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The Development of E-Paper Technology 117

Posted by Soulskill
from the ubiquitous-and-cheap-please dept.
Computerworld takes a look at the development and the future of e-paper. Brought into the mainstream by e-book readers such as the Kindle, e-paper is rapidly becoming its own industry. The article notes some of the current limitations of the technology and looks ahead to a few of the upcoming ideas, such as the Fujitsu Fabric PC. Quoting: "The resolution of EPD screens is improving rapidly. Active-matrix displays like those used on the current generation of e-book readers can work at relatively high resolutions (the Kindle screen displays 167 pixels per inch), and Seiko Epson recently showed off an A4-size (13.4-in.) display prototype with 3104 by 4128 resolution, about 385 ppi, that uses E Ink's electrophoretic ink on a Si-TFT glass substrate."
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The Development of E-Paper Technology

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  • one page version (Score:5, Informative)

    by larry bagina (561269) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @01:26PM (#23701061) Journal
    The printable version [computerworld.com]
  • by f97tosc (578893) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @01:27PM (#23701063)
    The biggest challenge is that ebooks still cost almost as much as paper books, and distributors still take more than 50% for simply having the files on their servers. This is to be expected from Amazon, who make most of their money selling paper books, but I think I will wait until some independent alternatives come up selling cheap ebooks, and giving 90%+ to the authors.
    • by ndogg (158021) <`the.rhorn' `at' `gmail.com'> on Sunday June 08, 2008 @01:33PM (#23701095) Homepage Journal
      One would think that they would have figured this how with how successful their MP3 biz has been. I guess they have different folk working in the Kindle dept.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nyeerrmm (940927)
      I'd agree, but at this point I dont think the appeal is price. Its partially the coolness, like a nerdier iphone, and partially the convenience. I'm a student and move around a lot, so being able to keep a large collection of paperbacks without the necessary bulk of boxes is really appealing; of course, you still want real dead-trees for textbooks and such. I can also imagine if you fly a lot, its nice to be able to finish a book, hop on the internet, and buy a new one, rather than walk to the opposite t
      • What coolness? Kindles are selling like Zunes. Amazon wanted to make the iPod of ebook readers, and they ended up making the Zune of ebook readers.
        • by hkmarks (1080097) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @04:25PM (#23702231)
          I think lack of sales, if that was an issue, are probably a supply problem rather than demand. Anyway.

          There are tons of shortcomings with the Kindle that prevented it from being as popular as the iPod. Unfortunately it doesn't look like Amazon really looked for input before launch. Frankly, I heard about it less than a week before it was launched. The lack of hype probably didn't help, but there are problems with the device itself.

          1) Books are less popular or "cool" than music. Books are not "status symbols" unless you're trying to look well-read... and then it'd be better to have a bookshelf of leather-bound tomes.
          iPods play music (which can be passively consumed for a long period of time and thus has more apparent value)

          2) A good portion of the books that people want to read will never be available on the Kindle.

          3) It's difficult to put the books you already own onto the Kindle.
          Music CDs (and other formats, with some effort) can easily be transferred to an iPod. iTunes made a large library of music available.

          4) The Kindle is not cool looking. It has too many buttons, it looks a bit cheap, the screen can't be appreciated from photos.
          The iPod is clean, distinctive, and simple-looking.

          5) The Kindle is only available online from Amazon. That is, when it's not sold out -- which it was for months after launch.
          The iPod was hard to find for a while, but it was available from many retailers right away.

          6) The Kindle doesn't support Wi-Fi; instead it works off some cellular network that few people really understand, which is only available in the US anyway.
          The iPod just plugged into a computer using a cable or dock. Maybe technically inferior, but easier to understand.

          7) Kindle is only available in the US. I'd totally buy one if they were available in Canada, but they aren't. EBooks have the greatest appeal where paper books have the least availability.
          The iPod was available everywhere. I think it only supported Macs at first, but that was soon rectified.

          8) The Kindle is limited somewhat in file format support. Notably, they don't support PDFs natively.
          For music, MP3 is the only format that really matters. Apple did co-promote their lossless format, and that probably helped them.

          9) Buying a Kindle to read books is not economical for light readers. The device itself costs $400, and if a Kindle book costs $10, and an "average" real book costs $20, you'd have to buy 40 books just to break even. Except that some books will not be available for the Kindle anyway, and you'll have to buy them as paper. (The majority of books I buy, for instance, have photos, diagrams, or illustrations, or are textbooks that are not available in digital formats.) When the Kindle breaks or becomes obsolescent, the books become useless. (Of course, it's still not a bad deal if you read a lot of novels, or want to download newspapers.
          Music needs a player anyway, and an iPod is smaller than a portable CD player or a stereo.

          10) The Kindle lacks storage space. It's expandable, but what does it have again? 128MB? How much does a 1GB stick of flash memory cost again? $10? (Of course, text-format books don't take much space -- but pictures, comics, or podcasts do.)
          The iPod had 5GB of memory, enough for many albums and even a modest music collection.

          11) The Kindle is too large to fit in a pocket and too small to display letter or A4 sized documents. Even if it did support PDFs. It's about the size of a paperback. That's not horrible if you're reading novels, but it's not optimally portable, nor optimally useful.
          Even the original iPod fit nicely in a pocket.

          12) Kindles weren't hyped much and lacked branding. Amazon isn't known as a tech company at all -- they're known as a bookstore.
          iPods had the force of the Apple community behind them. Apple is known as a superior tech company.

          I'm positive that availability was the biggest obstacle, though. How many people would have bought them if it was as simple as going to Best Buy?

          It'll be interesting to see what will happen with the first e-paper reader that gets into stores.
          • You make many valid observations. I will point out, however, that Sony's e-book reader has indeed been available in stores -- you can find them at Borders for instance, and for $60 - $100 cheaper than Kindle -- but it has not taken off the way that the Kindle has.

            I'm not Kindle's biggest proponent -- I actually had one but returned it -- but Amazon has gotten enough right with the Kindle to make it the first VIABLE e-book reader out there. Its early success is what will make a Kindle 2.0 commercially poss
        • On what basis can you say that "Kindles are selling like Zunes"? For months, the Kindle was back-ordered; it wasn't until about a month ago that you could order one with the expectation of having your order promptly filled.

          Sales of the Kindle, in terms of absolute numbers, may still be fairly modest, but it is hands down the most successful e-book device that's ever come to market. It's a far cry from being the "Zune of ebook readers."
      • by thesandtiger (819476) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:38PM (#23703565)
        I'm a student, too. I also do a LOT of traveling. And I own a Kindle.

        I will say this: why would you want paper textbooks when you can have a textbook that allows you to do a full-text search? Also, you can make plenty of "margin" notes. And highlight a row and look up words or Wiki any term you see in there to get a (very rough but generally sufficient) bit of info on anything in a text that makes you curious? Most textbooks are horribly indexed in my experience - full-text search makes that irrelevant.

        As for getting books cheap, how does "free" grab ya? I've been downloading tons from gutenberg and other sources like that, there are MANY places that allow you to get a bunch of books for free (legally) and of course, torrents to get them (not as legal) for free as well if you don't have qualms about that. It is trivial to convert from one format to another with free software and, really, the DRM is, as usual, only a minor speedbump for anyone who wants to circumvent it.

        I do think the $10 for a "bestseller" type book is way too much for this kind of thing, but I don't really read a lot of those. There are plenty of ebooks available for less, though - $9.99 is the high. I've bought maybe 10-20 books through amazon and spent a total of $15 or so, give or take a few cents. I've used both the amazon paid and free conversion services (the difference is that the paid one takes your document from whatever format to the AZW format and sends it directly to your kindle for ten cents while the free version just emails it back to your address and you have to manually load it onto your kindle) and it has been great.

        Would I have bought it if I hadn't been given it as a gift? After using it quite a bit, I can say hell yeah. This is the kind of thing that people need to use for awhile and see how it works before they can see just how useful a tool it is. If they had these available for people to play with at bookstores they'd probably sell quite a few more.

        • If they had these available for people to play with at bookstores they'd probably sell quite a few more.

          Good luck with that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by larry bagina (561269)
      kindle ebooks (generally $9.99) are cheaper than hardcover ($20+), but more expensive than paperback.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Who cares about hardback pricing? Only twats try and use that as a price point against digital media. We're talking about a tiny text file, they should be no more that $1 a "book".
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by brainnolo (688900)
          So, do you purchase books because of the amounts of paper? I would say that what one purchases is access to the content of the book, so the price of the media shouldn't be too significant to determine the price. I find most of the books I buy to be greatly underpriced for what they contain, so I really wouldn't complain about having them in a convenient format *and* at cheaper prices.
          • by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @04:46PM (#23702349) Homepage Journal
            Marketers love people like you. Heck, why shouldn't they? Who wouldn't like to be able to price their product solely on perceived value rather than on production costs plus a reasonable profit?

            Like, back when they shifted from LPs which cost $2.00 each to make and sold for $8, to CDs which cost 50 cents each to make and sold for $15... and it worked, people bought it, people accepted the higher price, the cartel-created massively higher profit margin.

            Man, with customers like that, the sky is the limit as far as profit margins go.

            Instead of making a book for $2.00 and selling it for $10.00, they can transfer the file for a fraction of a cent and charge $9.00. Huge increase in profit margin. And sell you a book reading device for hundreds. AND eliminate the used book market. And eliminate library borrowing.

            And have you thank them for it. Damn, this "intellectual property" thing is a great scam.

            • by jc42 (318812) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @05:51PM (#23702761) Homepage Journal
              Instead of making a book for $2.00 and selling it for $10.00, they can transfer the file for a fraction of a cent and charge $9.00. Huge increase in profit margin. And sell you a book reading device for hundreds. AND eliminate the used book market. And eliminate library borrowing.

              And have you thank them for it. Damn, this "intellectual property" thing is a great scam.


              And, as has happened in the music and movie industries, none of that huge increase in profit will go to the "artists", i.e., the authors.

              But this may change. The Internet has made it materially easier for musicians to reach their audience. Musicians can now set up their own web site, and completely eliminate the middlemen. There's still the advertising part of the business, but that never did much for 99% of the world's musicians anyway. Eventually this new distribution system may end up benefitting them.

              There are signs that authors are figuring out the same thing. There are a few authors that put their stuff online first, to get their name out there and build up a population of readers. They are figuring out that they can periodically publish their stuff and sell it to readers who have already read the online edition. There are small print shops figuring out that this is a source of business, just as there are small local recording studios and CD makers who will work directly for musicians and not take all the profits.

              The times, they might be a-changin'. But not in the eyes of the big publishers, who don't yet understand what's hitting them, and think that they can increase their profits without sharing with their authors.

            • by MightyYar (622222)

              Who wouldn't like to be able to price their product solely on perceived value rather than on production costs plus a reasonable profit?
              I think that you are confusing capitalism with something else. Many companies operate at a loss, others make several times the production cost in
              profit. Manufacturing cost has absolutely nothing to do with the market price of something.
            • by brainnolo (688900)
              Of course I wouldn't consider a DRM encumbered file to be convenient! I bought a few "eBooks" even from major publishers (like Manning) and they were plain PDF with my email address in the footer of every page. Although I do not have an eBook reader device, I found it convenient to print a few pages instead of whole book and be able to lend the book to one or two friends (whom I trust not to share it further)
          • And.. the vast majority of books sold are paperbacks at closer to a $7-9 price point. Hardback books are terrible measuring sticks, not the least because they almost never sell for the more than 70% of the "sticker price" anyway.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Tychon (771855)
          I fail to see why they should be.

          Assuming the gracious amount of 25% royalties and say, a $10,000 advance, as an author I'd only be making $60,000 from a book if it managed to sell 200,000 copies. Bestsellers can be anywhere from 500,000 to 1,000,000 or more copies. With around 175,000 new books put out every year in the US alone, I doubt that most of those books put out will even come close to bestseller status.

          Taking into account that many authors manage maybe a book every two to four years, $1 is unreaso
          • by Yoozer (1055188)
            You highlight a few issues here:
            • why are the royalties so low? eBooks should cut out a lot of middle men.
            • Is an author entitled to make a living of his books? What's so wrong about a part-time job?
            • Global market. None of this "US only" or "UK only". Countless people in other countries read English without any problems and would like to have access; electronic distribution would immediately solve the small shelf space now handed to books in English. I'm Dutch, and I've ordered for nearly $200 from Baen. Th
            • Is an author entitled to make a living of his books? What's so wrong about a part-time job?

              I don't think the author ought to be "entitled" to anything. However, I think the royalties ought to be structured so that if it sold a "reasonable" number of copies* and thus was not total crap to begin with, that the author could at least make the equivalent of minimum wage. And as far as writing "part-time" goes, the book would take the same amount of time either way; what's the difference between writing full-tim

          • Why would an author need a distributor?

            There are very few books which get marketed like a TV show or movie or even an album... so you don't need the publisher/distributor's marketing machine. Sure you'll need to buy off a few reviewers to give you space in their list of good reads (for a couple years, until reader reviews take over - if they haven't already).

            With online resellers it doesn't take a team of distribution lawyers to write up reselling contracts for all the physical bookstores out there, so you
            • by Tychon (771855)
              Just because it's digital doesn't mean it doesn't need marketing. Even the authors that use the publisher's marketing system still have to do a good amount of footwork themselves to push their books. The few authors I do know, those that don't use the middle-marketing-man, work their asses off just to get their books heard of let alone purchased. It's not a terribly forgiving business, particularly in a society that favors visual media.

              While some authors are authors as an aside -- for example, an engineer t
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You still need something to take the place of the publishing house - both for the authors (who need editors) and for the reader (who needs a crap filter).

      One could imagine a ranking system could eventually take the place of the latter, but it would need to freeload on bored people reading trash.

      You might kill off the distributor, but the publisher will still need to be paid.
    • by gmuslera (3436)
      Split of paper book real cost? There is something for the media/printing, something that goes to the final seller, something that goes thru all the distribution chain, something that goes to the publisher, and finally, something that goes to the author (not sure which percent, but looks like an small percent of the final cost).

      With ebooks, an author could get its part directly, and for us would be cents (or the author get a better share, for some books i would not mind). Just is needed a comfortable way to
    • The reason paper books are so expensive is the HUGE overhead. First, the book must be written and edited (this overhead is unavoidable). But then, the book must be typeset, and the offset printing plates burned. This is very expensive, and is the reason why books with a print run of less than, say, five thousand copies are not economical to produce. Only if you have a captive audience (like students who MUST buy a textbook) can you charge enough to cover the cost of a smaller print run. Besides, the bo
      • by sweede (563231)
        100% incorrect.

        Printing is very inexpensive and realitivly efficent if your publisher is smart enough to choose a realtivly newer and high tech print shop. Even without the latest technology there are hundreds or even thousands of small print shops that operate soley for small run products.

        Runs of 5,000 or less can be acheived with very little waste (read less than 100 impressions) and maintain the very high quality that the publisher demands, especially if you run large format (40" or wider width) and most
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by uniquegeek (981813)

          That's why textbooks are $20 and they offer ebooks of textbooks, right?

          $100+ is typical for a textbook these days. New editions of material that doesn't change are put out every 1-2 years. And how many wonderfully portable digital copies do we see?

          Textbook theft from lockers was a big thing at my university (8 years ago). As a result, I never took textbooks to school, and did most of my coursework at home (very inconvenient at times).

          When I go back to school, I'll probably use Tesseract, as LinuxJou

          • by sweede (563231)
            You do understand that there is more cost associated with a printing book than just the printing process right? My cost was simply the cost of putting Ink on Paper.

            There are the writers and contributors to the book, there are the editors and the production staff for a book. There is prepress / digital publishing aspect to creating any printed material and there are associated marketing and other costs.

            Then there is markup on the book when it gets to the distributor and there is a markup on the book when it
            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by uniquegeek (981813)
              I used to do digital prepress layout work, so get off your high horse. I'm very familiar with all the other costs, including the specialized machinery and processes that have to be done by hand. I'm saying $100+ for a text is excessively expensive when you consider: a) other low-run books are much cheaper b) all books have prepress work involved c) you don't have to market textbooks to the same degree other books are marketed (because you have a captive audience and low competition) d) ebooks, (which don
              • by sweede (563231)
                ok, so lets take out the cost associated printed material and replace it with an eBook. We will also assume that the book is DRM protected because you know that textbook publishers will not give these out for free.

                Do you think that the cost of these books will go down? There will still be all of the costs including money made off of the final resale of the product. The manufacturing cost of a book is such a minor expense in the overall production of printed material that it most certaintly wont effect end r
                • The prof is held hostage. We are all held hostage. We aren't even told we have one option because it doesn't even occur to us to ask.

                  The comments about DRM, university/publisher deals, I agree that's how it happens. But I see the potential, and see this system is very broken.

                  Education is very important to governments. It directly effects economy, mental and physical health issues, and crime. But it's strange... they won't allow a "monopoly" with a large software company that competes with a few oth

                  • by sweede (563231)
                    Well, usually what happens is a professor writes a book to be published or is asked to contribute / write a book to be published. The publishing company signs a deal with the author(s) and before it's even written / edited or printed, it's given to marketing and sales to be sold. The sales staff creates contracts with universities for the book(s) and the U's agree and sign. It's up to the university to say "hey wait a minute, this author teaches a class here and hey that book is for his class, we should get
            • I stand corrected. Printing is cheap. So then, why do printed books cost so much? Why does an object that costs $5 to print end up costing $20 at the bookstore? Is it
              • Entrenched distributors who prey on publishers and bookstores alike? In other words, too many middlemen? Or,
              • Society? It's hard to be paid for creative work. Most of the public doesn't care for the work of writers. People can't help but write, and yet there are very few readers. As a result, almost all printed works have tiny audien
              • by sweede (563231)
                umm.. printing companies do not sell the printed material to the bookstore.

                There are many people between the people that print the book and you that make money off of the book.

                You also have to realize that the end seller of the book is easily adding anywhere from 30 to 50% or more to the price of the book
  • linky (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    There's the prototype. Makes me want one for PDFs!

    http://techon.nikkeibp.co.jp/english/NEWS_EN/20080521/152071/
  • I would like a laptop with epaper where the keyboard is (and doing virtual keyboard with the touch sensitiveness) and a normal lcd for the supertuxcart, dooms etc.
    And hookers. And blackjack.
  • The future.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mystery00 (1100379) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @01:38PM (#23701119)
    The future of E-Paper is hopefully affordable prices, right now an iPod Touch is more accessible with a lot more functionality.

    Something that's meant for nothing but reading should be as cheap as actual paper, otherwise what's the point.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JohnSearle (923936)

      Something that's meant for nothing but reading should be as cheap as actual paper, otherwise what's the point.

      The point is portability, environmental savings, storage / archiving.

      You might say that the environmental savings wouldn't be as big a point, since the production of the units probably put out quite a bit of pollution... but with paper there is the ongoing ink that needs to be used, transportation from central printing sources uses a lot of fuel, virgin woods being felled, etc.

      The E-Paper sh

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by kesuki (321456)
        e-paper isn't environmentally friendly. consider. the cost of servers for people to download e-books, the cost of the end users computer downloading the e-book, the cost of the network infrastructure so people can download e-books.. then the manufacturing of e-books, the cost to distribute them, the cost of charging that e-book reader once a week, the cost of that li-ion battery that is powerful enough to run a cell phone... in comparison, paper is environmentally friendly, sure theres the cost of distribu
        • Re:The future.. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by gary_7vn (1193821) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @03:06PM (#23701645) Homepage
          You are absolutely correct that ebooks are not completley environmentally friendly. But that does not mean that they never will be. I would argue that even with all the problems you mention, it does not even come close to the devastation caused by the NYT alone. Managed forests are not good things, they don't have a natural ecosystem, and that space could be a park -- not rows of exactly the same age and type of tree. One ebook, which weighs a few ounces can hardly be worse than the potentially tonnes of paper that it could/should/would replace. Paper mills may run on bark, but that means they are burning bark which is dirty like hell. You also left out the cost of storing books/mags/newsapers until such time as they must be discarded, or at best, recycled, which also uses more fuel to transport them and then yet more chemicals to turn them into yet more books et al. Kenaf and hemp are much better alternatives, but only until such time as we can get paper into the museum, where it belongs.
          • by kesuki (321456)
            yes paper has transportation costs, but e-books do too. my point was ebooks have 2 transportation costs, the network to distribute them, and the physical distribution and production of all the parts.

            books only have the one distribution network to support.

            and you are right, at some point in the future, ebooks could become more environmentally friendly than paper books. The problem is 3 fold 1. the battery. http://www.govtech.com/gt/146829 [govtech.com] if the 'hype' about thin film batteries is real, then we're already o
    • Re:The future.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by samkass (174571) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @02:53PM (#23701573) Homepage Journal
      You can't grep paper.

      • by HungSoLow (809760)
        I couldn't agree more. Textbooks typically have horrible Indices.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        But I can grab paper.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @01:43PM (#23701149)
    I'd buy lots of ebooks if the price was attractive, say $5 to own it, or $1 a day to read-rent a book. At $20 a book, or even some of Kindle's $10 books, thats too high. And I dont care so much about technology. I wasnt agravated by reading the free 500-page "Secret History of Star Wars" (mentioned in Slashdot recently) on the FSF PDF-viewer.
    • I've got a library of around a thousand books, paper ones. So, let's say I switch to ebooks from now on. What happens with my old books? NOTHING, that's what.

      If there is a way to download or buy (at very, very low cost, remember, I already bought the rights to read the text) all my old books then, and only then, I'll switch to an e-book reader.

      As a matter of fact, I'll switch today I that means getting back the imperial cubic truckload of space my books take up now.

      • by Joe Tie. (567096)
        There's some specs out there for building your own fairly cheap automated book scanner. I have far too many myself, and am giving the idea of just scanning them all into pdf some consideration.
        • Take a deli slicer, slice the spine, and put the stack on one of those automated scanners and push the PDF+OCR button. Or just OCR if the text is clear enough.
    • by kesuki (321456)
      one of the big things a lot of people miss, is that public libraries are stocking e-book checkout systems. some of them even work with portable e-book readers. generally, libraries like to stock titles that people steal, or that people might be embarrassed to check out in person.

      it's pretty cool, and if you're not in a hick town like me, there are probably hundreds of e-books to be read all for free. I guess i just have to make due with project Gutenberg.
      • by nuzak (959558)
        > public libraries are stocking e-book checkout systems

        And most of them suck so badly you'd think someone was out to sabotage the technology.

        Take the San Francisco public library. You can check out an ebook for 24 hours. No renewal. Forget about portable readers. And my guess is their vendor has locked them into this crappy system so they won't ever be able to change it. Well, at least til they discontinue it for lack of interest.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 08, 2008 @01:48PM (#23701157)

    Seiko Epson recently showed off an A4-size (13.4-in.) display prototype with 3104 by 4128 resolution, about 385 ppi
    sqrt(3104^2 + 4128^2)/385 = 13.415 in. Holy cow the math works out.
    • by Toonol (1057698)
      Holy cow the math works out. Amazing how rarely that happens, isn't it? We put up with a lot of blatantly impossible and self-contradictory statements in our ads and news stories.
    • by imsabbel (611519)
      regardless of the size, i want a display with that resolution.
      Yesterday, if possible :)
      • by smaddox (928261)
        I would be happy with 300 dpi. And it needs to have decent refresh rate. Hopefully no more than 500ms. And none of that flashing back and forth.
      • by billcopc (196330)
        Easy, it's monochrome.

        Take whatever resolution you currently have on a full-color LCD, and triple it for each axis. There's your mono rez.
        • by zmollusc (763634)
          Each axis? Really? Not just one axis?
        • by imsabbel (611519)
          no.
          Tripple the total number...
        • Take whatever resolution you currently have on a full-color LCD, and triple it for each axis. There's your mono rez.

          Not quite. Typically the dots on a LCD screen are arranged as a 2x2 grid (blue, green, red, with doubled up of one of the colors... green?).

          So if you were only doing greyscale pixels, you could get approximately double today's LCD resolution (so around 250-260ppi).
          • by theJML (911853)
            I just took a macro shot of my Samsung 24" LCD and it's RGB in a straight horizontal lines. So in this case, my grayscale resolution would be come something like 5760x1200. Which is nice, but not quite the vertical we're aiming for.
    • Holy cow the math works out.
      It's funny you say that, because diagonal of A4 is 14.3" (not 13.4")
      sqrt(210^2+297^2)/25.4 = 14.32
  • A couple vids (Score:3, Interesting)

    by religious freak (1005821) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @01:49PM (#23701167)
    Here's a vid of the fabric PC...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AOp8oYZwTk [youtube.com]

    With a working model "3-4 years out", I'll believe it when I see it (e-ink has always been ~5 years away as long as I can remember). But at least they're moving towards something, and maybe this time, it's different, I dunno.

    And as long as we're talking pipe dreams of flexible, usable computing materials. This one from Nokia is by far my fav (I found this via the lifeboat.com foundation website)...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IX-gTobCJHs [youtube.com]
    • by kesuki (321456)
      e-paper/e-ink are available in a couple on the market e-book readers (around $300-$400) and the olpc was using a e-paper screen iirc. but olpc is moving away from e-paper, to get the cost down, and there is a small market for e-book readers, even with project Gutenberg. project Gutenberg is only dealing with a few thousand e-book downloads daily. the most popular stuff seems to be mark twain, Shakespeare, and sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
      • by grumbel (592662)

        olpc was using a e-paper screen iirc.

        The OLPC isn't using e-paper, but a special display based around normal LCD screen, it is able to do 200dpi in black&white and has a sunlight readable screen, so its quite similar to e-paper in that regard. The OLPC screen is however, with backlight off, a lot darker then normal paper, so in-door it has some limitations in comparison to e-paper. The area where the OLPC however just flat out kills e-paper is refresh time, the OLPC works just like a normal monitor, so you can watch video, browse webpages

        • by sznupi (719324)
          I'm among those who hope for minilaptop-like e-ink device...and heard concerns about slow refresh before.

          But ask yourself this: do you really need scrolling? Do you really need to move app window? In current UIs - of course! But why would you use such GUI for e-ink device?...

          Ultimatelly though, I doubt such device would suceed...consumers _want_ colors and high refresh rates...
    • by AaxelB (1034884)
      Oh man, I'm excited about that fabric PC (even if it'll be vaporware for the next decade+). I'm a young programmer who hates looking at backlit screens... so I have a problem. I've been hoping for a good-sized e-paper screen or laptop for a while now (ideally in color), and this is the first time I've seen an e-paper concept in that form rather than only as an ebook reader.
    • The ComputerWorld author sounds like they just learned about e-ink. The author doesn't seem to realize that e-ink thought they'd have the Kimble out the door ever since like 1999. E-ink has become another eternal technology of the future, perpetually in pilot. It's been like a company of Media Lab students that just pump out one demo after another.

      The author also calls EPD the acronym for Electronic Paper Display. Everyone in the industry uses EPD to mean Electrophoretic Display.

      The author also do
  • I'm sure the technology is there, and with the proper legal pressure, maybe it's even feasible.

    We all know how people like Amazon can charge you money for digitally downloading a (copy protected) e-book, but shouldn't we be as a society be looking for ways to provide a way for library patrons to "borrow" books using this technology? For free?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by kesuki (321456)
      there Are electronic libraries. there are drm encumbered systems that have contracts with most library systems, then there is drm free project gutenburg, then there are a few other e-book libraries that cover more targeted groups than gutenburg and contemporary drm encumbered ebooks.

      http://www.overdrive.com/ [overdrive.com] http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/ [gutenberg.org]

      although as different as night and day, both the above sites offer 'free' to the end user, e-books, one at the cost of the public library system, the other with books th
  • DRM.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Just say no to the DRM-infested Kindle!

    A better alternative is the iLiad Book Edition [irextechnologies.com] that is much more open (yes, it runs Linux and you can install your own programs) and has impressive specs (including optional wifi) and a very long battery life. It costs 500 â.

    Disclaimer: I have no relationship with iRex, I'm only a happy customer and a user afraid of what DRM can do to books.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by HAKdragon (193605)
      Keeping in mind that the iLiad also supports DRM'd books (Mobipocket to be precise (who are, ironically, owned by Amazon.)). Though both devices let you view plain text files. The Kindle requires you to email PDFs to Amazon for conversion and last I heard, that was rather spotty.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ThinkComp (514335)
      Um, I think Slashdot's new comment system has some issues. What I typed was...

      I've developed Interbook [thinkpress.com], which gives paper books some of the benefits of being electronic, which ironically enough, most e-books don't even have yet.
  • Where the only needed upgrade over the years is a new pair of glasses.
  • by gary_7vn (1193821) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @02:54PM (#23701581) Homepage
    The kindle is not an ebook anymore than a model T was a car, or an MP3 player circa 1999 was an iPod. In time someone will address all the concerns expressed here. For now I will say that the Kindle is extremely ugly and I won't reiterate its many deficiencies. Having said that though, I will say that the day of dead tree data is over. Killing a tree, grinding it into a pulp with poisonous chemicals, then packaging it with yet more dead tree boxes, shipping it thousands of kilometers with giant polluting trucks, storing them in the huge museums that some people call libraries or book stores, until they are worn out, and then packing them up in more paper boxes and burning them or burying them somewhere is beyond stupid - it is criminal. As far as paying 10 dollars for a book, this is theft, it is too much. The only true value of a book is in its IP. The ultimate goal is to cut profiteers like bezos right out of the loop. For those dinosaurs who still love the smell and feel of books you can always recycle by collecting some old newspaper and wrap your kindle in that. That way it will even dirty your fingers - just like a cheap romance novel. The kindle of the future will hold hundreds of thousands of books! And in no way will the paltry power requirements and this tiny bit of plastic be worse than all that trash. Besides it will be solar powered. Why do we still have newspapers? It is insane! Megatonnes of waste so some dino can get his sports scores! I do not think so. Think about students who will be able to download the latest textbooks for cheap - assuming that we can get greedy billionaire thieves like Bezos out the loop. Impossible you say? They are already doing it in Korea, a country apparently not crippled by the turgid thinking of stuck in a rut bibliophiles. A book is a terrible way to acquire data, you cannot look up a word, check a reference, resize the text, and you sure as shit can not read your email in between. In 20 years there will, thank god, be no books. Just like you cannot buy a ridiculous film camera anymore. And good riddance to an outdated, polluting technology. Oh, there may still be specialty books such as coffee table books and the like for a while, but even those will be superseded eventually by superiour storage and display technologies. I do not love books; I love the stories and the information. And I do not love the dry dead corpses of what were once living trees that breathed, shaded, and were homes for animals. Save a tree, save the environment, and buy an ebook, just not the Kindle, it is ugly and Bezos has enough money. Most of it stored electronically by the way, not on paper - yeuch
    • by MightyYar (622222)
      They may get there eventually, but right now I can't treat an ebook with the same punishment that I can a $6 paperback or $3 magazine. I can't bring it to the beach, much less dry it out on the towel after the tide gets it. I can't just huck it into the bottom of my carry-on bag. I can't leave it on the table at the pool or on the blanket at the park with absolutely no fear of theft. And I can't just pick one up for a few bucks almost anywhere when I realize that I'll have some spare time (unless I'm going
    • by sweede (563231)
      How in the hell can this guy be givin insightful? nothing about his post is remotely correct.

      Producing paper is extreamly efficient when it comes to the amount of polution generated (nearly none). And then you go off and say that producing a product made of plastic, silicon and other such materials is more environmental friendly? You think that there will be only 1 of these things made? there will be hundreds of millions of tons of products created to create the kindle or whatever the hell your talking abou
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sweede (563231)
        oops i meant interesting.

        Also, the grandparent totally neglected to realize that the industries founded on paper support millions of employees in the US alone, not to mention the entire world.

        Hundreds of billions of dollars of income per year is soley due to paper and industries created from paper products (and i'm not talking about toilet paper or paper packaging products).

        If printed material were to all of a sudden disappear, it isn't like film where only a handful or less companies produced the material
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MythMoth (73648)
      Did the paragraph die at the same time as paper?
    • Paragraphs. You're doing it wrong.
  • when, once ebook readers get out there, novelists will have the option of making their books available themselves on their own servers, with a paypal or donation scheme set up. Didn't several bands already prove this works? In fact, bloggers are already pioneering the new, "digital book service" idea.
  • It's great that the resolution hurdle has been overcome. Now the only real remaining technological issues are color and screen update time. And even the latter isn't an issue when it comes to material intended strictly for reading.

    By the way... does anybody know? Is Seiko Epson's display prototype persistent, like conventional epaper, requiring no power to retain an image and only requiring power to change the display?

    • It's great that the resolution hurdle has been overcome.

      Even the current 175dpi screens (greyscale) have overcome the resolution hurdle. I've had a Sony PRS-505 for about 6 months now, and it is excellent for reading fiction. A 300+ dpi screen would simply be icing on the cake.

      I think readers will get more and more popular as they get the price farther below $280 and boost the resolution. And frankly, I think the price is the bigger issue that will determine how fast they get adopted.

      (Goes back to
      • No they have not. Just because you've got crappy eyes doesn't mean the rest of us want to suffer through pixelated text.

        Now, double that would be good enough for me, and 500 would probably be good enough for almost everyone from what I've read. But the device you're talking about just doesn't cut it. For me, at least.

        I would pay up to $300 for one if it was 300+ dpi and had a decent-sized screen. And it would be economical for me. Gutenberg has a tremendous number of historical texts, I'm pretty sure I
        • No they have not. Just because you've got crappy eyes doesn't mean the rest of us want to suffer through pixelated text.

          I really wonder when was the last time you looked at one of the modern e-book readers? I'm not talking the first or second generation screens with either black/white or 2-bit greyscale.

          I'm speaking of the 3rd generation screens which have 16(?) greyscale levels. Where, unless you break out a magnifying glass, you're not going to be able to identify individual pixels. The only way t
  • by Eric Smith (4379) * <ericNO@SPAMbrouhaha.com> on Sunday June 08, 2008 @06:00PM (#23702807) Homepage Journal
    The article quotes Len Kawell, a distinguished engineer at Microsoft:

    You're moving physical objects around and that takes physical time, not like LCD displays that change the state of electrons.
    He obviously has no clue how an LCD works. The applied electric field causes physical movement of the liquid crystal molecules, affecting the polarization of light. Granted the movement is primarily twisting of the molecules, but that is definitely a form of physical movement, not a process in which electrons cause emission or modulation of photons.
  • nonsense. "e-paper" isn't "rapidly" gaining momentum at all. Years ago I had a Palm Pilot and I used it for note taking in classes, writing rough drafts, and e-book writing and I loved it. Then for rather unknown reasons the format just died. People wanted to carry stupid cell phones instead which don't have near the screen size nor a stylus. If "e-paper" is actually advancing it will come from the only truly useful phone/palm-pilot/mp3 player device ever made - the iPhone.
    • by solitas (916005)
      Why is it that I'd have to spend >$300 for an e-book reader when I can pick up a portable DVD player (that has MORE 'computing power' in it) in a blister package at Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, etc. for under $99?

      I'd rather see something along the lines of a player that could handle TXT & RTF & PDF files and put them on the screen (as well as play movies). I could burn my stuff to a CD or DVD, drop it in the unit, and carry all the books I wanted. Give it a USB port for a thumb-ball or mouse for nav
      • by Steve001 (955086)

        solitas wrote:

        Why is it that I'd have to spend >$300 for an e-book reader when I can pick up a portable DVD player (that has MORE 'computing power' in it) in a blister package at Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, etc. for under $99?

        A possible reason for the higher cost of e-book readers is due to the newer technology involved. Electronic ink much newer than portable video screens like used the type used in portable DVD players.

        I'd rather see something along the lines of a player that could handle TXT

        • by solitas (916005)
          Yeah, true - the new tech does cost more - but doesn't necessarily have to be used for a cheap reader. Apple's first laptops were 'sunlit' LCD displays and though they were low-resolution (72 DPI, wasn't it?) they were decently readable under room lighting, for me anyway. Isn't OLPC also a sunlit screen?

          Is eyestrain from looking at your lit Palm screen due to size, contrast, or quality? I have to read a LOT of plaintext documentation on screens at work and one of the best things I have in the Mac OS is c
  • It'll have to wait for e-ink in color, but I'm looking forward to a digital photo frame that uses it. No power consumption while holding a static image - with a change per hour (or day even?) a slow refresh won't matter - high resolution, with an awesome field of view. It'll be a perfect implementation of the technology.
  • I have a bookeen and love it, the caveat not enough writers suppling their books as e-books. Most e-books that I have bought have been much cheaper than the paper books, and I can shop for books at home or work (I work 72 hour shifts). But that damn DRM has to go! http://www.bookeen.com/ebook/ebook-reading-device.aspx [bookeen.com]
  • They will be a passing phenomenon anyway, their function soon usurped by phones.

    For that matter, forget about flexible displays, fabrics, printed circuitry and persistent display state too. Sure, nice to have, but no more.

    What I want is a normal notebook with a high-contrast reflective display,
    that actually becomes better to use in good light, like paper does.

    I want it so much I'd even buy a separate clip-on monochrome screen to plug into
    the external display port, if only you could buy such a thing. Being

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