How Electronic Ink Was Invented

24 July 2016

From Science Friday:

When Amazon introduced its first Kindle back in 2007, it raved about the e-reader’s “crisp, high-resolution electronic paper display that looks and reads like real paper, even in bright sunlight.” The tablet did not use the LCD screens that most consumers saw on their laptops or TVs. “It reflects light like ordinary paper and uses no backlight, eliminating the eyestrain and glare associated with other electronic displays such as computer monitors or PDA screens,” Amazon boasted.

That first-generation Kindle used a technology called microencapsulated electrophoretic display, colloquially known as electronic ink, or e-ink. Amazon has since sold millions of Kindles, and the concept of e-reading has become ubiquitous. But back in the mid-1990s, creating an electronic book was a “dream,” according to Barrett Comiskey.

That was when Comiskey, then an undergraduate at MIT, and his classmate JD Albert were recruited by MIT Media Lab professor Joseph Jacobson to create a technology that mimicked pages in a book. Jacobson envisioned a screen that wouldn’t give off light, and that you could tilt while still being able to see the text. He also wanted to make something that required little power to use—just like a real book.

. . . .

In the early stages of their research, however, the team was met with doubt from experts in materials science and chemical engineering. “They told us that putting black and white oppositely charged particles inside a single microcapsule just couldn’t be done,” Comiskey wrote. But he and Albert persevered, learning the basics of microencapsulation and making microparticles to see if they could make the concept work.

. . . .

Upon graduating, Albert and Comiskey, along with Jacobson and other shareholders, formed E Ink Corporation to continue improving their technology beyond proof-of-concept and prepare it for the commercial market. The first official e-reader to use e-ink was a Japanese product from Sony in 2004, but the technology finally saw wide commercial success with the debut of the Kindle—about a decade after the team first developed the concept.

Link to the rest at Science Friday and thanks to Dave for the tip.

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New Kindle Announced

22 June 2016
Comments Off on New Kindle Announced

From The Amazon Media Room:

Amazon today introduced the all-new Kindle, making its most affordable reader thinner, lighter, and with twice the memory as the previous generation for the same price, just $79.99. Kindle is offered in your choice of black or white and is available at

. . . .

KindleThinner, Lighter, Still Only $79.99

The all-new Kindle is thinner and lighter and has twice the memory compared to the previous generation Kindle. Now available in black and white color options, the new Kindle features a more rounded design, making it easy and comfortable to hold in one hand at any angle for extended reading sessions. Unlike reflective tablet and smartphone screens, the high contrast touchscreen display on Kindle eliminates glare in any setting, even in direct sunlight. Recent studies have shown that evening exposure to blue light from backlit screens like tablets and smartphones can suppress the body’s production of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that helps the body fall asleep. Because the Kindle display emits no light, you can read anytime without losing sleep. Like all Kindle e-readers, the all-new Kindle has a battery life that lasts for weeks and not hours.

. . . .

  • Export Notes—It’s now easy to export notes and highlights from a book to your e-mail, so you can always have them on-hand for reference. Receive your notes both as an easily printable PDF that’s ready to bring to your book club, and as a simple file you can open in your favorite spreadsheet app. This feature will be available as part of a free, over-the-air software update in the coming weeks.
  • Built-in Bluetooth audio for accessibility—The first Kindle with built-in Bluetooth audio support, Kindle makes it possible for visually impaired users to use the VoiceView screen reader on Kindle to read the content of the screen—including reading books and other Kindle content—without the need for an adaptor. This is enabled through a new out-of-box experience specifically for visually-impaired customers that allows them to pair their Kindle with Bluetooth headphones or a speaker. For other recent updates in accessibility, visit our Amazon blog.
  • Chinese Word Wise Hints—Choose between English and Simplified Chinese Word Wise hints by changing the language in Word Wise settings.

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

Amazon seems to be willing to invest in additional Kindle ereader sales via new features and aggressive pricing to keep its ebook ecosystem healthy.

If ebook sales were really flattening or declining as articles focused on the traditional publishing world have suggested, PG wonders if the company would be putting more money into ereaders. This is the second new ereader Amazon has introduced in the last three months.

Fire Tablet – $39.99

17 June 2016

Amazon has a sale today on their Fire Tablet – $39.99 (at least in the US).

If you’re a late adopter/skeptic, this is probably the least expensive way you can see if you would use a tablet or not. PG doesn’t think a Craigslist used iPad could beat this price.

E-book tablet to be launched to popularise Mahatma’s books

15 June 2016

From The New Indian Express:

To popularise books on Mahatma Gandhi and cater to the ever-changing reading habits, a city-based trust has decided to come up with their own tablet, lending people the facility to read Gujarati and Hindi e-books published by them on the Father of the Nation.

Kindle-like e-book tablet, which the Navjivan Trust is planning to bring, will have 170 books mostly on Mahatma Gandhi allowing people to read those in Hindi and Gujarati.

. . . .

Till now, the trust, established in 1919 by Gandhiji himself, has sold around 10,500 online versions of around 170 of their books, converted into e-books, which according to Desai, is the key motivating factor for the trust to venture into the territory of an exclusive tablet parallel to online conglomerate Amazon’s “Kindle” e-book reader.

. . . .

“At present, Kindle does not support Gujarati or Hindi language. Thus, we have decided to create a new platform to reach out to people wanting to read Mahatma’s books in those languages. We are in process to make a tablet equivalent to Kindle. This device will allow readers to type and search in Gujarati or Hindi,” said Ashar.

Link to the rest at The New Indian Express

Amazon says its $50 Fire is top-selling tablet in the US

3 June 2016

From CNET:

Move over, iPad, Amazon now has the best selling tablet in the US.

According to Amazon, the company’s dirt-cheap Fire tablet ($50, £50) is not only the top-selling tabletin the US for the first quarter of 2016, but it just became Amazon’s best-selling tablet of all time.

As always, Amazon declined to share specific sales numbers, but Senior Manager of Product Management, Amazon Devices Aaron Bromberg said those milestones were “based on internal data as well as external data.”

In April, market research firm IDC reported that worldwide tablet shipments declined 14.7 percentduring the first quarter of 2016 (1Q16). Sales of slate tablets were down overall, IDC noted, but the low-end of the market was where all the action was.

“While this may bode well for vendors like Amazon that rely on hardware sales to increase their ecosystem size,” IDC reported, “it has not helped vendors who rely solely on greater margins for hardware sales.”

Link to the rest at CNET

Kindle Oasis review: The perfect e-reader for the 1 percent

4 May 2016

From engadget:

Amazon’s Kindle Oasis is like a feast with the world’s finest caviar. It’s an all-you-can-eat Wagyu steak dinner. It’s an $80 cup of coffee. Simply put, the Oasis is a $290 extravagance meant only for the few who can afford it. For the rest of us, it’s just something to lust after. We called the $200 Kindle Voyage the “Rolls Royce of e-readers” two years ago, but instead of going cheaper (the standard Kindle is currently $60, and the backlit Paperwhite model is $100), Amazon pushed even further into luxury status. For $290 you get an e-reader so light it almost feels like you’re holding nothing at all. Unfortunately, Amazon still hasn’t made a strong argument for why anyone actually needs a high-end reading device.

. . . .

I’ve held plenty of e-readers, tablets, smartphones and other gadgets over the years, and few were as remarkable as the Oasis. When you look at it head-on, it’s unmistakably a Kindle, even though its 6-inch E Ink display is pushed to the side to make room for two physical page-changing buttons (answering the prayers of Engadget’s Chris Velazco). But tilt it slightly and you’ll notice that it’s, well … sort of funky. Most of the device is insanely thin — a mere 3.4 mm — while the rest is a slightly thicker hump meant for gripping one-handed.

Its asymmetric design looks weird at first, but it only takes a few seconds to get used to it. That’s mostly because it’s light — crazy light, at just 4.6 ounces. To compare, the Voyage weighs 6.3 ounces, and the Paperwhite clocks in at 7.2 ounces. Those don’t sound like huge differences, but they’re noticeable when you’re holding something for hours on end. The Voyage and the Paperwhite are close to the weight of a typical paperback. The Oasis, on the other hand, is so featherweight it almost feels alien as a reading device.

. . . .

Once again, Amazon used micro-etched glass for the Oasis’ screen, which should make it even more resistant to glare (it’s also stronger than the Voyage’s). The new model’s screen still packs in a sharp 300 pixels per inch, which looks about as good as printed text on paper. That’s the same resolution you get with the Voyage and the Paperwhite, though you do get 60 percent more LED lights here than on the Voyage. That’s nothing big, but it makes for a more uniform lighting presentation overall. I know plenty of Kindle fans who were irked by the Voyage’s slightly uneven lighting, which was particularly annoying given the price.

. . . .

There’s also a leather case included with the Oasis (available in black, walnut or merlot), which doubles as an extra battery pack to make up for the Kindle’s reduced battery size. (Amazon had to give something up to make the Oasis so thin, after all.) The case snaps right onto the angled portion of the Oasis’ back and adds another 3.8 ounces to the Kindle’s weight when connected. Thankfully, you can charge the Kindle and the case together.

. . . .

It’s no surprise that books and black-and-white comics look great on the Kindle Oasis: Amazon pretty much mastered that with the Voyage’s 300-ppi E Ink screen. For lack of a better word, there’s an “inkiness” to the display that makes text and line art appealing to your eyes. It’s completely different from a backlit smartphone or tablet, which can be just as sharp but can also feel like it’s attacking your eyes with light. Reading on the Kindle Oasis (along with the Voyage and the Paperwhite) is more like settling in with a book right next to a gentle lamp. There’s something soothing about it.

. . . .

The most noticeable improvement with the Kindle Oasis is the way it feels while you’re reading. Its lightweight, asymmetric design makes it ideal for holding with one hand and lounging on the couch or in bed. In my first few days with the Oasis, I easily dove into several titles that were gathering digital dust in my Kindle library.

. . . .

It may have just been the shininess of a new gadget compelling me, but I noticed that my reading sessions with the Oasis were much longer than with the Voyage.

. . . .

I was so enamored with the Oasis’ design that I used its included leather case only for traveling. It’s not exactly heavy when the case is connected — I had no problem keeping it on during crowded subway rides — but the Oasis feels so good on its own that there’s no reason to have any extra burden unless you really need it. The case itself feels like a high-quality piece of leather, and does a good job protecting the Kindle’s precious screen.

It’s also a great travel companion, since it has its own battery and extends the Oasis’s runtime to around eight weeks on standby.

. . . .

With the Kindle Paperwhite, which also packs in a sharp screen and backlight, available for $100, there’s simply no reason for most people to even consider the Oasis. It would have made more sense for Amazon to nix the Voyage and price the Oasis at $200 (or even slightly more). Asking $290 ($20 more than an iPad Mini 2) is simply madness.

Link to the rest at engadget

PG says serious readers spend many, many hours with their ereaders and may want the best reading experience possible.

During a typical waking day and evening, PG spends more minutes on his Kindle than he does on his tablet which cost more than the Kindle. During a typical week when he’s not on vacation, he spends more minutes with his Kindle than he does with his photographic equipment and related software, which cost way, way more than his current and past Kindles and all the remaining Kindles he will purchase during his lifetime.

If he were to calculate his cost per pleasure-hour, Kindles and ebooks would easily provide PG with the most pleasure for the least money of any leisure activity he can think of other than time he spends with his family.

Everyone has a quality vs. price tradeoff they mentally calculate for a wide variety of goods. PG suspects a reasonable number of readers are willing to pay $289 for the finest reading experience available. He also suspects Amazon will lower prices over time or roll Oasis features into lower-cost ereaders.

China develops graphene electronic paper

3 May 2016

From Xinhua:

China has developed a new electronic paper, a huge breakthrough that will catapult the material to a new level.

The new material has been heralded as “the world’s first graphene electronic paper,” by Chen Yu, general manager of Guangzhou OED Technologies, which developed it in partnership with a company in Chongqing.

Graphene is the world’s strongest and lightest known material; a single layer of graphene is only 0.335 nanometers thick, and it can conduct heat and electricity.

The material can be used to create hard or flexible graphene displays, used in electronic products such as e-readers and wearable smart devices.

Compared with traditional e-papers, graphene e-paper is more pliable and has more intensity and its high-light transmittance means optical displays will be much brighter.

. . . .

Compared with liquid crystal displays, e-papers are thinner, bendable and energy efficient, meaning products are more portable.

Link to the rest at Xinhua and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Mirage at the Kindle Oasis? Some users report issues with lighting, finish

1 May 2016

From Chris Meadows via TeleRead:

Although many users are happy with their new Kindle Oasis readers, it seems a good many of them aren’t. A ten-page-and-growing thread has sprung up on MobileRead’s Kindle forum complaining about uneven lighting issues that make it annoying to try to read. Some say that they see “shadow cones” on their screen, while others note the color temperature of the lighting seems to change from one side of the screen to the other.

. . . .

Forum reader Kolja reports:

I received my Oasis today also and have been trying to convince myself that the screen is fine as the device is great in all other ways. I’m one of those who sees the color shifts and the one I got has it. Overall the screen is much warmer than my Voyage and the color gets darker, almost yellow on the left. I can see slight brightness where the LEDs are on the thicker side and while minor I find it more distracting in the margin than it was on the bottom. I’m going to try reading with it for awhile to see if it bothers me enough to return it. Mine came from Best Buy and will be easy to return if necessary.

Other readers report fit and finish issues (as did some of the negative reviewers I mentioned the other day)—a crevice along the border of the screen where dust gets trapped, and jagged edges in places. However, others (including David Rothman and Len Edgerly) don’t report experiencing any of these issues at all.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Amazon tablet shipments surge 5,000 percent YoY

29 April 2016

From ZDNet:

Tablet shipments declined more than 14 percent worldwide during the first quarter of 2016, according to the latest stats from IDC.

The research firm said the decline was due to general seasonality combined with an overall disinterested customer base.

. . . .

As for the vendors, the most dramatic year-over-year change comes from Amazon, which increased tablet shipments by an astronomical 5421.7 percent to claim the No. 3 spot on the list. The tech giant wasn’t even included in the top five tablet vendors in the first quarter of 2015.

Amazon’s growth is due primarily to its range of slate tablets, such as the $49.99 version of Amazon’s Fire tablet, which have become synonymous with the low-end of the market.

For Amazon, the low price is part of a strategy that CEO Jeff Bezos has referred to as “the Amazon Doctrine.” In a nutshell, Amazon cares less about tablets as end products and more as direct commerce channels for users to buy products from Amazon.

. . . .

Apple and Samsung still claim the No. 1 and 2 spots, respectively, however Apple’s tablet shipments declined 18.8 percent, while Samsung’s dropped just over 28 percent annually.

Link to the rest at ZDNet, Inc. Kindle Oasis Will be a Disappointment

16 April 2016

From The Country Caller:

Regardless of what Amazon claims the Kindle Oasis to be, it fails to impress let alone meet expectations, and here are a couple of reasons why.

. . . .

For starters, the Kindle Oasis costs a staggering $290. Seeing how the sales from the market have already dropped in the last three years, it makes absolutely no sense for Amazon to introduce an e-book reader this expensive. Additionally, the presence of affordable tablets is already hurting the sales of e-book readers. By introducing the Kindle Oasis, Amazon has done more harm than good.

Since there are cheaper alternatives available, there is no reason for individuals to invest in a premium e-book reader, when they can get more functions from a tablet that is cheaper than the Kindle Oasis. To put things into perspective, an individual could instead invest in an iPad Mini Pro 2, which costs $269 rather than pay $290 for an e-book reader with limited functionality.

. . . .

That being said, the Kindle Oasis may boast amazing specs and new features which were not present in the Paperwhite or Voyage, but the new device overall fails to deliver and does not offer true value for money.

Link to the rest at The Country Caller

For PG, a tablet is not a substitute for an ereader. He uses both every day.

The tablet is for web browsing, email, etc., when he’s in a place where it’s not easier to use his smartphone. The bigger tablet screen works better for some purposes than the smartphone.

PG’s ereader – a Paperwhite – is for reading books. For this purpose, he much prefers the e-ink screen over the tablet screen. He also prefers the lighter weight. The technology fades into the background and all that remains is the story. That doesn’t happen for him to the same extent with the tablet. Since he reads from a book every day, it’s worth it to PG to have a device designed specifically for an optimum book-reading experience.

PG sees the Oasis as a top-end ereader for people who want to spend the money for the best possible ereading experience. PG hasn’t decided if the price is worth it to him or not, but the Oasis looks good and he does like the idea of dedicated buttons as a page-turning alternative. Since PG sometimes accidentally turns pages on his Paperwhite when he’s holding it in one hand, the larger handgrip on the Oasis is also attractive.

The bigger battery on the Oasis means he’s good if he’s away from electricity or forgot to bring the correct charging cord on a trip. Although he charges his smartphone every day, in a perfect world, all of PG’s devices would operate without recharging for at least several weeks. Longer would be even better. PG would love to set a reminder on New Year’s Day to recharge all his cordless devices for the coming year.

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