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Reflecting or sourcing light (E-Ink vs. LCD)


Electronic devices for reading long text files (e.g. eBooks) have become very fashionable in the last couple of years. One could wonder what changed for this to happen. After all flat screens have been around for some decades now. Portable flat screens also!

Tablet laptops (yes, they were called with the word "tablet") were produced at least for a decade now. With the introduction of the iPad, the tablets ran quickly into the consumers’ daily life. Charismatic as always, Steve Jobs presented the iPad about a year ago. The presentation was quite interesting because we know that Apple was hesitant whether to get into the market with Netbooks where Asus was making meanwhile a lot of profit with its Eee. Eventually they decided to offer something without a real keyboard in the same price range. Steve explained how you could listen to music (!) and see pictures (!!) on this new device. Incredible, those novelties! :)

What he also did was presenting the device as a killer of previous eBook readers. At that time the Amazon Kindle was on the market at its second generation as well as the Sony Reader. Analysts and Steve-Jobs-wannabes ran into a competition who would be the first to prophecy the end of the E-Ink devices because the new tablet(s) would have much more options besides offering the same (!?! or even better !?!?) reading experience. Having some understanding for Steve’s way to present things, when I read those writings though, I was wondering whether these people ever used a subject called “a book”. The substantial difference between the LCD and E-ink displays is the reading experience in terms of eye stress. The latter is the reason for any former computer displays not to be preferred for reading. And this is the reason for the success of the Kindle (and the Sony Reader of course).

The popularity the Kindle gained in a short time was not because it was the first portable device able to display text. It was because looking at its display is as if you are looking at a books page. It is reflecting the light and is not producing it. It doesn’t glow into your eyes but requires light for the text to be seen. Exactly as with a book!

I thought it was simple to understand these things but obviously even big corporations fail in this.
After having offered the Nook in its first generation (with a small LCD strip beneath the 6’’ E-ink display), Barnes and Noble just recently announced what they called NOOKcolor. When I stumbled upon this news, I jumped and ran to see the specs of the device. I was just thinking that the color E-Ink arrived.

My disappointment seeing the NOOKcolor was not the lack of colored E-Ink. It was actually the fact that BN obviously did not understand what makes the eBook-Readers popular. They are selling just another tablet.

And tablets are – regardless how nice their LCD display was made – not eBook readers and will never be.


Written by betso on 03/07/2011, 12:00am in"Technology"

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