Sony Japan originally designed and manufactured all generations of the Digital Paper e-note. They released the DPT-S1, DPT-RP1 and DPT-CP1 over the course of the past six years. Intitially, these E INK based devices were only sold in Japan, until the US business unit formed and primarily focused on selling them to businesses and eventually to consumers via Amazon. Last year, the US Sony branch closed their offices and all of the staff were fired, except the executives who all retired. The Digital Paper unit continues to exist in Japan, but they have just confirmed with Good e-Reader that they are no longer selling the devices to businesses, nor consumers through retail sites such as Amazon or Rakuten. The Digital Paper as we know it, is officially discontinued in Japan. This includes not only the device, but also replacement nibs, cases and replacement stylus.
Sony has been a pioneer in the e-reader industry. They were the first mainstream brand to develop an e-reader. It was called the Sony Librie and came out in 2004. It was the very first commercial e-ink device, and was sold only in Japan, but many devices were sold in the US through online retailers, since it had a third-party English OS upgrade. This reader was the result of a three-year collaboration between Sony, Philips, Toppan printing and E Ink Corporation. The Sony PRS-500 was known as “A Reader” in their promotional and marketing campaign. This was the first device that Sony marketed outside Japan and was released in September 2006. This was one year before Amazon unveiled their own Kindle reader.
Over the next 7 years Sony released many different models, opened up a digital bookstore and really tried. In 2014 they discovered that the worldwide market was too firmly entrenched and decided to close their Reader Store and abandon e-readers altogether. This was primarily attributed to the success of the Kindle, which was cheaper than the Sony and had a better bookstore. Amazon at the time, was taking a loss on selling the hardware and ebooks, to get market share. Barnes and Noble was also one of the main reasons, thanks to their 700 bookstores selling the Nook, and Kobo was a huge force to be reckoned with in international markets.
Sony decided to take the lessons they have learned from making consumer E INK products and decided to pivot. The same year, the consumer division closed they decided to focus on the Digital Paper, the first of a new breed of products that was marketed as replacing paper in the office. It was designed to freehand draw, take notes and edit PDF files. It was an imitate success, thanks to the WACOM screen. The DPT-S1 was a new breed of product, never seen before. It did not take very long for other companies to get a piece of the professional market, in the ensuring years Onyx Boox, Boyue, Supernote, Remarkable and many other brands released their own products and graduadually refined them over time to have capacitive touchscreen displays, front-lights and eventually color.
What is next for Sony? They have developed a new product that takes the spirit of the Digital Paper, except they will have an E INK Kaleido 3 screen and should come out in Japan in June or July of 2021. The technology was co-developed by a company called Linfiny, which is a joint partnership between E INK and Sony. The The Digital Paper DPT-CP1 Color will be the first commercial product they have ever released and it is unknown if they will whit label the device to other companies or if Sony will will take the reigns and release it themselves. When I asked Sony reps about this, they did not rule it out. The Linfiny DPT-CP1 Color will have a 10.3 inch E INK Carta 1250 display and E INK Kaleido 2.5 color filter array. The B&W resolution is 1404 x 1872 at 227 PPI. The color resolution is currently unknown, ditto with the exact number of colors that it is capable of displaying. We do know that with Kaleido 2, it can only display 4,096 colors at 100 PPI, but from what we noticed with our comprehensive hands on experience, that it seemed to be capable of more colors and a higher PPI.
There are no large screen e-note with a color screen right now, that aren’t exclusively aimed at the Chinese market. Sony could likely beat everyone else to the punch with a 10.3 inch digital note taker, as long as the price is right. It would also be important to be able to switch the language from Japanese to English, something that the DPT-RP1 and DPT-CP1 could do. Why would you buy a Onyx Boox Note 3 or Remarkable 2, if a company like Sony, did the same thing, but with a glorious color display. At least, we won’t have to wait that long, summer is not too far away and leaks are bound to happen sometime in the next month.
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.