E INK has been employed on almost every single commercially successful e-readers from 2007 and onwards. The Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Pocketbook, Onyx Boox, Likebook and Sony have always used black and white screens. All of these devices might be put out to pasture soon and become totally irrelevant with the advent of modern color e-paper.
Color e-paper in 2020 is also called Kaleido, which is the marketing name for Print Color. This technology utilizes a new Color Filter Array (CFA) in conjunction with Carta HD. The new printing process alleviates the need for a glass-based CFA, making the displays thinner and lighter than previous generations, while simultaneously having higher optical quality. This allows e-reader companies to combine the power of traditional black and white displays with color for a more fully realized ebook shopping experience.
Kaleido e-paper can produce color for each pixel that is displayed on the screen. This includes red, green, blue, black or white. Colors can be combined to give you different colors or shades. The way it works is if you want light blue, blue will be toned down and white will be brighter. If you want orange, then yellow and red would be blended. It will ultimately display over 4,096 different color combinations.
E INK has told Good e-reader about the grayscale and color system. “This is simplest way to think of it. The B/W ePaper module is capable of producing 16 grayscale which is 2^4. E Ink Kakeido is a non-glass-based CFA comprised of RGB. Each of the RGB has 16 levels of intensity and so 2^4 x 3 = 4096 colors.”
A handful of color devices have been announced and some have them are already on the market. We just reviewed the iReader C6, a device from iFlytek is coming out soon and the Pocketbook Color will debut in late June or early July. Onyx is developing a color e-reader and currently refining the user experience. It is very likely that other companies are working on their own devices.
When we compared the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 4 against the iReader C6, there was no competition. The color device blew the Kindle out of the water in ebook reading, comic books and PDF files. Amazon might have to develop a color Kindle soon, or most people will not upgrade and might switch to alternative brands. Amazon is hardly a trendsetter when it comes to e-readers, they are reactionary, they wait until something is proven, before incorporating it into a design. This was evident with their front-lit display, color temperature system and playing audiobooks via Bluetooth, not to mention 300 PPI screens.
I believe unless Amazon adopts a color display on a Kindle, to be released this year, they are going to lose ground among the hardcore. These are the kind of people that have multiple devices, or buy a new Kindle every single year. If they see all of these other brands developing color e-readers, and Amazon doing nothing, will drive them away. If Amazon does not do a color e-reader for at least one more product cycle, such as no new color Kindle in 2020, this might be the final nail in the coffin to drive casual users to competing brands that do have 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.