Archive for E-Paper
e-Reader technology does not improve at the exponential rate as tablets and smartphones do. New e-paper comes out every two or three years and there seldom is a compelling enough reason to spend a hundred dollars to buy a new device. Once in awhile new e-readers like the Kindle Voyage and Kobo H2O comes out and pack in new features not seen before. So the question is, what would make you upgrade your e-reader?
Over the course of the last 13 days we ran a poll on Good e-Reader and poised a new series of questions on what type of new hardware features that would make them spend their money and upgrade their existing device.
The number one thing that people want to see on a new e-reader is colored e-paper. 56 people that represented 24% of the entire vote want to see e-Ink Triton 2, Liquavista or new technology on a mainstream e-reader. We have reviewed every single colored e-reader on the market and its not there yet. I would like to see an investment of new technology that would not only give people a solid color e-reader, but also carry over to devices like the Yotaphone 3 or smartwatches.
New e-paper technology came into second place with 40 votes (17.5%). The latest and greatest is E-Ink Carta and it originally came out in 2013. Only a handful of e-readers currently employ this technology, such as the Kobo H2O, Kindle Paperwhite 2 and Voyage. Lately, the price has decreased and a number of 3rd party companies are starting to issue new devices.
The problem, is that Carta is over two years old and I think people want to see higher resolution screens and the true elimination of full page refreshes. People want an e-reader that is indistinguishable from a real book.
39 people (17.1) of the vote said that they wanted a larger screen. The industry standard is six inches and once in awhile someone bucks the trend and does something a bit bigger. The Kobo H2O and Aura HD was 6.8 inches, Cybook Ocean 8 inches and Onyx Boox i86 is also 8 inches. Sometimes they even get a bit larger, such as the Icarus Excel and Amazon Kindle DX. The problem with 9.7 inch e-readers is the price is often over $350 and people tend not to want to invest that much in a singular purchase digital reader.
Still, apparently people are tired of six inch e-readers. The most common thing people wanted was an A4 screen, 10 inch screen or a company like Amazon to release an 8 inch e-reader.
The other most notable poll result was the fact people want to see Android on more e-readers. I have been lobbying for years that companies such as Barnes and Noble should firmly embrace an open version of Google Android and optimize the Nook App Store for e-ink devices. Many European brands such as Icarus, Onyx, Energy Sistem and Boyue have released e-readers with either Google Play or the Good e-Reader App Store. This gives people the ability to not be locked into any one specific book ecosystem and give true freedom to deal with whatever company you want. Sadly, the average person has not heard of these small European companies before and want a mainstream e-reader with a vanilla version of Android.
Over the course of the last year many companies have expressed interest about designing and marketing a 13.3 inch e-reader. Many of the devices currently in development are in limo and the only customer to actively bring a device to market, is Sony. Where in the world are the 13.3 inch e-readers?
There are two prevailing technologies used in large screen e-readers. E Ink Fina is the cheaper option, since its made of glass, but its not very viable in a 13.3 inch device due to the fact it can easily shatter and is not very portable. The other technology is Mobius, which is what the Sony Digital Paper employs. It features a plastic screen, so its very flexible and lightweight, but tremendously expensive.
Without any fanfare the Pocketbook CAD was at an e Ink booth in January 2014 at CES. It featured a 13.3 inch screen and utilized Fina. The device was designed for construction business, designed to work on construction sites with dump & moisture proof body
In December 2014 Pocketbook announced that they had developed a second e-reader called the Pocketbook CAD Flex. This model upgraded from a glass based Fina e-paper screen to a 13.3 inch Mobius panel. This is the exact same screen that the popular Sony Digital Paper employs. The processor was increased to a 1.5 GHz dual-core CPU, but the RAM was decreased to 512 MB and internal storage lowered to 8 GB. They also mentioned that the final price will be around $574.00.
Onyx has not officially announced anything yet, but the are developing a 13.3 inch e-reader. They basically said back in 2014 they wanted to do it, but nothing really has been heard about it yet. We do have some new rumors surrounding the device though.
The Onyx 13.3 inch e-reader will have a functioning prototype this Autumn. This device will employ an e-Ink Mobius display, but the plastic screens are still terribly expensive and the company wants the display to come down in price. Technically they could release it in two months but it will be at such a high price, that few people would pay the money for one.
Not very much market research has been done on the mass production costs of Fina and Mobius display screens or how much money users would fork over to buy an 13.3 inch alternative to the DPT-S1. So the question is, how much would you pay for one?
E-Paper technology has gone through a number of iterations over the years. Some of been widely adopted by companies like Amazon, B&N or Kobo and others were relegated into obscurity. The best new screen is called Carta and is currently employed by the Kindle Voyage, Kindle Paperwhite 2, Kobo H2O and Kobo Glo HD. In the near future, with Carta prices coming down we will soon see a ton of new e-readers adopt this technology.
E Ink Carta first debuted in early 2013 and the primary benefit is a dramatic 50% increase in contrast over earlier generations of ePaper, giving e-Readers a contrast ratio close to that of a paperback book. It also offers a better refresh rate when you are turning the pages of a book. I think what I like best about Carta is that it has support for ultra high resolution screens.
Until the last few months, Carta has been very expensive and could only be viable for the companies who sell both e-readers and operate their own digital bookstore. Due to the aging nature of the technology we will soon see new e-readers such as the Energy Sistem PRO+, Boyue T62+, Icarus and the new Onyx BOOX C67ML Darwin.
The one trend I have noticed with all of these upcoming products is that they are reissues. Instead of these companies developing a brand new e-reader they are simply just adopting the Carta screen on existing products and often giving them the + moniker.
I am eagerly waiting new products hopefully towards the end of the year that have been designed from the bottom up, with a high resolution screen and Carta e-paper. People want a 3rd party reader that isn’t locked into a specific ecosystem and runs a vanilla version of Android. This empowers people to be able to install any digital reading app they want.
Over the course of the last few years e-readers have dramatically come down in price. They once cost over three hundred dollars and now a quality device will cost less than a hundred. How have companies managed to reduce costs, while still maintaining high build quality? The answer is surprising.
The Amazon Kindle Basic, Kobo Glo HD and Barnes and Noble Nook Glowlight all have infrared touch, instead of a capacitive touchscreen. The technology powering these e-readers is infrared technology from a company called Neonode.
Neonode zForce technology consists of a set of light emitters and detectors, an optical light guide with lenses and a touch controller IC that is connected to a host. The host run Neonode´s proprietary embedded software stack and are connected to the touch controller(s). The touch controller IC regulates the light emitters and they send out short pulses of light just above the touch surface (or into a glass or fluid). The touch controller continuously monitor the light that is collected by the detectors and check the ambient light scene and try to calibrate the system to work in all light conditions. When a slight intensity shift of the received light occur the software try to find what has happen and initiate tracking of the object that is on the surface. The size and position of the touch object (i.e. a finger) is reported back to the host. By combining the measured value from a number of detectors, the touch position and object size are calculated. Compensations are also made for dust, wear out and other small particles on the optical surfaces as well as for variation in component quality.
With zForce technology enabled touch screens you enjoy complete freedom of design as there is no requirement for a layered glass or plastic film that overlay the display surface. The result is a 100% optical transparency window with consistent image quality and no glare combined with industry’s lowest cost.
One of the benefits of Z-Force is that you can interact with your device via a Stylus. Some of the more modern e-readers can actually register multiple points of touch, allowing you to pinch and zoom. For the most part, the average consumer would be hard pressed to tell the difference between capacitive and IR.
Neonode is likely the biggest little company in the e-reader sector and they are responsible for the touchscreen technology found in most e-readers on the market. In 2012 they had a staggering 80% market-share as the e-reader boom was in full effect.
The company has just announced their latest earnings for the three months of the year, ending March 31, 2015. Neonode generated $2.3 million, compared to net revenues for the three months ended March 31, 2014 of $1.0 million.
The increase of 123% in net revenues is mainly due to license fee revenues from their HP printers, e-Readers with Amazon and Infotainment systems with various automotive customers.
I find it deeply concerning that whenever Neonode reports fiscal earnings they start and end with Amazon. They simply don’t mention other companies, such as Barnes and Noble or Kobo. Is the entire e-reader sector Amazon? Well, they are responsible for 75% of all e-book sales in the US and 95% in the United Kingdom.
Neonode will likely be relevant in the e-reader industry for a number of years, as the industry is in a race to the bottom. Everyone is trying to cut costs anyway they can. The average e-reader now has no audio functionality, SD card, keyboard, Bluetooth or an accelerometer.
Kobo has verified that they will not employ color technology on any of their dedicated e-paper e-readers. Michael Tamblyn the President of Kobo said that color screens and interactive features would continue “on the tablet and app side”, which now accounts for half of Kobo’s business.
Color e-paper has really never taken off in the commercial space because both developers and users claim the screens always look “washed out”. E-Ink Triton is notorious for this because of the RGB color filter. Each color pixel is formed with 4 dots which means the end result is always halved. For example the Ectaco Jetbook Color had a greyscale resolution of 1600×1200, but when you viewed something in color it was 800×600.
Qualcomm spent a copious amount of money and four years developing Mirasol technology. It was billed as an alternative existing Color e-Paper solutions on the market. It was based on IMOD (Interferometric MODulation), with MEMS structures at its core. This MEMS-based innovation is bistable & highly reflective, meaning the display itself can be seen in direct sunlight. There were only a handful of devices ever made, most notably the Kyobo e-reader sold in Korea. Qualcomm abandoned this tech for the e-reader space and tried to get smartphone and smartwatch companies to embrace it, but failed to do so.
The only other color e-paper that might be commercially viable is Liquavista which is currently in limbo after Amazon purchased it in 2013. I spoke to Kurt Petersdorff, the Commercial Director of Liquavista, around a year ago when it still belonged to Samsung. I wanted to find out what made this e-paper different from e-Ink. The essence of Liquavista is Electrowetting technology that is highly scalable. From a manufacturing point of view, it is easy for existing LCD plants to incorporate Electrowetting into its process. It is basically the same entire procedure to create the screen, except instead of using Liquid Crystals they use a different fill. One of the huge benefits of Liquavista technology is that it is flexible, which means it is much more robust. It is similar to the same type of display that LG uses in the Wexler Flex One. If you have ever dropped an iPad or an iPhone, you know the LCD glass breaks rather easily because it is extremely inflexible.
I think Kobo is making the right call to basically say they will never release a color e-reader. The technology is too immature and companies aren’t innovating in this sector.
One of the big innovations in the e-reader industry was the advent of built in lightning called “frontlight.” The Barnes and Noble Nook with Glowlight was the first model to include this technology in late 2013 and the rest of the industry embraced it quickly. With all of the different e-readers on the market how do you know your model has a really good light system? We have been extensively documenting it for many years on our YouTube channel but Pocketbook has taken a scientific approach.
Pocketbook has just released a new technical document that takes a look at high frequency ripples throughout the entire brightness range. To be honest, I have never seen so many e-readers documented at once and look at things like the Ripple frequency or Ripple coefficient.
The e-readers Pocketbook evaluates in this test include the Tolino Vision 2, Kobo Aura H2O, Kobo Aura, Kindle Voyage, Cybook Odyssey HD, and the Pocketbook Sense.
The Sony Digital Paper is experiencing robust sales to industry professionals who demand a large e-paper screen. In order to broaden their reach and scope, Sony has just announced a price reduction on the DPT-S1 from $999 to $799.
The Sony Digital Paper originally hit the market one year ago and the intention behind this 13.3 e-reader was establishing a new product category. Instead of being aimed at consumers, like Amazon and Kobo, Sony made the gambit of constructing a device aimed exclusively towards people who need a world class PDF experience.
The DPT-S1 Digital Paper was first available at $1200 and higher education, lawyers and people involved in entertainment were the first ones to purchase the device. Once Sony had established an extensive sales record they discounted the price to $999 and started to sell it online to anyone who wanted one. The $799 price point now makes the Digital Paper extremely viable to not only professionals now, but the average consumer.
If you pay attention to the e-reader sector you would have inevitably heard of e-ink Mobius. This is a flexible plastic based material that Sony had co-developed with e Ink Holdings. It weights 50% less than your traditional glass based TFT display and despite the 13.3 inch nature of the screen, it weighs less than a 9.7 inch Kindle DX.
Sony has pioneered a new market for e-readers and this has spurned their competition into developing new products. Pocketbook is developing a 13.3 inch solution called the CAD, which is aimed at architects and designers who tend to use 3D modeling programs such as Maya or 3D Studio Max. Dasung has developed a 13.3 inch display that was designed to be a secondary screen for a PC and Onyx is in the process of making a commercial version of a 13.3 inch e-reader aimed at people who love reading e-book novels.
The price reduction from $999 to $799 is primarily attributed to making the DPT-S1 more accessible. Likely this price will make sense to a lot of people looking for a large screen reader to use in their professional life.
The six inch e-reader market is heavily saturated and many serious readers are looking for a large screen alternative. The Sony Digital Paper 13.3 inch e-reader fits the bill, but was only designed to read PDF files and is quite expensive at $999. Onyx is in the process of making a consumer grade e-reader using a 13.3 inch screen and employing e-ink Mobius that will be released this October.
A source close to the situation has told Good e-Reader that “Onyx could have done a technologically sound big e-reader some time ago, but they are afraid the price would discourage the potential buyers. At the moment the Mobius screen costs around $600. The end product could cost 700-750 €/$. I don’t know why the company finally decided to run the risk, but Onyx now thinks there is a substantial market even at the higher price tag.”
e Ink Mobius is perfect for large screen displays because it was developed to weigh less than 50% of an equivalent glass based TFT and maintain flexibility. This is particularly important for mobile products. The standard 13.3 inch screen has a resolution of 1200×1600 pixels with 150 PPI, which is fairly solid to read digital content such as books, magazines, newspapers and technical documents.
The new Onyx 13.3 inch e-reader will likely be running Google Android 4.4 and this will allow users to install their own apps. This is particularly important because you can simply install the Kindle, Kobo or Nook app to buy and read e-books in a multitude of formats.
The Kindle is the most popular e-reader of all time and e-ink screens are what makes the technology possible. Lately, dedicated reading devices have been seeing diminished sales and e-paper is being employed on keyboards, digital signage and now fashion.
A new Indiegogo project started by Lithuania-based iShüu Technologies is betting that e Ink is perfect for shoes. You can control the patterns and colors via a mobile app and automatically change the color, based on your outfit. They also have tangible customization options, such as bows and flows.
“The Volvorii’s clean, elegant, sturdy design brings gravitas, respect and formality in an unmistakable way,” the campaign page reads. “Whether you are a CEO at the apex of your industry or a prospective intern who got it as a graduation present going for your first interview in the corporate world, the Volvorii will carry you with grace.”
For the girl who has everything you can pick it up from the campaign page for $249 plus shipping.
People are attracted to secondary screens for their home computing setup. It allows you to multitask effectively and allows for some serious customization. e-Reader lovers know that e-paper is very easy on the eyes and great for long term reading sessions. Is it viable as a true secondary screen though? DaSung is hoping yes.
The 13.3 Inch e-ink screen was developed exclusively to function as a secondary display. It is utilizing an e Ink Fina screen that has a resolution of 1600 x 1200 and 150 PPI. If you never heard of this before, it is currently being used on the Pocketbook CAD and Sony DPT-S1 Digital Paper. Basically, Fina is a glass based TFT technology that uses a very thin glass substrate to deliver products that are much lighter and thinner than what is possible with standard LCD displays. Fina displays weigh less than 50% of the weight of an equivalent glass based TFT and are less than 50% of the thickness as well.
The monitor right now has a few different refresh mode options, similar to how the Onyx E-Readers have the varies A2 enhancements. Basically, you will be able to scroll around really fast and gain solid resolution when you want to work on something or consume media.
It is only available in China right now, but international residents can order one. It is retailing for $645 – $970 US and available via the DaSung website.