e-Reader technology has come a long way since the first Kindle hit the market in 2007. Not only have the prices come down from over $300 for your standard six inch device, but e-paper has been polished and more refined. Companies such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo invest copious amounts of money in research and development to give customers the best reading experience possible. But, what would constitute the ultimate e-reader?
Good e-Reader has been reviewing dedicated e-ink devices since 2008 and we have really seen the industry grow. The devices in 2014 all offer faster page turns and really high resolution to make reading much more intuitive. We have looked at hundreds of different devices that come out over the years and we really have a sense on what customers want in an e-reader and what features everyone yearns for. Today, we look at the e-paper technology, hardware and features that would capture the imagination of millions of digital readers.
The Ultimate e-reader
Six inches – The most common screen size of e-readers today is six inches, because its more pocket friendly and many shells bought from China price has come down dramatically. Larger e-readers are possible, but the reason they are so expensive is because all of the internals cost more due to the lack of mass production.
1430 x 1080 resolution – This is currently the benchmark established by the Kindle Voyage for the highest resolution in the world. Most e-readers on the market have 1024 X 758 which look quite a bit dated by 2014-2015 standards. The future of e-readers is super high resolution and at least 300 PPI.
e-Ink Mobius – Mobius uses a TFT technology that will enable the development of much lighter and rugged products. Mobius displays can weigh less than 50% of an equivalent glass based TFT. This is particularly important for mobile products requiring larger display areas, such as the Sony Digital Paper and Pocketbook CAD Flex.
Capacitive Touchscreen – Many e-readers still employ Neonode IR touchscreen technology which provides a diminished experience for people used to interacting with their smartphones and tablets. The ultimate e-reader would have the same type of capacitive touch with the screen flush with the bezel. Notable e-readers that have this are the Kobo Aura and Tolinio Vision 2.
Front-Lit Display (Glowlight) – Smartphones and tablets use LCD screen technology that have the light emitting from behind the screen into your eyes. A new study from the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute shows that a two-hour exposure to electronic devices with self-luminous “backlit” displays causes melatonin suppression, which might lead to delayed bedtimes, especially in teens. Front-Lit displays have 4-6 LED lights that project light evenly across the screen, not into your eyes. The 3rd generation lighting system has been very polished and refined.
Flexible rubber housing – Only the Pocketbook CAD and Wexler Flex One have flexible rubber housing and it allows it to be more durable for transportation and daily use.
Hybrid Magnesium Alloy – The Kindle Voyage has this new technology on the back , it prevents finger oil from staining it.
1.2 GHZ Duel Core processor – In order for a more optimized experience when opening books, accessing menu features and running apps, a dual core processor is a must.
1 GB of RAM – Many of the most popular e-readers out there only have 128 or 512 MB of RAM. Having additional RAM would step up the performance and allow for larger buffering system for multitasking.
SD card – Many e-readers these days forgo the SD card in order to promote their own cloud services. SD Cards are really important because you don’t need to rely on WIFI to download content.
Audio – e-Reader companies these days have all abandoned audio in order to provide the lowest cost device possible. The ultimate e-reader would have stereo speakers, preferably Dolby Audio and a 3.55 mm headphone jack. This would allow users to listen to music and audiobooks.
Microphone – This would allow people to interact with the e-reader and give voice command prompts. It would also allow people to use the audio chat feature found in apps like Skype or Whatsapp Messenger.
Ivonna Text to Speech – One of the big reasons why schools have not embraced e-readers in a big way is because of the lack of accessibility for people who are visually disabled. The Ivonna system would allow every single aspect of the interface to have audio. Disabled people would be able to say “Open Audio Player” and “Play Audiobook X”. If they don’t have any audiobooks they could simply buy e-Books via audio command prompts and then have the books read to them.
Camera that takes pictures in e-ink – The Pocketbook Ultra is the only e-reader in the world with a built in camera. It has built in OCR software to be able to scan books or just snap selfies. Sadly, when you take pictures and export them to your computer, they are not in high resolution greyscale e-ink, but full color. The ultimate e-reader would take pictures and export them in black and white.
Duel Band WIFI – Wireless internet access has never really changed in e-reader technology and smartphones/tablets have all embraced duel band WIFI. This allows for content to be downloaded faster, such as larger dictionaries or apps.
3G/4G Micro SIM – Amazon is the only company left that still provides data access, so customers can buy eBooks while outside a WIFI zone. Having the ability to buy your own low-cost data plan through your local provider would not limit you anymore and you can buy content on vacation, at the cabin or beach. It would certainly allow for more impulse buys and offload the cost of the data to the customer.
Extensive Dictionary Support – Many e-readers ship with a single dictionary, depending on the region you live in. The ultimate e-reader would have all of the major European and Asian languages available to download.
Expanded Font Support – Many e-readers only ship with six different font types and 12 variations of size. I think its important to have a lower selection of fonts, to not confuse your average user but borrow a page out of Kobos playbook by allowing users to load in their own fonts they buy or download online. Reading a newspaper is far more effective in Times New Roman, than generic font #8.
Android OS – The biggest trend of 2014 has been the shift from Linux based operating systems for e-readers to Android. Icarus, Onyx and Pocketbook have been the only companies laughing modern devices with a vanilla version of Android. This is very important, as it doesn’t lock users down into any one specific ecosystem, but instead gives them freedom.
Bluetooth and GPS – There are not many e-readers at all in the world that have GPS and Bluetooth technology, but they should. This would allow users to transfer books from their computer to their e-reader without having to plug it into their PC. It would also allow people to plug in external speakers, like a Beats Pill or keyboard. In addition the GPS aspect would allow people to use new technology to prevent theft.
Anti-Theft Software – Taking advantage of the GPS technology in the ultimate e-reader a simple app, such as “Find my e-Reader” would allow people to track down their device if they misplaced or lost it. It would also be able to remotely wipe all personal information if it were to be stolen, limiting the possibilities of identity theft
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.