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Old 09-03-2012, 04:28 PM   #1
Isles8008
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E Ink display at IFA -- where are the upgrades for readers?

Reposted from the blog E Ink / E Read.

Is anyone else wondering if the new Kindle will actually feature an upgraded E Ink screen? We have been using the same Pearl display in all of the major readers since 2010.

(start post)

E Ink displays their latest concepts, but is there a new eReader display in there somewhere?

I recently posted about my love/hate relationship with the Author’s Guild, and since all the articles I have read lately are giving me cause to rant, I thought I would detail some of my concerns with the E Ink Corporation. You may have noticed from the title of my blog, E Ink / E Read, that my reading life exists on an almost exclusively E Ink platform. I love E Ink screens. The Amazon Kindle literally changed my life, and without the E Ink screen, I don’t think I would have the passion for literature and reading that I do today. I watched the technology grow from the early, brownish-tinged Sony PRS 500 screen, to the beautiful E Ink Pearl display released on the Amazon Kindle 3. With each update, my eReading experience became richer, sharper, and better than before. But in the past two years, E Ink displays have been missing something major: an UPGRADE. Perhaps you didn’t notice, but the E Ink Pearl display featured in all of today’s major readers (Sony, Nook, Kobo, ect) has not been improved on since July 28, 2010. Two and a half years have gone by without a single upgrade. This is an extraordinary amount of time in the tech world. When the Kindle 4, Kindle Touch, and Nook Touch were released, E Ink apparently had nothing new up its sleeves. Barnes & Noble even had to create their own “Best Text” font rendering technology to improve the contrast and definition of their displays, with no help from E Ink. Amazon.com didn’t even bother to try. Their Kindle 4/Touch screens actually looked worse than the Kindle 3.

As we approach Thursday’s Amazon/Kindle press conference, I am hoping for a shift in this E Ink stagnation. Unfortunately, the latest E Ink Corporation display at IFA-Berlin (see video above) doesn’t give me much hope. E Ink always takes a booth at all the major tech shows, and videos made by attendees are posted on YouTube. The E Ink booth at IFA contains more of the same junk prototypes and eccentric ideas that all of the others have featured in the past year. E Ink spokesperson Sriram Peruvemba also let slip a telling sign that E Ink has no overt intentions of looking toward the future when it comes to their focus on eReader displays. As Sri was showing off the new Triton 2 display (Triton is E Ink’s first attempt at producing color E Ink screens for eReaders; the Triton 1 was widely panned as costly and mediocre–see the jetBook Color) he commented:

This is the Triton 2 example. What we did here was to increase the color saturation, we increased the size of the pixels. So once you increase the size of the pixels, they’re not really that suitable for reading because you want much smaller pixels, but this size pixel . . . work[s] perfectly fine for signage-type applications.

“Signage-type applications.” He went on to comment that he expected people to view the Triton 2 display from a few feet away, and that the colors look much brighter and more vivid the further away you stand. That’s great if you want to use color E Ink for a poster-sized advertisement, but how about the jetBook Color? I’m sure the students and color eReader enthusiasts who currently put up with the faded and washed out Triton display would be grateful for an upgrade. jetBook will sell more readers, and E Ink would gain more color customers. But no. E Ink is devoting their second generation Triton display to “signage-type” applications. If you don’t know what they are talking about, don’t worry. Almost none of their extra-eReader ideas have made it to market.

Take the following presentation for example. Here E Ink debuts E Ink binocular displays, sidewalk displays, traffic lights, box labels (yes, that’s right, box labels), and used cellphone collectors . . . That’s just cracking the surface. Yes, their displays are innovative and power-saving, and I don’t fault them for trying to expand their business, but how about just making a few upgrades to your substandard, outdated, and outperformed E Ink eReader displays? Take a look:

With the release of the iPad 3′s retina display, and the Google Nexus 7, E Ink is falling well behind the competition when it comes to offering a high-definition eReading experience. More readers are turning to tablets, even though LCD screens are a big step down when it comes to eye strain (the new iPad might be getting better with this). Will E Ink stop fooling around with binocular buttons and grocery store coupons, and start providing some real upgrades in E Ink technology?
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Old 09-03-2012, 05:08 PM   #2
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Why do you feel that an upgrade in any product must be based on time rather than a genuine necessity for improvement? The current displays are not problematic, they are not being complained about. They work well.

I am quite happy with my devices, I cannot see any area concerning the display that needs improving. I think that you are being unrealistic and somewhat disingenuous.
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Old 09-03-2012, 06:43 PM   #3
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Why?

Sure, DarkScribe, the current Pearl display is functional, but so are the displays on the iPad 1, and the archaic Sony PRS 500. Technological advances are often not based on necessities.

I have no problems reading the text on older E Ink displays, but if I could have a choice between the Pearl display with 16 shades of grey, and the 505 display with 6, I would choose the device with clearer, sharper, more paper-like contrast every time. Technology is all about progress, and E Ink reader displays have made none. The focus of E Ink should be on making displays with whiter backgrounds, higher pixel density, and more shades of grey if they want to compete with tablet popularity. E Ink displays have the ability to look outstanding, rather than satisfactory.

Also, if eReader companies are going to upgrade their devices, wouldn't common sense dictate that the screen resolution should update as well? Should we just be "satisfied" with our devices, or should they continue to improve, regardless of need? The iPad 3 didn't need to feature a retina display, but I can't believe you would think it unnecessary after viewing text on it.

And I would disagree that "no one is complaining about it," many tech bloggers and eReader enthusiasts have been griping about lack of display advancement. That's why companies like Onyx Boox are developing HD readers like the i62 HD in hopes that they can generate business from readers who are dissatisfied with the status quo.

Is it disingenuous to expect an upgrade after 2.5 years? You must not be very familiar with technology standards.
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Old 09-03-2012, 06:48 PM   #4
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You can't say consumers use iPad3 and Nexus7 for e-reading, no backlit screen is suitable for e-reading, regardless of pixel density.

The new Kindle E Ink e-readers hopefully use the plastics based flexible and unbreakable E Ink screen, if they do, the new Kindle can be ultra thin, ultra light and basically unbreakable, that would be awesome.

But just as the new Epson or others new higher pixel density controllers for E Ink, the flexible E Ink requires significant mass production to be mass produced. That kind of is logic, so it's to be seen how soon there can be some significant large mass production done on those fronts.

Signage is a gigantic trillion-dollar market, with hundreds of millions of advertising billboards and posters worldwide, I don't see why it should be a problem for E Ink to try to deliver solutions for that market. Doesn't it sound awesome that advertising billboards can potentially just use color E Ink in the future? Also, what's wrong with supermarkets using E Ink for centrally and instantly being able to manage pricing of everything on the store shelves.

I also really like E Ink's suggestion to use the back sides of smartphones as an E Ink screen to display data and use the back sides of smartphones for much more comfortable and much lower power consumption for reading any text.

So really, there is only a few brands like Amazon that have the power to get the component makers to launch the mass manufacturing of new generations of screen technologies, but who knows, it might still be too early for flexible plastics based E Ink to really be mass produced at the quantities that Amazon requires, so perhaps Amazon has to stay on Pearl E Ink still for now, perhaps with a new thinner Neonode IR touch implementation for the touch kind.
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Old 09-03-2012, 07:41 PM   #5
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Stats

The iPad 3 screen is more than suitable for long form reading, and many readers are turning to tablets due to upgraded screen resolution. The iPad, the Nexus 7, the Asus Transformer Infinity, and the new Acer have all focused on developing high resolution displays, and consumers are responding. The retina display has caused a major surge in iPad-as-reader popularity.

I would take E Ink over LCD any day, but if eReaders hope to compete, they should think about making some real improvements in screen resolution. Instead they are focusing all of their energy on outlandish prototypes that never make it to market. Have you seen an eReader sign lately? Or an E Ink power drill? I'm not saying they shouldn't expand and make money, but do you think we could at least get a 2.0 version of the Pearl display?

I believe E Ink's inaction is part of the reason why reader sales have slumped:

E Ink Shows Q1 loss after Amazon adjusts inventory:

Quote:
E Ink chairman Scott Liu (劉思誠) attributed the first-quarter loss to lower sales and a deteriorating product mix, both led by its major client’s inventory digestion.

“Our major customer was too optimistic about its sales in the fourth quarter of last year and ordered too much from us,” Liu told an investors’ conference in Taipei. “That made the customer order almost nothing from us in the first quarter.”

The fall-off in orders pushed down first-quarter revenue and also dragged down shipments of e-paper displays, the company’s flagship product with higher gross margins.

That also caused E Ink’s capital utilization to deteriorate, further lowering the company’s gross margin to 0.8 percent in the first quarter, from 28.5 percent in the fourth quarter last year.
Can eReaders survive the tablet onslaught?:

Quote:
eReader shipments are projected to decline from 15 million devices in 2011 to 11 million in 2012 . . . "Regardless of the tremendous historical eReader success, the market tides have already begun to turn. Despite the average tablet selling for more than $465 as a result of Apple's dominant market position, tablets are expected to outsell eReaders 9 to 1 this year," explained Flood.
Doug from the-ebook-reader.com comments:

Quote:
The heyday of E-Ink e-readers is over. Yes, there’ll still be some specialty markets, but I don’t think we’ll be seeing 8-figure annual sales numbers again. That’s why E-Ink is “fooling around with E Ink crosswalks, traffic lights, and air conditioning unit displays.”
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Old 09-03-2012, 07:55 PM   #6
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So many people have EInk readers now that the upgrade market is significant. I can't see why a Sony T1 owner would upgrade to a T2 for example, so Sony is largely targeting new EInk adopters.

A built in front light is an upgrade promoter and so is a higher resolution screen. A higher contrast screen might get some to upgrade, but Pearl's contrast is perhaps good enough already.

A flexible screen would be important to institutional buyers for schools, but would not be a upgrade promoter in itself. However Charbax's "ultra thin, ultra light and basically unbreakable" device would be awesome.
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Old 09-03-2012, 08:43 PM   #7
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Sure, DarkScribe, the current Pearl display is functional, but so are the displays on the iPad 1, and the archaic Sony PRS 500. Technological advances are often not based on necessities.

I have no problems reading the text on older E Ink displays, but if I could have a choice between the Pearl display with 16 shades of grey, and the 505 display with 6, I would choose the device with clearer, sharper, more paper-like contrast every time. Technology is all about progress, and E Ink reader displays have made none. The focus of E Ink should be on making displays with whiter backgrounds, higher pixel density, and more shades of grey if they want to compete with tablet popularity. E Ink displays have the ability to look outstanding, rather than satisfactory.

Also, if eReader companies are going to upgrade their devices, wouldn't common sense dictate that the screen resolution should update as well? Should we just be "satisfied" with our devices, or should they continue to improve, regardless of need? The iPad 3 didn't need to feature a retina display, but I can't believe you would think it unnecessary after viewing text on it.

And I would disagree that "no one is complaining about it," many tech bloggers and eReader enthusiasts have been griping about lack of display advancement. That's why companies like Onyx Boox are developing HD readers like the i62 HD in hopes that they can generate business from readers who are dissatisfied with the status quo.

Is it disingenuous to expect an upgrade after 2.5 years? You must not be very familiar with technology standards.
Once again, the TIME since the last release of technology has nothing to do with the necessity for a new "upgrade". Many areas of technology have plateaued, they don't need constant upgrades. How often do TV or Monitor screens get upgraded? Since the end of the nineties when Plasma replaced CRT there have only been a handful. Quartz watches are electronic, yet it has been decades since a significant change in technology. There will be changes in eReaders, but most will not be to the eInk technology, it will be to the devices themselves. Eventually there will be new developments in eInk screens, several are in the pipeline, but none are really significant enough for many people - me for instance - to bother with upgrading.

Yes I think that your attitude is disingenuous. Upgrading just because you feel that it is time for something new is disingenuous, as is suggesting that dedicated eReaders are in a "race" with tablets. They are two entirely different devices, designed for different purposes. Like many people I own a tablet - several - and a dedicated eReader. I don't browse, write or play games on an eReader and I don't read on a tablet. I know that some do, but most people who buy dedicated eReaders don't go back to reading on a tablet.
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Old 09-03-2012, 09:14 PM   #8
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Agreed DarkScribe..... Many people are happy with having a tablet and an ereader. Most have ereaders mainly for just reading books. The eink market is naturally smaller and geared toward readers of which population wise there are not many.... I keep hearing a call for color eink but really.. what is ther realty of that happening? From what little I know of eink it is not an easy thing to do.... How about large eink screens to replace lcd monitors....There are already eink watches....i
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Old 09-03-2012, 09:26 PM   #9
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I personally would upgrade if they offered a higher contrast screen. While the screen now is ok, it could be improved. I know people who are not interested in e-ink readers now because they find the screens are too grey.
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Old 09-03-2012, 09:53 PM   #10
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PRS-T1/T2 example

DarkScribe, do you still listen to cassettes? I'm betting you are a cassette man.

E Ink devices already cater to a small market of dedicated readers. This market will only get smaller, and more frustrated with the technology, if progress is not made that caters to improving their experience. How many Sony PRS-T1 users do you think excitedly rushed out to buy the PRS-T2? Why have eReader sales plunged over the past year? Both E Ink, and the major reader producers, need to continue to upgrade their devices to secure interest in their market.

I am not comparing tablets to eReaders Hidari, but I am saying that more people are buying tablets because of this new no-frills eReader attitude, expressed by DarkScribe, that has stifled eReader development. Wallcraft has it exactly right. In order for E Ink to remain relevant in the bells-and-whistles tablet world, they need to make the needed improvements that will make it stand out. An HD screen would certainly help, and existing users will appreciate the upgrade.

Amazon will show the veracity of my argument on Thursday. I am almost certain that "higher contrast" or HD screen technology will be apart of their Kindle 5 pitch. If HD screens are just unneeded, then why would they incorporate this advance?

I am not the only one making this argument about E Ink stagnation:

The Future of Electronic Paper Looks Bleak
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Old 09-03-2012, 09:56 PM   #11
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@Charmain - that is my argument precisely! Nothing more, nothing less.

E Ink screens are grey, text is blurry, and there is plenty of room for improvement. When people are debating as to whether they should buy an iPad or a Kindle, they will see that Apple boasts the retina display, while the Kindle has the same old E Ink screen that came out in 2010. New device users who don't care as much about backlit displays will pick the iPad, while E Ink lovers will grudgingly hope for something better, unless you are totally content with what you have.
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Old 09-03-2012, 10:11 PM   #12
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What I find strange here is the idea that innovation is just waiting for need. Sure, a market is required for funding, but it doesn't guarantee that something appears when it's wanted. If no one has figured out how to do something, that's all there is to it. If no one knows how to increase e-ink pixel density at the right price point, it won't happen. If the no one knows how to increase e-ink contrast at the right price point, it won't happen. No amount of demanding it as a consumer will bring it about if the technology's not there.
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Old 09-03-2012, 10:54 PM   #13
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DarkScribe, do you still listen to cassettes? I'm betting you are a cassette man.
Now you being puerile.


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Originally Posted by Isles8008 View Post
E Ink devices already cater to a small market of dedicated readers. This market will only get smaller, and more frustrated with the technology, if progress is not made that caters to improving their experience.
The market is NOT getting smaller, it is plateauing. People who have bought an eReader and are happy with it are not going to be queuing up to buy another one. Why should they?

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I am not comparing tablets to eReaders Hidari, but I am saying that more people are buying tablets because of this new no-frills eReader attitude, expressed by DarkScribe, that has stifled eReader development.
Now you are once again being disingenuous. People buy tablets because they want what a tablet offers, they don't buy them as de facto eReaders.

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Wallcraft has it exactly right. In order for E Ink to remain relevant in the bells-and-whistles tablet world, they need to make the needed improvements that will make it stand out. An HD screen would certainly help, and existing users will appreciate the upgrade.
You are again comparing apples and oranges. Tablets and eReaders are not in competition. People who only own one might read on them, much as some people use a Kindle app to read on a computer, but those who do a lot of reading prefer a dedicated eReader.

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Amazon will show the veracity of my argument on Thursday. I am almost certain that "higher contrast" or HD screen technology will be apart of their Kindle 5 pitch. If HD screens are just unneeded, then why would they incorporate this advance?
Why don't we wait until Thursday if you are so sure?

When an eReader can match the resolution of a printed page - why is higher resolution needed? Printed pages are not hi-res. As for new eInk technology - why wasn't the colour eInk screen - released in 2010 - a success? Because people who were serious about reading didn't care. They were happy with what they had - the Pearl screen. Using a colour screen for reading novel would make as much sense as printing a paperback in coloured ink.

You are clearly determined to regard tablets and dedicated eReaders as competing with each other. This is your prerogative, luckily those involved in developing and manufacturing the devices don't agree with you. You are also ignoring other issues to do with sustained reading on active (light emitting) screens that don't affect eInk screens. There has been quite a bit of science associated with these problems made public recently. Many, if not most keen readers will read in the evening before going to sleep. Science is showing that to do so on a screen that emits light rather than reflects it is actually damaging to the body's sleep patterns and negatively affects health.
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Old 09-04-2012, 01:47 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by DarkScribe View Post
There has been quite a bit of science associated with these problems made public recently. Many, if not most keen readers will read in the evening before going to sleep. Science is showing that to do so on a screen that emits light rather than reflects it is actually damaging to the body's sleep patterns and negatively affects health.
There have? I tend to read on my phone or tablet when going to bed at night, reading on an eInk screen requires, at least in my case, not only a reading light but also ambient light. Since I often fall asleep while reading I prefer the Android devices, they turn themselves off after a certain time of inaction. The light stays on until I wake up. Hence, I'm interested in what you say about sleep patterns and health. Any links?
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Old 09-04-2012, 03:21 AM   #15
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It seems to me that the major area e-readers should improve is their operating systems and/or firmwares. While the current generation e-ink screens are, from my point of view, good enough - and a significant improvement compared to first gen e-ink - e-reading devices are still rather sluggish and slow to operate (and this is definitely not to blame exclusively on the somewhat lower refresh rates of e-ink screens). The lack of proper pdf support in most (all?) e-ink readers is another issue. In these areas tablets (and smartphones) offer significant advantages over current e-ink devices. Manufacturers should strive to bridge this gap.
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