November 9, 2008

E Ink and SONY eBook reader struggles with the “3 B’s” test

Port of an original Post from August 2007.

You may have heard of the "Three 'R's", which are considered the basic building blocks of a good education. They are "Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic"! :-)

Well, books (and so eBooks if they wish to emulate them) have their own test that must be passed, namely the "Three 'B's", where apparently most reading is done: "Bedroom, Beach and Bathroom".

How does the Sony/E-Ink combination stack up in use in these three demanding environments?

Most bathrooms are fairly well lit, either daylight through a frosted glass window -or artificially lit- and so the eInk display does pretty well.
The trend to put in a number of small halogen spotlights in the ceiling can produce some specular reflection but even then the eBook, with it's semi-matte screen coating, remains very readable.
PASS. "V.G."

The reflective E-Ink display used in the Sony & iRex readers has great reflectivity in well lit conditions, even bright sunlight, becomes a limitation in this environment. With the eInk display you will need to put on that bedside light and risk the wrath of any co-occupant of the bed trying to sleep while you read!
Off course, this is also true of a book.
So, PASS with a "Could do better" comment.

Due to the reflective nature of the eInk screen I looked forward to long reads lounging on the beach near home here in Barcelona's Summer.
Relaxing reads in strong sunlight. outside on the grass and near the pool augured well.
But trouble emerged...
The last two times I've taken the Sony eBook to the beach I've been able to read the first pages just fine (sunglasses are needed with all that sun reflecting of the page!) but after a few pages the quality of the text on the page deteriorates rapidly, to the point where words disappear, or words from previous pages partly remain, and the text becomes unreadable.
I suspect this is a problem of the temperature of the eInk display module itself, and nothing to do with the eBook electronics.
I haven't bothered to investigate in detail but it seems that after a few minutes of exposure to STRONG sunlight, in a warm temperature (probably over 30 degrees Celsius on the sand) the temperature of the display rises and it starts to fail.
I'll check around for the specs, and maybe do some more testing (e.g. same place and temperature, but shading display, etc).
But meanwhile: FAIL "Improvement needed"

So, overall when compared to a book - the eBook comes up short, albeit in one difficult environment, but one where quite a lot of leisure reading (of Books, Newspapers and Magazines) gets done.

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