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Old 12-24-2010, 04:10 AM   #1
Fastolfe
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E-paper screen contrast is about right

I was showing my Sony Reader (Eink pearl display) to my coworkers yesterday, and several commented that the background was more gray than white. They even compared the screen to a printed A4 sheet (something we produce a lot of here) and indeed the difference is striking.

But then I compared the screen to a few books I keep at work to read at lunchtime, and I realized the background of these books is far from white too, more something between light gray and light yellow.

Of course, it makes sense to use a soft contrast on printed novels: these books are for peaceful entertainment, not like business printouts and textbooks that have a bright white background to promote the crisp, aggressive display of utilitarian information. This may also be why I never really liked reading printed-out ebooks as much as "proper" books. It makes sense to me now, but funnily enough, I never realized it before.

So I'd say Eink "pearl" displays are almost right for reading a novel. Perhaps they could be a tad whiter, but I wouldn't want them much brighter than what they are now. Would you?

Or even better, they could create E-paper with enough shades of gray that the background could be adjusted from screaming white (to read technical documents, newspapers and textbooks) to soft, creamy, I'm-about-to-fall-asleep-on-my-book kind of white to read novels by the fireplace.
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Old 12-24-2010, 05:37 AM   #2
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I entirely agree with you.

As well as reading on my Kindle, I also read a lot with the "iBooks" app on the iPad, which lets you adjust the colours. I always read with the "sepia" background colour; it's more restful on the eyes than pure white.
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Old 12-24-2010, 05:41 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fastolfe View Post
to soft, creamy, I'm-about-to-fall-asleep-on-my-book kind of white to read novels by the fireplace.
Oh the picture you paint ! I wanna stretch out on that bearskin rug right now...
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Old 12-24-2010, 05:50 AM   #4
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I have to disagree. I find myself needing more light than I would having to read a book.
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Old 12-24-2010, 06:33 AM   #5
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I think the paper used for books is affected more by financial considerations than ergonomic design. The cheaper the paper, the less white it will be.
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Old 12-24-2010, 07:05 AM   #6
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I think the paper used for books is affected more by financial considerations than ergonomic design. The cheaper the paper, the less white it will be.
Not too sure about that. I'd agree in the case of soft covers and cheap Harlequins, but most hardcovers I have are quite expensive, the paper they're made of doesn't look cheap, and the off-white background color seems very even and doesn't yellow with age as cheap books do. I mean, for the price these books are sold for, surely if they wanted them whiter, they could have afforded an extra bucket of chlorine in the pulp vat.
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Old 12-24-2010, 07:14 AM   #7
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My Sony 650 seems to have very good contrast in very good light, the background - as you note - very close to as good as many paper books. The real difference, that I definitely notice, is that the contrast is rapidly lost when the light is not so good - even by relatively small amounts. The black is not so black and the "white" now a much darker gray. As someone switching back and forth between paper books and Sony reader this is a difference that I find very noticeable and it puts the reader at a distinct disadvantage to my no longer perfect eyes.
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Old 12-24-2010, 10:58 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fastolfe View Post
Or even better, they could create E-paper with enough shades of gray that the background could be adjusted from screaming white (to read technical documents, newspapers and textbooks) to soft, creamy, I'm-about-to-fall-asleep-on-my-book kind of white to read novels by the fireplace.

The Next Papyrus PageOne actually has an adjustable contrast. when you select between Highest/High/Normal it actually tweaks the "gamma" setting for the image/page. it is more noticeable in pictures but even with just text you can see the difference between highest and low.

my understanding is that page turn and battery life are effected buy choosing the higher settings but I havent actually noticed a difference. of course the pageone has an absolutely huge battery so ...
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Old 12-24-2010, 11:28 AM   #9
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I agree that the Pearl generation is good enough. There still is room for improvement but the issue of eyestrain, to me, under proper reading light is a non-issue. Put it this way, I'd rather have a larger more-portable (roll-up?) screen than higher contrast if that was the choice.
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Old 12-24-2010, 12:01 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Fastolfe View Post
Or even better, they could create E-paper with enough shades of gray that the background could be adjusted from screaming white (to read technical documents, newspapers and textbooks) to soft, creamy, I'm-about-to-fall-asleep-on-my-book kind of white to read novels by the fireplace.
I have things to do today that demand a degree of energy and here you go with your knack for words.

I'll need to have another coffee just to survive the image of the fireplace setting you've described.
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Old 12-25-2010, 10:57 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Fastolfe View Post
I was showing my Sony Reader (Eink pearl display) to my coworkers yesterday, and several commented that the background was more gray than white. They even compared the screen to a printed A4 sheet (something we produce a lot of here) and indeed the difference is striking.
Here's the best comparison I can make between a printed, average-quality, magazine (Newsweek), my jetBook, and my K3. They're different, and the jetBook (which is adequate for my purposes) is the least readable. The Pearl-screened K3 is just a hair shy of the printed page, IMO.

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Old 12-25-2010, 01:20 PM   #12
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I am actually quite happy with my Nook's background color - it is roughly the same cream color as books. However, I am told that this is a feature of the Vizplex generation screens. The new Pearl screens have that gray background color. I have seen that on the Kindle 3. I haven't seen any Sony's so can not comment.
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Old 12-26-2010, 12:57 PM   #13
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The Pearl-screened K3 is just a hair shy of the printed page, IMO.

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After spending some time last night reading with the K3, I've reached the same conclusion.

Another element that adds to the illusion is the screen's texture. At an angle, it almost seems like a slightly glossy piece of card stock, which gives the impression that it's very delicate and scratch-prone.
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Old 12-26-2010, 03:42 PM   #14
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My Sony 650 seems to have very good contrast in very good light, the background - as you note - very close to as good as many paper books. The real difference, that I definitely notice, is that the contrast is rapidly lost when the light is not so good - even by relatively small amounts. The black is not so black and the "white" now a much darker gray. As someone switching back and forth between paper books and Sony reader this is a difference that I find very noticeable and it puts the reader at a distinct disadvantage to my no longer perfect eyes.
This is basically my experience, too - under good lighting, the e-ink screen is as good as paper on my k3; under less good lighting, it's worse. Upgrading my reading lights from 75 watts to 100 watts made a big difference for me - reading the e-ink under 100 watts was like reading paper under 75 watts...i.e., perfect.

However, when I'm not at home, I don't always have such optimal reading conditions. So there is still room for improvement.
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Old 12-28-2010, 09:17 PM   #15
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A newspaper has a contrast ratio of 11:1 while the Pearl E-Ink screen has a ratio of 10:1. What I notice is that the white background is more greyish on the Kindle, but the black "ink" is more intensely black. Offset printing always looks faded to me, especially with water-based ink. The new Pearl screen isn't as good as the best hand-printed letterpress books, but to my eyes it's as good as the mass-market stuff.
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