E-Paper: A Gimmick or a Step into the Future?

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    Source: INEWS24

    E-Paper – 1024×768, 6 inch, 0.7mm thick, drop resistant, scratch resistant, and bendable up to 40 degrees e-ink display [from LG] is an interesting move for the whole industry

    The 1024×768, 6 inch, 0.7mm thick, drop resistant, scratch resistant, and bendable up to 40 degrees e-ink display, which is LG’s latest innovation in the e-reader market is set to launch in Europe this month. Undoubtedly this is an interesting move for the whole industry, but whether or not it will be popular enough to be used in mass, as a replacement for current generation e-ink displays found on popular devices such as the Kindle, is hard to foresee.

    The money-question is, have we reached the point where we really need to bridge the gap between traditional print, and technology?

    There are currently two device categories, which are taking the publishing industry on a journey through new levels of innovation. These are tablets and e-ink based e-readers. Both have the capability to hold thousands of books, which are readable on a crisp screen. The e-reader can successfully emulate the printed page, using non-reflective, unlit e-ink screens, and tablets can invoke magazines with their high resolution, colourful images and sometimes interactive content, although extended usage will strain eyes. What LG aim to do, with their latest innovation, is clearly to follow down the path of the e-readers while picking up some of the capabilities of a full-blown tablet, through attempting to make it feel like the user is actually reading a book, or newspaper. Infact, they are holding a robust piece of kit, which can render and display complex webpages like your own personal newspaper.

    It is noteworthy of some of the limitations of this in practical use. First and foremost, we must remember that LG are touting a display, and just a display. Other manufacturers may have to add chipsets and internals, as well as large outer casing, with may affect the primary feature of this product: its flexibility. Having a flexible motherboard, is likely to be an engineering challenge for anyone.

    The press release given by LG last month, also made no mention of cost to the manufacturers, which ultimately gives us no indication of the price the end user will be paying. This display is obviously not cheap to produce as whole new machinery may be needed for a project of this size, and once again, the new internals may require research, and research is expensive.

    'Kindle Touch' Source: Amazon

    Then again, one company has to start a trend, whether it is successful or not, if they believe they can steer the industry in a certain direction, just like Apple did with the iPad and tablets, and Amazon did with the Kindle and e-readers. Those at LG are obviously forward-thinking, and realise that people do want a more tactile feel to their gadgets. Many companies have likely been contemplating drastic new technologies such as this, and will in all likelihood watch the success of this product closely, as the possibility of other companies following down the same path becomes more likely.

    The introduction of this product, is reminiscent of when the current generations of e-readers began to surface, such as the first Sony Reader back in 2006, which was introduced even before an industry standard file format was decided (.epub). People questioned whether they needed, or wanted a piece of technology, which could mimic real-life. Why couldn’t you just read a book? In the case of LG e-paper, we question the need for an e-reader to bend. What is the gain in this feature, which arguably is still far off feeling like real paper? Is tactile feedback needed? Is this a worthy sacrifice for a possibly higher price?

    This desire to make technology tactile, and to emulate real life is sweeping the industry with speed. Whether we are making our applications look real, or making our gadgets feel real, we are going to all knew lengths to take a step back in time, to a time when the library was our Wikipedia, and a bookshelf, was our Kindle.

    So, is E-Paper a gimmick or a glimpse into the future?