E Ink has invested over $600 million USD on color e-paper technology in the past ten years. Triton 1 and 2 were the first products and only a small handful of companies took the gamble on it. Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn once told me that the colors just looked too washed out and customers wouldn’t accept it. E Ink wanted to give up when this tech failed and they contemplated giving up. E Ink has confirmed with Good e-Reader that they are working on a number of color e-paper solutions that should appeal towards mass market products.
There are a few experiments currently happening at E Ink. One of them is trying to incorporate Advanced Color E-Paper, which was originally developed for digital signage, not e-readers. Currently the technology does not have waveform compatibility, so it is good for static images, but not good for fast page turns. E Ink has confirmed with Good e-Reader that they are working on ways to increase the performance. They would not tell me how they intend on doing this, but it is very likely a new waveform controller, instead of Regal.
E Ink recently invested millions of dollars into Plastic Logic for the backplane technology and OTFT drivers. This has prompted E Ink to begin the prototyping process using the 600 PPI OTFT Plastic Logic Backplanes to work with AcEP. Manufacturing the organic Plastic Logic screens are easier, because they need a lower temperature and therefore are most cost effective. The backplanes are also more robust and durable. E Ink
One of the more intriguing things E Ink is working on is a new color filter array. I could not find out if they were using the same Plastic Logic array that could project red, green, blue and different shades of each color. The Onyx Boox Youngy Book, geared towards education, was the first commercial product to use it.
These are just a few of the things E Ink President Johnson Lee talked about to me today. He also wanted to refute the article published in Digitimes, about how color e-paper will be ready for 2020. There was something lost in translation and no official release date for color e-paper has been made yet. I think the 2020 date was a little too optimistic.
E Ink is basically very bullish about color e-paper and says it’s their destiny to make it right. They need to get color working to land big contracts from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Onyx, Boyue and other players.
At least we know they are serious now about color.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.