the Japanese market and enhanced the Japanese bookstore to launch this new e-reader.
Let’s talk about the ebookstore, since this is your destination to buy content. There are various categories to browse from, as well as a dedicated search area. You can sort by price in YEN if you want to find cheaper or more expensive books. We noticed at least three thousand books total in the ecosystem that mainly comprise of Manga, Graphic Novels, Cookbooks, Kids Books, and eBooks. Most of the Manga is only available via PDF and the rendering engine to display content is painful. You can’t pinch and zoom to isolate specific panels, but if you press one, you can zero in on a panel. Obviously, page turning in Manga is swiping on the left hand side. It also, has a PDF rendering engine to allow you to scroll around the document.
Your main home screen comprises of your library shelf, where the cover art of the books you own are presented in all of their glory. You can sort by list view, but the default is cover view. It looks like there are 15 titles that can be on your main screen.
At the very bottom of the display area is links to your library, settings, and the BookPlace. You can configure various options, such as page refresh, WIFI setup, font sizes, and alternative settings.
In the video at the bottom of the review, we show you most of the menus and sub-menus. Our Japanese is a bit rusty, but Peter knew enough to set the e-reader up for a review. In order to even start using the reader from scratch, you need to setup a user ID, password, and email address.
The Toshiba BookPlace Mono reads EPUB and PDF documents by default. It sells ebooks and manga in both of these formats, but does allow you to upload your own titles that you download from the internet. There is a small sync button, so when you upload your own titles from the Micro USB to USB cable on your PC, you want to make sure to sync your new content.
Overall, e-reading is very solid. The traditional EPUB book, turns pages very quickly. You can customize the font size, font type, linespacing, margins, and gesture direction. By default, the e-reader is configured to turn pages when you swipe to the left, but you can change it to the right.
The PDF experience is OK, as long as you are just turning pages. The e-reader tends to buckle under the pressure if you are initiating the zoom feature or scrolling around the document.
In the end, this is an ebook reader geared towards a very specific market. Toshiba spent a ton of money and man hours relaunching its online store in conjunction with the release of the Mono. You can download free samples of most manga, but we noticed that not all books had samples.
You won’t find the lightning fast user experience in the Mono as you would the Kindle Paperwhite or Kobo Aura HD. Both of these companies have a programming army that they employ to refine the UI experience and do a ton of testing. It seems this e-reader was developed fairly quickly and does not have anything that blows away the competition. It does offer a ton of customizable options, and the ability to play music and audiobooks should appeal to a number of people.
Will this reader sell? It is priced at around $140 US, and ebooks cost anywhere from 200 Yen to 900 Yen. I can see this as being a fringe device, as most people are gravitating towards smartphones and tablets for their everyday use. The one thing it has going for it is Manga. Traditionally, it is not in color anyways, so you don’t lose out on not having a full color screen. The art, panels, and overall experience is fairly solid, and even Toshiba’s line of tablets doesn’t tap into the BookPlace ecosystem.
I would recommend this over some of the alternatives available in Japan, such as the BookLive Reader by lideo.
Great manga selection
3.5mm headphone jack
Long battery life
Lots of customization
Tends to stagger under the weight of zooming on PDF files
Store tends to run slow, due to the image heavy content
Poor availability of audio content
More samples of ebooks, please!
Just when it seems that digital publishing has reached the peak of innovation, someone has to make it even better. Ruckus Media Group, known for its interactive enhanced children’s ebooks, announced that it received grant funding from the National Science Foundation to make a collaborative ebook which will enable parents and their children to read and play embedded games within the same title, even when they are physically separated by distance.
“The challenge to collaborative learning comes when the parent is not co-located with the child — when a parent is away from the family home serving in the military or on a business trip, for example,” explained Ruckus in a press release. “Currently eBook platforms do not provide the opportunity for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to work, in real time, with non-mobile devices like desktop and laptop computers; by automating the process and tapping into the growing ubiquity that networked, mobile technology can address, Ruckus’ RTWA technology will provide a parent and child with the experience of being co-located so they can take advantage of the value of synchronous collaboration.”
This collaboration between parents and young readers, even while apart, not only fosters a love of reading and establishes the importance of literacy, but can also greatly benefit emerging readers who are still only learning.
“Nothing fosters literacy like parents, caregivers and kids reading and sharing books together,” says Jason Root, Ruckus’ Chief Content Officer. “Storytelling has a rich read-along, read-out-loud heritage. We are honored to have been selected by the NSF to further our idea of utilizing proprietary mobile technology to create remote read-together experiences in real time. Parents may be separated from their children due to military or business assignments or divorce, and grandparents often live in different states or countries — yet they all want to read with their children. Our goal, simply, is to keep families connected through reading, whether they are physically co-located or not.”
For its part, the NSF funds not only science, but broader spectrum approaches to education. Its annual budget of approximately $7 billion goes to support a number of projects in education, for which it received about 50,000 requests each year.
Kobo has signed a deal with the National Public Radio system in the United States to start promoting its e-readers and ebooks. The campaign starts on June 3rd and runs until the end of the year and will have brand messages on All Things Considered; Morning Edition; Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me; Weekend Edition; and Ask Me Another. Kobo is hoping to reach more than 6.5 million listeners, with more than 18 million total listener impressions.
Most of the brand messages will be pointing listeners to visit their favorite local bookstore that participates with the American Booksellers association. These select locations have deals in place with Ingram to have the e-readers ready to sell in their stores and royalty channels for purchasing ebooks.
“This is very big, and very good news,” said ABA CEO Oren Teicher. “Responding to the needs of our market, and the direct feedback of ABA bookstores in the e-reader and ebook program, Kobo has taken a significant step in strengthening their brand in the U.S. NPR is the gold standard for reaching our best customers, and it’s expected that this program’s national reach and penetration will reach markets large and small from coast to coast.”
The Sony 13.3 inch e-reader is going to usher in a brand new era of high quality e-paper that allows for a true PDF experience. Sony has exclusivity over this brand new technology it created and worked on, in conjunction with E Ink. On the first day of SID Display Week, we were walked through some of the core features, but was that really enough? We received hundreds of emails, comments, and messages asking us to look deeper into what this has to offer. We have heard your pleas, and will show you mercy. I won’t rehash the specs of the hardware, you can read all about it HERE. There are some very exciting elements to this device that no one but us has managed to capture.
The PDF reading is the main attraction of the 13.3 inch e-reader and gives you a true, full page experience. Obviously you can take notes and make annotations by either writing with the stylus or the full virtual keyboard. If you make a note, you can save that page as an independent file. If you have a big PDF document and make all sorts of edits, you can save it as a “Workspace” into its own PDF document. This ensures you have your virgin file with no edits, and then your changed document with all of your notes.
If you have a large document with many notes, you can actually initiate a new feature that will allow you to look up all of the notes or changes you made on the document. A search feature will bring up a list on the right hand side, listing every single change you have ever made. If you tap on any of them, the page will open.
There was some confusion over the Stylus or Digitizer that came bundled with the Sony e-reader. Some people were saying the screen would not work without it and there was an air of uncertainty. I found out that you can do everything via touch. The stylus is useful for drawing notes or making changes. You can turn the pages and interact with every single menu with your hand. There is a small button on on the stylus that acts as an eraser. Click on a body of text or notes, and you can delete it.
There is a nice fully featured internet browser, that is accessible via a WIFI connection. Browsing the internet does not cause a massive amount of page-refresh issues, that normally plague lower-end devices. This might be perfect for people who check news websites, such as Good e-Reader!
E Ink was very clear that the firmware and overall design might change on the commercial release. I noticed it did not currently have EPUB support, which means you will not be able to load in your own books. Likely, we will see Sony’s own ebook store loaded on the device, and it will allow users to purchase ebooks directly from their region’s store. Currently, Sony has been opening a number of new online stores in Europe, UK, Australia, and many other markets. It would make sense for the company to incorporate this into its technologies.
Currently, the prototype is at many different events during the next few months. Sony is listening to people’s opinions and incorporating changes into the firmware and hardware. My suggestions were to hot-key the stylus eraser button to do different things. As an example, it would be nice to turn to the next page with a click. I also suggested the ability to pinch and zoom. It seems that you can’t make the fonts any larger or increase your zoom levels. This would be essential, as some people prefer bigger fonts or like to focus on specific bits of information.
Onyx intends on releasing the first fully featured E Ink phone in the 3rd quarter of 2013. We got our hands on the final hardware model of this new phone and the only thing that will change is the firmware. One of the big hyping factors behind this is the front-lit display, much akin to the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, and the one week battery life.
The Onyx E Ink phone takes e-paper out of the e-reader world and transplants it in the very competitive smartphone arena. It features a 4.2 inch screen and runs the Android 2.3 operating system. The resolution is 480×800 and is powered by a 1 GHZ CPU processor. Battery life should last you around one week, which we can attest to, seeing as the device we had was being constantly fiddled with for the last 36 hours and was still at 90%.
The phone itself is rather brilliant! It does not suffer from the page-refresh issues that plague most modern day e-readers. If you are text messaging, adding a contact, or typing in a phone number, it’s instant. I never saw any ghosting on the screen and there is a button you can press to turn on the front-lit display. This will ensure that you can use the phone in low-light conditions, something you could not do with e-paper a few years ago.
Aside from text messaging, contacts, and the phone itself, it comes bundled with an e-reader app. It does not give you much in the way of editing font sizes or highlights, but since it runs Android, it would be very easy to install your favorite. I verified that in the settings menu, you can click on enabled Unknown Sources, and sideload in your own applications. This means you can install Kindle, Sony, Nook, Kobo, Overdrive, and whatever digital reading app that tickles your fancy.
The one thing that impressed me was the responsiveness of the phone. Every menu instantly loaded and typing was a breeze. It has a full QWERTY keyboard and pressing down on keys pops up, with little to no LAG. The long battery life should also be an endearing factor, if you are frequently on your phone you should get a full week out of it, which is quite amazing. It also has a microphone that allows you to search the internet by voice, or even type notes and text messages by voice.
It remains to be seen if E Ink phones will truly catch on. You will not be able to watch videos, but you can listen to music via the 3.5mm headphone jack or the rear facing speaker. You can load your own content on it via the Micro USB cable and also use it to charge the device. The battery is swappable, we even took the rear casing off to test it.
Honestly, I was super impressed we managed to get our hands on this phone, with no one walking us through it. When Peter and I were at SID Display Week on Monday, it was locked in a glass case. Obviously, cases do not scare me, and I see it as a personal challenge to flex all of Good e-Reader muscles to make it happen. After a few emails and phone calls, we had our hands all over this new E Ink phone.
Lastly, when will it come out and how much will it cost? We heard Q2-Q3 2013 it will be out, the pricing is more of an unknown. Basically, ONYX is shopping this around to various carriers all over the world. If a few buy into it and place some large orders, it will cost less to make, due to the large volume. There are many factors that will influence the price, but right now it is a complete mystery. Worldwide availability is also an unknown. All we do know is that it is only 3G, and should be compatible with most major phone networks, but even E Ink did not know the bands that it is using.
Public libraries and bookstores around the country are rolling out their summer reading programs in an effort to help students retain the progress they’ve made throughout the school year. While educators are all too familiar with the so-called “summer slide,” programs that encourage reading comprehension and exploration can have a valuable impact on students’ ability levels when they return to school in the fall.
This summer, Barnes and Noble is once again encouraging participation in its summer reading program by offering prizes and free books to students who participate. Aimed at students in grades one through six, the program, Imagination’s Destination, runs from May 21st through September 3rd and offers unique incentives throughout the summer weeks.
“Our Summer Reading Program encourages children to read for pleasure, inspiring a lifelong love of reading. It’s so much fun to see a child’s face light up when they turn in their completed journal sheet and get to choose a free book from the store display,” said Sarah DiFrancesco, Director of Business Development for Barnes & Noble, in a statement unveiling the program. “Our stores partner with their local schools and libraries to get the word out in the community. Educators and librarians love the program, too, because they also want to encourage children to read during the summer months. Add our special promotions with Roald Dahl and Dan Gutman books and the best lineup of summer skills workbooks, and Barnes & Noble is truly the best destination for summer reading fun, learning and savings.”
Educators also have special promotional tools and items that can be shared with their students during these last few days of the current school year in the Summer Reading Activity Kit. More than just announcements for the program, these tools help students engage in active reading by asking them to transfer the words on the page to higher order thinking and characterization, and can actually serve classroom purpose throughout the school year.
Information for both parents and teachers can be found in a special educators’ section at bn.com/summerreading.
Amazon has just announced that they are now making its Kindle Fire HD 7 and 8.9 tablets available in over 170 different countries. The company also mentioned that its Android App Market will be available in over 200 countries.
The Kindle Fire HD WIFI tablets will be available to pre-order starting today. The first shipment will be dispatched on June 13th and the international crowd will find a lot more viability in accessing content with the entire app store now available. To celebrate this move, Amazon is giving a few apps away for free on May 23-24. Fruit Ninja and Cut the Rope Experiments could be incentive for people to gravitate towards these devices.
App Developers will have the ability in hundreds of new markets to submit Android apps into the Amazon store. Amazon curates it fairly vigorously, and not everything is accepted, like Google Play. Recently, Amazon announced its virtual currency, Amazon Coins. This allows for micro transactions within the apps and can even be used to buy a paid version of an app.
“Kindle Fire HD is the #1 best-selling item in the world for Amazon since its launch, and we’re thrilled to make it available to even more customers around the globe today,” said Dave Limp, Vice President, Amazon Kindle. “Not only does Kindle Fire feature advanced hardware, it’s also a service. When combined with our content ecosystem, great email and browsing and top-rated customer service, we hope people around the world will agree that Kindle Fire HD is the best tablet for an incredible price.”
Amazon is in the business of severely discounting the hardware to make up for digital sales. Over a million ebooks are currently in the system and in the last year Amazon has started to offer exclusives. Amazon Prime members get a free ebook every month for buying into the $79.99 package, which also gives free movies and free shipping.
Today, the final piece of the Big Six puzzle fell into place. Months after the initial co-defendants in an antitrust lawsuit settled out of court, the remaining publisher, Penguin, settled with the attorneys general from 33 states for $75 million. This settlement comes less than a year after Penguin settled a similar claim with the Department of Justice.
“This proposed settlement is a powerful demonstration of what is possible when federal, state and private class antitrust enforcement lawyers work together,” said Steve W. Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, in a statement issued by the firm today. “In this case, the level of cooperation was unprecedented, and the results that we were able to deliver to the states and consumers demonstrate that.”
All of the controversy in these court proceedings surround the claim that five of the Big Six publishers colluded with Apple to prevent Amazon from discounting the price of ebooks in order to further sales of Kindle e-readers. Industry professionals from every corner of the publishing world have weighed in on the issue since it was first raised in 2010, some in favor of the suit brought against allegations of price fixing, but others in support of taking down the corporate empire in Amazon.
Despite the lengthy proceedings, today’s statement from the lead counsel actually applauded the publisher for taking the initiative and taking step to move forward in the best interests of ebook consumers.
“Penguin’s senior management deserves credit for working with us and the attorneys general to reach a comprehensive agreement in such a hotly contested case,” said Jeff D. Friedman, Hagens Berman partner. “They’ve agreed to a settlement that will go a long way toward making e-book consumers whole and restoring a thriving, again-competitive e-book marketplace.”
While the terms of the settlement have been agreed upon, it is still ultimately up to the courts to decide if these terms meet the best interests of the consumers. Those proceedings will get underway later this summer, while the lawsuits brought against Apple are slated to begin next month.
While US lawmakers continue to debate the merits or lack of justification for in-flight bans on electronic devices, Australian airlines Qantas is taking a different approach by commissioning a series of paperback books that are the perfect length for an extended flight. The series, called “A Story for Every Journey,” will be published by Hachette and feature some of the more popular genres based on typical airport sales like thrillers and non-fiction.
“It occurred to us that, in this world of Kindles and iPads, the last bastion of the humble, paperback novel is actually at 40,000 feet,” said Droga5 Sydney Creative Chairman David Nobay in an interview with Advertising Age. “Just take a look at the bulging shelves at any airport bookstore. But, for all its relative clumsiness, there’s an unmistakably reassuring charm about thumbing through a good book as you recline amongst the clouds.”
These flight-length titles will be created with the purpose of allowing passengers to finish their books just as the flights land, even allowing for time for passengers to sleep or stop reading for meals on longer flights. The estimates on book length are actually calculated based on average reading speed.
“According to our literary friends at Hachette, the average reader consumes between 200 and 300 words per minute, which equates to about a page per minute,” said Mr. Nobay. That idea was applied more specifically to the shorter novels and flights, but “for the longer flights, we accommodated some napping time and meals,” Mr. Nobay said. “After a few hours with a fine Qantas in-flight meal with Australian Shiraz, most people need a break from reading.”
If this concept in reading takes off (pun intended) and if lawmakers insist on holding to strict regulations on the use of mobile devices during air travel, there is potential for a surge in not only print-reading, but also a shift towards more books being written with an intentional audience already in mind.
Sid Display Week is happening right now in Vancouver, BC. This conference mainly showcases the latest screen technology for smartphones, televisions, advertising, and, of course, e-readers. We talked to some of the leading companies today and got their outlook on how the current e-reader landscape is shaping up and where the industry might go later this year and into 2014.
The e-reader industry is not as alluring as it once was. Over 24 million e-readers will be shipped this year, according to E Ink and Freescale Semi-Conductors. The competition and radical price-drops in this sector are benefiting customers with low-prices of some really quality stuff, but it’s dissuading many companies from entering in or getting out.
Neonode, Mirasol, Plastic Logic, Pixel Qi, Bridgestone, and many other companies have entered the competitive landscape of e-readers over the course of the last few years. Almost all of them have abandoned making devices and either got out completely or turned to licensing their technology to other companies. Bridgestone and Plastic Logic got out of making devices and abandoned the sector altogether. Pixel Qi turned to licensing its plastic display screens to government, military, and private businesses. Even the head boss Mary Lou Jepsen jumped ship and is now working for Google as the Head of the Display Division. Qualcomm decided against participating in the e-reader space and instead is working on smartphones and wearable technology. Neonode has something cooking in its RND labs and announced a new IR display screen, but details are minimal.
E Ink, the e-paper found in almost all of the current generation e-readers on the market, is optimistic. Most companies that make readers based on their technology will continue to do so for the next few years. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Sony, Pocketbook, Ectaco, and Bookeen remained committed to the spirit of digital reading devices.
So how will e-readers change in the next few years? Freescale thinks that many companies will begin to shift towards its i.MX6 Solo processors. The chip has 256 KB of L2 Cache and compatible with 32 bit DDR3 memory chips. It will provide e-readers with faster page turns and a better experience than the current crop of i.MX5 processors that are getting a little bit long in the tooth. We will also continue to see larger screens come down the pipe, as evident in the new Sony 13.3 inch e-reader. It is geared towards academics and PDF enthusiasts. E Ink verified with us that the new flexible display panel can be tailored towards any size, it depends on the cut. So we may see a resurgence in 9.7 inch e-readers that have the weight reduced significantly.
Onyx Boox, Qualcomm, Yota, and E Ink think that secondary e-paper screens are the way the industry is moving right now. Google Glasses is the poster child for wearable technology and the internet is rife with Apple iWatch rumors. The truth is, e-paper watches have been around since the Pebble captured the Kickstater imagination by offering a pseudo e-paper experience and pairing it with your smartphone. Onyx, Yota, and Mirasol all think that secondary displays on the back of your phone is the way to go. E Ink formed a relationship with Japan based Seiko a few years ago. They have been pumping out e-paper watches for awhile, and the technology is fairly refined.
It will be interesting to see if the broad non-urban type of customer would adopt a secondary display on their phone. Potential uses include Maps, Google Now, Text Messages, and other features. There is an air of uncertainty at SID on the customers, but vendors are expressing a ton of interest.
There is one major trend this year at SID in relation to e-paper: advertising. We talked to many small companies involved in digital signage, and they are all marketing e-paper price tags, screens merged together for retail signs, freezer tags, and grocery store fare. E Ink announced two major new technologies at SID, and focused on this emerging sector. I think the company is realizing it can’t have all of its eggs in one basket and is branching away from its bread and butter market. Many small companies have told us that grocery stores and retail are responding in a big way. The tech is still too expensive to replace paper in the short term and only the majors can afford it. Still, there is something alluring at being able to update billboards and price tags on the fly. There is strong WIFI integration with this technology, so you can change the price without having to replace them manually. If it was raining outside, you could set a dynamic program to reduce the prices on umbrellas. Lord knows we need them in Vancouver.
To sum it all up, e-readers will remain relevant for the next two years. They will become faster and more responsive. There will also be more choice in the different sizes of screens available, as many vendors are starting to deviate from the six inch standard. You will start to see more e-paper in the retail and produce environment, and secondary display screens will start to emerge.
During the SID Display Week in Vancouver BC, we got our hands on one of the new e-readers that Pocketbook announced a few weeks ago. The Pocketbook Touch Lux is the new kid on the block, and we go hands-on to check out what this device brings to the table.
The Pocketbook Touch Lux features the same HD E Ink Pearl display found on the Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Glo. The exact resolution is 1024×758 and has a front-lit display, which is optimal for reading in the dark. It also has 256 MB of RAM, 4 GB of internal memory, and a SD card support for up to 32 GB of memory. Battery life should be good up to 7,000 page turns. It also has an audio jack so you can listen to audiobooks and music.
Sometimes Pocketbook e-Readers feel particularly slow. I have a feeling that most of the internal components are selected from Ricks Restorations bone yard. If you have ever seen the show, it features a slew of crazy characters in Las Vegas that buy and repair vintage items and make them as good as new. Regular viewers of the show are familiar with his bone yard, where rusted items go to die and are cannibalized for parts for existing projects. It feels like Pocketbook paid a visit to said bone yard and randomly selected old computers and beat up monitors and threw them into the Lux.
Still, there are some cool features found on this e-reader. Pocketbook borrowed a page out of Kobo’s playbook by adopting its own statistical ebook menu. It shows you how many books or pages you have turned. You can also share some of your reading habits with your friends via Facebook.