August 12, 2009

Polymer Vision - remains just that

Well it seems like it's the end of the road for Polymer Vision, and their vision will remain just that, a vision.

Recently Engadget covered the news of Polymer Vision's filing for bankruptcy.

That is a testament to the effort and resources it takes to bring to market a new display technology, manufacturing processes, device and content and distribution ecosystem. Arguably they should have stayed more tightly focused on the display technology and maybe it's manufacture, and less so on the device and the rest, working with partners for that.

The READIUS device and it's display were a great evolution, and after having held and used one it changed my mind, and I wanted to have one (although with full telephone functionality).

I can only now hope that some other company can pick up the bits or bring a similar technology to production, so that we can have those small devices with large displays.

July 3, 2009

Bridestone decides to put the rubber on the road in eReaders

Tech-On, one of my favourite Asian Tech Blog brings us the news that

Bridgestone Makes Full-scale Entry Into E-paper Business

and is to release a new updated version of it's QRLP (Quick Response Liquid Powder) ePaper displays to the world, with at least one of them being an A4 sized display.

The screen refresh time of 0.8 seconds is down from their previous times, but that's still a bit on the slow side.

They don't specify this in the article but that is I suspect the time specified is that needed to refresh the entire display. That distinction is relevent here as (at least previously) Bridgestone uses a passive addressing method that requires a certain amoutn of time to switch each pixel/line into a new bi-stable state and then move on.

So, switching every pixel into a (potentially) new state on a reasonable resolution A4 device in 0.8s is not bad going....but needs more.....keep working on it guys.

But, parts of the display (a pixel minimum?) can be incrementally updated or changed, enabling update rates (for a few pixels each time) to be pretty fast - hence enabling the pen input functionality the article describes.

So, don't think that you will have a 0.8second lag of the display pixels behind your "digital ink" that you draw with your stylus! That would be totally unusable.

Despite the possibilities that their passive addressing scheme should open up for them it's still on glass, so heavier and fragile than a plastic substrate would be.

Last, but not least they mention color. But, alas, this will be with an RGBW filter on top of the reflective Black&White display, so expect dull, washed-out, color.... :-(

July 2, 2009

Elonex and Border ship economic eReader in UK

Sorry for the lapse in posting, but I'll try and get back into the swing of things over Summer!

I want to post other material than just re-posts of eReader news on other blogs, but as those are also interesting for this audience I'll start with them, and then work on other subjects.

Over at Engadget they tell us about
As Engadget also note, this seems to be a fairly standard offering - with little to distinguish it in design or functionality from a bunch of other readers out there, and surely an OEM of the basic model.

Most notable is the price for UK buyers of £189 ($311) and the partnership with Borders for distribution and on-lien content sales.

More more (unsurprising) details you can read the Elonex Press Release, which also has a bunch of high-res image links if you want a "closer" look.

It seems the device has got beyond the stage of "self awareness" and kindly developed other human abilities, and is "Environmentally Considerate" which is nice of it!

March 19, 2009

FLEPia color eBook reader on sale soon in Japan

Fujitsu have announced that they plan to start selling the FLEPia color eBook reader to consumers in Japan, after the trials they been doing for some time.

Previous coverage of mine on the FLEPia can be found here:-
Description and Specs (taken from the Fujitsu press release) include:-
  • Color!  260,000 colors to be exact
  • lightweight and thin
  • 8-inch screen with a resolution of 768x1024
  • Screen refresh times could be an issue as speculated on in previous reviews of this product, with times such as 1.8 seconds (1 Scan), 5 seconds (2 Scans), 8 seconds (3 Scans) depending on the quality desired and the number of scans needed to achieve it. But if the trials found this acceptable enough to launch the product....?
  • Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
  • High-speed wireless LAN - IEEE802.11b/g (11/54Mbps)
  • USB mini-B connector supporting USB2.0 (480Mbps)
  • Sound: Stereo speakers (embedded), 1 standard headphone connector
  • Power-efficient, with up to 40 hours (bi-stable display does not require power for display of a screen image)
  • SD Card slot. With a 4GB SD card, the color e-paper terminal can store the equivalent of 5,000 conventional paper-based books when each book is 300 pages long at 600KB per book
  • Touchscreen and stylus input (we assume that the stylus works like a finger on a resistive touch screen until we hear more)
  • For now the reading software and formats supported seem to be very specific to Japan
For now the price is 99,750 JPY, which at the time of writing was 776 Euros or $1015 USD.
If you are in Japan you can order on-line from the Frontech on-line store

You can also read what Wired thought of it.

March 12, 2009

BeBook update reviewed

Engadget have picked-up at Cebit about a new release of the BeBook eBook Reader.

At that page you can also see a video of it in action, althoigh it won't show you anything very special.

General comments about this eReader:-
  • Looks to have a nice leather (looking) case!
  • Screen is a reasonably large % of the size of the device, one of my personal metrics for a reader
  • I've just realized it's almost identical to the Papyrus eBook reader, down to the button layout and user interface navigation mechanisms and suspect the Papyrus is an OEM of this device.
  • They plan to add WiFi capability as standard by including a WiFi SD card from the factory (like the EyeFi SD WiFi card popularized for digital cameras I assume) for the same price.
  • Available in Europe only, for 299 Euros.
The Engadget comments about the WiFi costing $40 are I suspect for existing users who want to upgrade to this. They can purchase on-line then get delivered and install new firmware.

This subsequent Engadget post from Cebit talks about 3G connectivity and stylus input on-screen.

Some investigation on the BeBook website reveals some additional info, about this upcoming refresh:-
  • They blast past Sony's leading battery life claims with "7,000 page turns"
  • Not sure why, but it states the price in US Dollars - at $280
  • Wireless connectivity through one ore more platforms or protocols. (3G and/or WIFI)
  • Touchscreen navigation
  • Buy your books anywhere, anytime.
  • Wireless RSS support
  • The ePub DRM standard will also be implemented within the next few months.
But it seems it won't be out until summer.   

If it does release in summer with 3G data connectivity, and access to a large on-line store (such as MobiPocket, even if it is owned by Amazon) then it will be the closest thing you can get to a Kindle in Europe.....until Amazon releases the Kindle in Europe that is.... 

Who will make it first?

March 11, 2009

The end of paper? - Don't hold your breath

I review this long, broad ranging article on the future of the publishing industry from CNN Money.

One of the many issues the article raises is that of format. If you've ever tried, it's not so easy to read a newspaper (as we know it) on a 5" or 6" diagonal screen. Zooming and panning across the broadsheet and up and down articles in a current newspaper layout is a pain. It does improve somewhat with a touchscreen.

What will happen? Will we continue to reformat newspaper and magazines down to smaller and smaller sizes, or will we make the display bigger and bigger?

A number of devices seem to be shooting for the A/A4 size display (~8.5" x 11") and if they can do reasonable quality and resolution between 200-300dpi then they will be usable for existing content formatted for printing at A/A4 size - such as all the legacy business documents in Word, PDF and other document formats.

However, a newspaper on a A/A4 size display at 200dpi will not be so readable. To read the smaller text, zooming and panning may still be needed.

Going beyond A/A4 size with a rigid display device that remains light and portable and robust will not be easy. Plastic "flexible" displays, even if mounted in a rigid frame, may enable larger sizes, while remaining robust. But they won't be easy to fold-up or roll-up and store like a normal newspaper.

So, it seems we're on a colision course: 
  • We'll see larger sizes, maybe some growth in resolution to somewhere between 200dpi and 300dpi (Seiko-Epson have demonstrated devices from the lab at 400dpi).
  • We'll see flexibility or plastic displays used to give robustness to larger sized displays
  • We may see some attempts at foldable devices along the lines of the READIUS, but larger, but the manufacturability of those technologies may delay their commercial availability
  • Lastly, we'll need to see some evolution of formats for newspapers and magazines to make them readable and navegable on these smaller displays.
Color? Color is an issue, and needed to get to some segments - such as magazines with their high-quality and colorful adverts. 

Advertising is critical for their business model and so magazines maybe the last to make it to the eBook world. Most existing approaches for reflective color displays aren't demonstrating a path to a compelling offering, and many approaches also reduce spatial resolution - going against the needs as discussed above, at least for a device for newspapers and magazines.

The article ranges over a number of other complex business model questions and doubts, and other aspects that make it a bit confusing and difficult to identify any particular aspect to focus on.

Botttom line: Let's see some of that innovative new display technology from Plastic Logic, Polymer Vision and others out in the market, and then we'll talk again. 

March 10, 2009

PC meets eBook - photo gallery

At Cebit ASUS showed this interesting concept device, that is a kind of merge of an eBook and PC, with dual touchscreens.

For now, all I have are the photos, but enjoy them here:

Neolux's NUUT2

South Korean producer Neolux has recently released the NUUT2 eBook reader.

They have added an extra strip LCD display, just as Amazon remove it in the Kindle 2.

It has a fairly standard 6-inch, 600 x 800 E-Ink display, but with only eight shades of gray making it come up short against the newest competition which are coming out with 16.

With 1GB of internal storage it is short of the Kindle2, but more than the Onyx Boox, but like the Onyx (and unlike the Kindle 2) it has an SD card expansion slot, USB2.0 to connect to your PC/Mac, USB1.1 to load content from USB sticks and WiFi standard (its optional on Onyx Boox).

It supports PDF, Epub and TXT for readable content, multiple standard formats for images and also multiple for audio.

For so many of the devices appearing like this one, its going to come down to how good their distribution and go to market is, and the availability of good content and an easy and affordable way to get it. Without that, I suspect you're dead in the water.

March 9, 2009

Hearst's eReader

Those of us who have been tracking the eReader and ePaper area for years will remember Hearst's early activity in this area and investment in E-Ink among others. 

Then for a long time they went quiet and we'd either forgot about them or assumed they'd lost interest. 

Well, they're back covered by CNN Money / Fortune in their article: Hearst to launch a wireless e-reader

I do wonder what the newspapers are thinking. The ones that aren't doing anything or moving, and the ones who are.

Do Hearst think this is the long-term solution and they are moving early or is this a shorter-term attempt to combat rising costs and falling relevancy.

If you were surprised when Amazon as a major on-line book retailer went into the hardware business with the Kindle, what do you think about a newspaper empire itself getting into the hardware business?

They say:
"What Hearst and its partners plan to do is sell the e-readers to publishers and to take a cut of the revenue derived from selling magazines and newspapers on these devices. The company will, however, leave it to the publishers to develop their own branding and payment models."
Does this make sense? Do they have enough content of there own to offer a closed system with enough value, or will they offer an open system to all comers with content - including their direct competitors?

As for the device it seems their "design center" will be different and around newspapers and magazines, and less around books and office documents and blogs, although no doubt it will be able to read those content types also.

Hearst is short in details, so we'll have to wait.

Why not speculate meantime though :-)
- based on a large, thin, flexible E-Ink display from Plastic Logic

Onyx and their e Boox

CES is behind us, but CeBit is upon us and has produce a new flood of gadgets, including eBooks.

I'll start with Onyx International's new "Boox" e-reader - reported via Engadget and Mobileread forums. Onyx seems to be yet another "one book wonder" from China although "Registered in America", set-up with just one product - an eBook reader. 

"Specs? Features?" I hear you say!
"The device boasts a 6-inch e-ink touchscreen with 16 shades of gray, 512MB storage, WiFi, support for various formats (including EPUB / PDF / HTML / TXT / CHM / MOBI / JPG / BMP / PNG / GIF / TIFF / MP3), and text to speech "
It uses the 6" E-Ink display with 16 grey levels and it looks pretty good.

It also offers a touch screen which differentiates it from "the masses", and in fact all others except the Sony PRS 700. Their web-site also refers to "full-screen scribble" and when viewing their videos I only see it used with the stylus and wonder if they mean stylus and not touch.

Their video shows stylus input working quite well, so it possible they have integrated a digitizing tablet, maybe from one of Wacom's Chinese competitors. That may reduce battery life if they're not smart about it. I can't see where the stylis is held in the device, if it is at all.

Format support is pretty broad including PDF, EPUB and MOBI (MobiPocket) with "more to come" they say. It offers CHM for you software types out there.

I like the list of features for their PDF reader: hyperlinks, Table-of-contents, thumbnails (for pages), highlighting, selection zoom and my favourite: Margin removal, something I do manually on PDFs using Adobe Acrobat to remove margins and make pages as big and viewable as possible.

The touch screen has allowed them to achieve a very sleek look, with minimum of visible controls, although it has a few on the bottom edge, out of sight - the other end of the spectrum to Amazon's Kindle (1 and 2) with the built-in keyboard.

The front circle widget is 5 button control with a central "OK" button, with "Prev" (left), "Next" (right), "Menu" (top) and somelike that looks like "Spkr" (bottom).

Although this image confuses me. Does it also have that widget on the back (unlikely!), or something made to look like it, or is that some kind of cover for the display and we're looking at the front (seems to have a different shape)?

Memory is a little short at 512MB, but they have a USB Type A Connector For USB Memory Stick, and SD/MMC Slot for memory expansion. So, you can move media around (physically) easily and take advantage of constantly falling cost of flash SD cards.

It's got a 2.5mm Stereo Audio Jack for listening to MP3 music while you read, or audio books or the "Text to Speech" of eBook content.

We'll see if Onyx stand their ground and don't fold to the Author's Guild on the subject of Text-to-speech like Amazon have done recently. That will I expect depend on the countries where this device is to be sold, and the visibility it gains in the media, and off-course its sales!

Last but not least, it's got optional 802.11g Wireless LAN, which could be handy when around home, or other known Wi-Fi access points, to download timely content. 

Surprisingly they push this feature for web browsing, with a built-in webkit based browser and on-screen keyboard.

See their English version web site at

March 8, 2009

Amazon's iPhone eBook Business

I've finally gotten some time to comment on the recent moves by Amazon to provide eBook reading and access to their eBook content on the iPhone/iTouch platform.

Thanks to readers for pointers to these articles on the subject
Amazon now provide a free iPhone application  for eBook purchase/download/reading. It's available from Apple's iPhone App Store. 

I see this as a great move for Amazon, as it will drive content purchases for Kindle and non-Kindle users alike. Although details of it are still missing. e.g. Do you need a Kindle/Kindle-account or anyone can sign-up?

People have asked me about the "competition" in eReading between iPhone and similar devices and eBook readers. I don't see them as directly as competitive, but as complementary devices. 

Often have your phone and some time to kill. When you have more time and access to your Kindle, it provides a better reading experience.

I think Amazon have done a smart thing by embracing the iPhone and not considering it as direct  competition to the Kindle.

It's also a smart defensive and growth move.

Defensive: The Kindle business seems to be going just fine for now, but if it turned out to not be the preferred reading device/experience long-term, this move puts Amazon right in the game on the leading candidate for an alternative platform - the iPhone. Also, if Apple ever comes out with anything bigger along the lines of the iPhone (like the much-rumored iPhone internet tablet) then they will be right there. If that does happen we might see some direct Apple-Amazon competition. This move clearly states Amazon's intentions and let's Apple know they'll be a fight for content on such a platform.

Growth: The market for the Kindle solution is limited, with plenty of people not wanting another device, and prefering the iPhone alone. If Amazon stuck to just selling content to Kindle users (ignoring MobiPocket, an Amazon business, for the moment) they would be missing a lot of content sales, the part of the business with the best margins.
While the rest of the world wait for the Kindle outside of the US, this also opens Amazon's content store to all those iPhone users world-wide, leveraging Apple's efforts to get the carrier agreements in place. Those agreements are something Amazon will have to replicate each time it brings the Kindle, with it's Whispernet delivery service, to a new country.

With 240,000 books in Amazon's catalog (and newspapers and magazines also) it comes straight in as great competition to other iPhone eReading solutions (which I've covered here in previous posts). I haven't seen much on the reading software itself yet, so I'll be looking to see how it shapes up. No doubt they will try and make it as similar in operation to the Kindle as possible.

Reading the same content between/across multiple devices does introduce the problem of keeping your reading in sync. Especially when the devices have different sized displays and features to adjust text size and hence pagination. Due to these, a user can't just remember a page number and jump to it on the other device as the page number for the same point in the book will be will be different on each device.

In texts with long sections or chapters that can be a pain, and have you searching through them for paragraphs you recognize until you find where you left off on the other device.

I'd touched on this useful feature in previous posts and glad to see it supported.

Now, we need to take a look at the reading software itself, but that's for a future post.

March 3, 2009

Kindle 2 roundup

A Brief Round-up of the reactions (of others and my own) to the Kindle 2 introduction...

The Text-To-Speach feature was unexpected (by me), and I can only think that is what the speakers are for. So, maybe it can now read your book to you when you are driving or something similar?

Will text-to-speach books give audio books a run for their money? 
I doubt it, but I´m not much of an audio book fan and so maybe not very representative....any big audiobook readers out there?

The US authors guild's negative reaction to the feature has lead to Amazon back-tracking and now planning to make its use on a book an attribute of the digital work. 

If this feature was a bigger deal, then I might have a more negative reaction to the author's guild's stance and rant about how retrograde they are.....but honestly, I don't think it's that important either way.... It does provide some insights into the mentality of the "book establishment" regarding emerging technologies for reading that mirrors some of those we've seen for Music and Film over the recent years.

The sale of digital books has hit mainstream (mainly, but not only, thanks to Amazon and the Kindle) in the past 2-3 years relatively smoothly, if you compare it to music, napster, iTunes and the RIAA.

The 16 grey levels, versus 4 on the original kindle, should bring the Kindle's "print" quality closer to the iRex devices which have always lead on this front, and help.

The slightly faster page turn (quoted as 20% faster) is another incremental improvement that will make it more palatable (or less objectionable) to some people.

Note that the vertical LCD strip is gone. Presumably they feel the speedier screen updates (taking advantage of that Broadsheet display controller I mentioned in earlier posts) are fast enough to not need a separate LCD display for navigation and selection. This makes the overall product dsign sleeker.

Battery life (and lack of concern about being left without battery and always looking for a power outlet) is one of the major advantages of eBook readers. 

The 25% improvement in battery life in the Kindle 2 is a welcome improvement. But they still haven't been able to match the Sony PRS eReader which can specify battery life by number of page turns (being totally off when viewing a page). 

The Kindle's wireless connectivity makes achieving that more difficult, but I suggest that they could have looked at managing the wireless differently and going for periods of operation where the device is totally off while reading.

It has seven times more storage than the Kindle 1, taking advantage of the very low cost of Flash these days, leaving it at 2GBytes.

The main complaint people have with this is that Amazon have removed the SD slot, thus the internal storage is the only storage.

The cynical among us might think this is to push more use of the Amazon service to send content to the device for reading (and charging for it) while on the move. 

You still have USB for connecting and loading content, but off-course that involves a computer and is not so comfortable while on the go (as an alternative SD card would be).

Personally, I think it's a bit of a non-issue. 2G is more than enough to get you between infrequent computer connections for upload when combined with the Whispernet delivery service for "timely news delivery".

“Whispersync,” a new synchronization technology Amazon is introducing with the Kindle 2. Whispersync automatically syncs with the original Kindle and Kindle 2, along with future as-yet unannounced devices"
Could this be my sync feature across mobile phone devices and Kindle2s that I postulated on in my earlier post?
"Whispersync bookmarking -- if you start reading a book on one Kindle, you can pick up again on any other Kindle automatically"
I suspect that is just a place holder for other mobile devices that are in some way different from the Kindle e.g. mobile phones. So when you don't have your Kindle for some reason, then you can read away (on your other mobile device), and then when you can, you get the better reading experience, continuing on your Kindle where you left off on your phone.

February 26, 2009

Flexible E-Ink from FDC with pen input

I4U News blog (via Engadget) brings us a post of a prototype display from Arizona State University (ASU, where they have the Flexible Display Center).

It includes  a video of a prototype E-Ink display on a flexible substrate with stylus input.

The title states "touchscreen" and the text 
"The flexible touchscreen display supports user input either by stylus pen or by touch. "
but it appears in the video to only work with a digitizing stylus, as it doesn't seem to react when touched with the hand to demonstrate it's flexibility, but that could be a software feature of the demo.

This is no doubt part of the on-going broad industry collaboration lead by the Flexible Display Center with the US Army to develop wearable displays.

It's not clear from the video or the text, but I suspect that the stylus-sensing electronics are in the rigid part on the circuit board below the display and is NOT in the felxible display itself. 

This would not a big detractor for a product where flexibility/plastic substrates are used to gain lightness and robustness to knocks (compared to glass for example) and put into a rigid product design (such as an eBook reader). 

Curved, flexible stylus sensing would be needed if they wanted to put it on the arm of a soldier, in the sleeve of his jacket.... so we'll keep our eyes open for more information regarding the sensing technology used and it's lightness and flexibility.

February 19, 2009

New Adobe PDF and .epub SDK gains vendors support

A Yahoo article picks up on this technology announcement from Adobe of a new PDF and .EPUB software SDK release and agreements in the mobile and eBook reader space:
"In support of the new Adobe Reader Mobile SDK, a number of companies announced plans to ship devices or applications in 2009 that integrate the new Adobe technology, including Bookeen, iRex Technologies, Lexcycle, Plastic Logic, Polymer Vision Ltd., and Spring Design. The Adobe Reader Mobile engine is already integrated into the groundbreaking Reader Digital Book™ by Sony."
SONY are amount the vendors announcing support for it (the Sony Reader was one of the first eBook reader devices to support PDF with software from Adobe, not other sources):
“With support for reflowable PDF and the new EPUB format, we are able to deliver richer reading experiences to digital book lovers,” said Steve Haber, president, Digital Reading Business Division, Sony Electronics. “The Reader ships with support for Adobe Reader Mobile SDK today and allows consumers to acquire eBooks from a variety of sources, including public libraries. Our goal is to foster an open content environment that enables our customers to maximize the use and enjoyment of their Readers.”
iRex and Adobe have also made a subsequent announcement.There is an Adobe Press Release and iRex also publish on their i-to-i blog :

"iRex has reached an agreement with Adobe to license new PDF technology and EPUB file format plus Adobe’s content protection technology for the iRex Digital Reader 1000 series.

Enabling the iRex DR1000 to offer reflowable PDF technology, allowing text to adopt automatically to the screen size, thereby preserving layout integrity and enhancing the reading experience. In addition it will also support the EPUB file format, an XML based eBook standard which already has broad support from the publishing industry and is expected to accelerate the availability of eBook content.

Both the PDF and EPUB support will become available through a software release scheduled in quarter 2 2009, more details will follow later."

We may see it ship in READIUS, whenever that ships!! Via Lexcycle (maker of Stanza reader software) you may also see it creep into iPhone versions of their reading application?

The theory of re-flowable PDF is fine, but the practise is somewhat more complex and less hopeful. There are not many good tools to create re-flowable PDF and not many reflowable PDFs have been or are being generated. The majority of PDF files that you may find out there or can generate yourself will probably NOT be reflowable.

If we have to rely on publishers of professional content to generate re-flowable articles and books then it maybe better for them to just publish directly in .Epub format?

One advantage of publishing in PDF is that you have a LOT of desktop computers with PDF reading software already installed - something which won't happen overnight for .Epub formats. So, if its useful to read across eBook reader and PC/Mac platforms then PDF maybe a good way to go, and maybe more so for internal Enterprise documents that published material.

Reflowable PDF may be a good compromise for certain types of professionally published materials, like Newspapers and Magazines. If you have a large screen or PC then viewing the entire page or spread in the original layout is advantageous, but then to zoom in and read a specific article, or to read on a small screen (mobile) device, the re-flowing ability will make that more comfortable and reduce the need to zoom and pan constantly across a page or column as it can be adapted to the current screen/view.

February 13, 2009

New attempt at FOLIO type device by REDFLY

Laptopmag recently has reviewed this new device from REDFLY that is the inheritor of the Folio legacy! have a page with demo video that gives a good overview.

I've covered the rapid rise and fall of the Palm FOLIO here in previous posts, but it seems people are willing to have another attempt at breaking the limitations of mobile phone input (keyboard) and output (display).....brave people, well done!

As demoed, its a great improvement for input and viewing for applications in Windows Mobile devices with small screens, especially when the applications are smart enough to take advantage of it. 

However, I still have reservations about taking along a significantly sized device (plus its power adapter) that is useless on its own without being connected to the mobile phone.

My proposal all along has been to have a collections of devices that are all useful in their own right. 

So, I would propose that the viewing part of this functionality be made available when the mobile phone is connected to an eBook Reader. The mobile phone is useful and highly portable on its own, the eBook is great for reading and has a long battery life on it's own, and when you put the two together you get something new beyond the capabilities of any one piece.

Keyboards remain an issue that needs work. If it wasn't for the lack of haptic feedback from touchscreens then we could go the way of the proposed OLPC XO 2 - but I'm not sure I'd get proficient at typing on a hard surface with no moving keys, nor if I'd like it.

February 12, 2009

Read while you wait - on epaper

Engadget picked-up on some news about trials by Fujitsu of their color epaper-like displays in restraurants and bars

This is their FLEPia technology which I've covered here in the past with previous posts:

As you can read, it actually a very small and short trial, but interesting all the same. 

They are deliverying various content types to the reader at the restaurant table, hopefully not an indication they want to keep you entertained due to slow service! 

When not in active use by a user it stands on the table as a small sign and cycles through train/metro timetables and adverts.

Foxit eSlick eBook Reader goes for the low end of the market

I first covered this Foxit eSlick eBook reading device in a post back in December.

But it seems to be back in the news with a minor (software?) update. You can see it on the Foxit web-site here:

They don't mess about with positioning and exort you to "Save money to buy more eBooks" !

There is a YouTube video showing it in use, but it's not really worth watching.

It appears to be a fairly standard e-ink based device like so many I've covered here in the past. The only things I could see of note were the focus on supporting landscape orientation (useful for a few types of documents, but not very comforatable panning through those portrait documents in landscape mode).

It's a straightforward, somewhat economical eBook reader at $260, but not the cheapest out there I don't think. According to this Gearlog post they have set a "target price" of $230. Unclear why that price is not available from the Foxit web-site....or will only be a price at Retail.
Foxits eSlick comes with free software: Foxit Reader Pro Pack and Foxit PDF Creator. to aid getting PDF documentant onto your device.
Foxit seem to have a lot of experience in PDF and related software solutions, although I have no personal experience with it. 

With this device, apparently the "added bonus" will be that it will be the first "eBook Reader class" device to support files for the "eReader" software that is available on the iPhone and other SmartPhones, allowing you hopefully to share content across both devices - an emerging theme recently (see Amazon Kindle 2 wrap-up post coming soon...)

They claim their first "batch" sold out. They say if you have pre-ordered "before February" then they expect it to ship in Feb/March...

They have a pre-order button on their web site. It takes you to a dead-end web page. By trial-and-error I found that hitting the "[Click here to back]" link, actually takes you forward to a pre-order page.  

How can companies make a product like this, and then be so flaky on their web site and allowing people to learn more about it and to ORDER it!

Alternatively, for you "Bricks and Mortar" folks, you can try and find a reseller in your country at this web-page of theirs.... although to me it looks more like a list of distributors, not resellers.

February 11, 2009

Plastic Logic starting to fill out their ecosystem

Since Plastic Logic is getting quite a few mentions recently in the eBook space, despite the Kindle2 release and new Cebit eBooks I wanted to post this quick reference to news on what they are doing to get content partners on board with them.
Quoting "The Earth Times", which in turn quotes Plastic Logic's own Press Release:
"agreements with Ingram Digital (ebooks), LibreDigital (enewspapers), Zinio (emagazines) and a direct relationship with business newspaper, the Financial Times, and the nation’s top selling newspaper, USA TODAY, lay the foundation for the company to sell and distribute a wealth of content for its forthcoming Plastic Logic Reader."

More ePaper trials

News is coming in (Engadget and Engadget China) of new trials of good-looking e-paper, both monochrome and color. 

The image quality (see the Engadget China post for best images, with comments in Chinese) looks great, at least on the monochrome version, although the color is nothing to write home about.

A3, good quality....if they can make them on plastic then the digital tabloid is not that far away...

February 10, 2009

More eBooks for your cell phone

Here in this blog recently I've been covering more and more news about reading eBooks on your cell phone, mostly iPhone. 

This is due mostly to great improvements in cell phones displays (size and quality) plus east to use navigation means for them, and faster data connections to download content and better battery life for the above.

Aparently Amazon has announced that it will soon be making the content it has for the Kindle (230,000 titles) available for your cellphone. Which cell phones exactly remains to be seen.

That seems an admission that Amazon are happy in the "Kindle space" and don't plan to get into the hardware (at this point) of smaller, different devices but that they do plan to leverage the success of those devices, and the shear numbers of them appearing in the market to push their content business for content they already have and are selling for the Kindle.

It would be very slick if they allowed you to buy content ONCE and then to view on one device AND the other, and even synchronize your reading between the two via their service (so you can always pick-up where you left off), but I think I'm being to ambitious there.

When I hear more about these moves I'll keep you posted. Post a comment if you see anything before I do.

February 9, 2009

Kindle 2 introduction imminent

Rumors about the second version of Amazon's successfull Kindle eBook reader device have been flying (echoing) around the blogo-sphere for some time now.

First came this leak of photos and pricing reported by Engadget, via MobileRead (see mobileread post for more photos also).

In these photos the general look of the first kindle is kept, and it changes in a number of other ways, such as:
  • it is much thinner than the original Kindle, and in another photo it's shown to be thinner than your average pencil...which is pretty thin.
  • the back of the device is apparently made of metal, a little like older iPods and iPhones, although I don't see that as much of a "features", except as it might translate into rigidity.
  • there are stereo speakers at the bottom of it, on the back side as shown in this photo.
I don't really get the speakers. It can do audio books (and music) already, and Amazon now own Audible the leading audio book seller - but I see audio books as a one-person thing best done with earphones. Who wants to head an audio book outloud (except maybe when you're in the car on your own)?

Who can complain about thin-ness and lightness? 

It seems to be fast approaching the kind of thin light device that you wouldn't mind adding to your travel bag, and significantly smaller than most of the books it can contain within.
It looks like an improvement over the design of the original Kindle. In particular it looks like it will address one of the major complaints of the first device (apart from it's general ugliness), that the forward and back keys can be hit accidentally too easily while reading producing unwanted page changes.

Aparently there will be an Amzazon event today at 10AM Eastern Time, where everyone is specualting that it will be officially announced.

We'll probably have to wait until then to get official specs, and details on features. But let me speculate:-
  • it may move to a newer generation of the eInk film that is slightly whiter in white state, and slightly faster changing state.
  • it will move to the new eInk "broadsheet" display controller ASIC that updates the screen faster, introduces new update modes depending on the type of content, allows for partial screen updates - and when all combines can enable "cartoon" type animations in parts of the screen for appropriate content.
  • They will have done a lot of refinements of the electronics and firmware to get to a battery performance approaching that of the Sony Reader, and if well done, so that it can really go into sleep mode while reading, then the battery life maybe also be defined in number of page turns, not hours.
  • I'm tempted to speculate that it might move to a faster 3G data connection over its existing 2.5G EVDO network, but I actually think that might be a bad idea! The existing solution seems fast enough from what I hear, and I dread to think what 3G might do to it's battery life if not implemented very well. The heat that 3G chipsets can generate make me wornder if that's why it's got a metal back all of a sudden.
So, significant incremental improvements seem sure. 

My personal request would be to get rid of the keyboard and replace it with a touchscreen. The Sony Reader seems to have made a good job of this, with slick operation and no significant impact on battery life.

Then, make the whole thing display! 
Rather than making it smaller than the device shown in these photos, fill up thatoverall size with wall-to-wall display that can show documents formatted for A/A4 paper readable.

February 8, 2009

E-paper signs being tested in Tokyo for disaster prevention

The user of E-paper signs has been seen in test in Tokyo recently. 

Aparently they are connected by a wireless network and information can be displayed on them in case of an emergency.

"There are currently two signs: one in the lobby of the post office measures over three meters across and sports 240 x 768 resolution (the paper has 4mm pixels), and holds down power consumption at about 24W. Stationed at the Higashi-Ikebukuro bus stop, the second sign is 60 x 40 centimeters with 144 x 96 resolution, and power consumption here is about 9W."

The original post on Techon states that the ePaper was developed by Toppan Printing. The aim of the study appears to be "to prove the effectiveness of the system as evacuation guidance for people who might not be able to return home in the event of a disaster."

The biggest at 1m x 3.2m is a significant size, even if 4mm pixels, and was made by arranging 48 x 96-pixel electronic papers in five vertical rows and eight horizontal rows (40 tiles in total) and consumed 24Watts (0.6Watt per tile).

The smaller sign of only three tiles consumed more proportionally at 9Watts, presumably due to the consumption of the receiving wireless electronics being significant compared to a tile's consumption, and the same across the two sized displays. If each tile consumer 0.6Watts (say), then the electronics would be around 7Watts in this last example. I'd need to do some numbers but that seems to be able to be achieved with a solar panel attached to it, and having a battery that would give quite a few hours of operation also seems feasible.

That maybe why they have focused on emergency use cases, as it could be interesting that they can receive the information and change their content and continue to display information without using any "external" power source, as it maybe cutt-off due to emergency? We hope the source sending the information will have power....

It remains to be seen whether this technology will be applied beyond "public information" display to advertising signage. There is no mentioned of the visibility of these reflective (it is assumed) displays at night, and that would depend off-course on the ambient street ligthing or any front-light added to illuminate the sign.
The availability of color will no doubt be a big component of it's suitability for generating advertising revenue.

January 28, 2009

Did I say 2009, I meant 2010....

News from CES 2009 (Consumer Electronics Show) suggests that the much anticipated PlasticLogic eBook reader will not be shipping early this year as previously announced, but is postponed until "early 2010".

Its anticipated mainly because it will have a "plastic electronics" display with no glass, providing robustness and lightness but not (yet) flexibility.

PlasticLogic and PolymerVision, with its READIUS product, are now in a slow race to market.

The READIUS's commercial availability has also been postponed multiple times in the past and it remains to be seen who will make it to market and be able to say they are the "first plastic display shipping". When it does ship READIUS will provide lightness and robustness and also flexibility with the display wrapping around the device - making it a small hand-held device with a large(r) display.

All this proves that bringing a new electronics and display technology to market is no simple task, and that the companies trying to do so either repeatedly underestimate the complexity of doing to, or overstretch themselves when announcing availability dates.

See the Engadget Post, or watch the video of the interview from CES by following the link to InfoWorld Videos.

January 27, 2009

A Tale of two eReaders

Here is a follow-up to yesterday's post about Walt Mossberg's coverage of new eBook readers for the iPhone, a short video interview with him about them and how they compare with the Amazon Kindle.

January 26, 2009

Walt Mossberg on newer eBook offers on the iPod Touch / iPhone

In previous posts I've commented on a few of the recent eBook reading software applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch (Stanza, eReader, etc).

At the Wall Street Journal on-line, personal technology columnist Walt Mossberg discusses a couple of recent additions to those offerings.

The first is "Shortcovers" from Indigo, a Canadian book selling company. It will be available soon (maybe by the time you read this) on the AppStore and will give you the first chapter free and then allow you to buy buy chapter by chapter, or specific chapters of books (for around $0.99 per chapter) or to buy the whole book in eBook format, or to buy the book in paper format. Sounds like the software has some interesting features which I'll check out and cover in a future post.

The second is call "Iceberg" now on AppStore. It has few titles at the start but they will be working hard to increase the number of titles available on it.

If you prefer to "read" about the subject (and not watch a video) then you can read Mossberg's column article on the subject.

It seems like the battle of "Convenience" vs. "Better reading experience" is served. Fight!

January 14, 2009

Photonic Crystal displays technology speed-ups

Some time ago, I commented (Opalux P-ink) on work by the firm Opalux in collaboration with the University of Toronto in Canada (Opalux was a spin-off of University of Toronto work).

Now a new Technology Review Article follows continued work by the University to speed up the color transitions of this technology, a candidate for very highly reflective (bright, depending on the ambient light) e-paper displays that consume very little power.

They seem to be making significant progress on one of the import attributes of such a display technology, although they have plenty of work left to do before it's ready for prime-time.

Don't miss watching the video, ignoring the horrible ad up front. In it I don't see much in the way of a blue color, but I'm not sure is that a limitation of the technology or just the test set-up.

One to be watched, but don't delay that e-book purchase waiting for this technology to hit the streets.

January 13, 2009

HP SAILs into flexible display waters

HP's research labs (HP Labs) have been quietly working away for some time on key technical aspects of flexible electronics, including their application to flexible displays.

Now they have announced publicly progress made in their "SAIL" process (Self-Aligned Imprint Lithography), which is a roll-to-roll manufacturing process for electronics, which if married with a flexible display technology like e-Ink film, can produce flexible displays.

They work in collaboration with a number of partners, including the Flexible Display Center (FDC) at Arizona State University

On the HP web site there is a promotional video on SAIL, starring Carl Tausig the HP Lab's Lab Director for the effort and you can read the full Press Release here: HP and Arizona State University Demo Flexible, Unbreakable Displays

One of the key aspects to get across about the SAIL process is that the multiple semiconductor and other layers and all laid down on the flexible substrate at the start, before the layers are etched away. This avoid all problems due to alignment that occur in processes where the layers are laid down, etched, then another layer laid down, then etched etc.

January 12, 2009

Flexible Reader part of Sony's Flexible OLED concept display

Will your next laptop look like that, or your next (first?) eBook reader?

This came out a while back at CES, but I still thought it was interesting.

See the original post from Engadget.

Sony are pushing forward with OLED in the market, as evidenced by their OLED TV. Here they show design concepts for products using OLED displays on flexible backplanes (and front-planes for that matter) and amoung them is an eReader.

For the Reader, it seems the flexibility is put more to purpose of robustness, and "feel" of a book than any attempt at a roll-up book. That´s a good call in my book.

How it would fold shut is not obvious from the images in the gallery.
I have commented briefly on Quallcomm's "Mirasol" MEMS display technology in the past on this blog, specifically here: Qualcomm's MEMS "e-paper" display debuts

Now, thanks to the CES trade-show this week we can see another implementation of it, on a GPS device, reported by Engadget.

With one of its advantages being great visibility in bright lighting conditions, using it in a GPS makes a lot of sense, not just to improve the visibility of the display over existing GPS offerings but to help them extend the battery life of the GPS, one of there limitations at the moment.

January 9, 2009

Do you know a reader in one of these countries?

While looking at the geographical distribution of the readers of this blog in Google Analytics, I realized that I'd made a lot of progress and got readers from many countries in the world.

That made me want to find readers from the other parts of the world, where no one has visited this blog yet.

And I thought of you, my existing readers, and that maybe you could help!

If you know someone in one of the countries list below who might be interested in reading this blog, then please forward the link

to them and if they drop in for a look I'll see their country added!

Countries from which I haven't had a visit yet include:
  • Greenland
  • Iceland
  • Finland
  • Poland
  • Latvia
  • Austria
  • Anywhere in the Balkans
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Venezuela
  • Guyana
  • Surinam
  • Ecuador
  • Peru
  • Chile
  • Paraguay
  • Argentina
  • Uruguay
  • Anywhere in Africa outside of South Africa!
  • Madagascar
  • Anywhere in the Middle East, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan
  • Azerbaijan
  • Georgia
  • Turkmenistan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Kyrggyzstan
  • Tajikistan
  • Nepal
  • Bangladesh
  • Mongolia
  • Myanmar (Burma)
  • Thailand
  • Laos
  • Vietnam
  • North Korea
  • Papua New Guinea
Phew, almost none, eh?

If you visit from one of those countries, feel free to add a comment and I'l either post it, or add your message or name (as you wish) against your country.

Thanks for your help in this somewhat whimsical quest...