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Old 01-01-2010, 05:15 AM   #91
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Very true, but one could say the same about the print medium, too. A "pulp" paperback format would not be an ideal format on which to print art illustrations; a glossy hardback format would be a poor choice for a daily newspaper. Yet both of these are valid formats for other types of content, and one cannot say that they are "poor" reading devices as a consequence.

There probably never will be any one device which is ideal for reading all types of reading matter, whether than device be a print medium or an electronic one.
I don't see why digital reader devices cannot get close to that all-in-one solution, size excepted. Better screen technologies with faster response and better viewability will not necessarily be ideal for all media, but will be an excellent jack-of-all-trades, rather than the one trick pony they are today. Even many newspapers have gone to printing relatively primitive color for their images, despite newspaper stock being rather mediocre for that purpose. Even as a one trick pony, EPDs aren't all that hot, though they're the only currently available option. My hope is that 2010 and 2011 will change that. Seriously, I'm a big believer in the ebook reader concept, and I see potential in many different fields of content that are currently untapped. However, much of it will need something a good bit better than today's EPDs, and there are already better alternatives around the corner, going into production and about to cross into the market's periphery.
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Old 01-01-2010, 05:23 AM   #92
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I don't see why digital reader devices cannot get close to that all-in-one solution, size excepted. Better screen technologies with faster response and better viewability will not necessarily be ideal for all media, but will be an excellent jack-of-all-trades, rather than the one trick pony they are today. Even many newspapers have gone to printing relatively primitive color for their images, despite newspaper stock being rather mediocre for that purpose. Even as a one trick pony, EPDs aren't all that hot, though they're the only currently available option. My hope is that 2010 and 2011 will change that. Seriously, I'm a big believer in the ebook reader concept, and I see potential in many different fields of content that are currently untapped. However, much of it will need something a good bit better than today's EPDs, and there are already better alternatives around the corner, going into production and about to cross into the market's periphery.
I'm not particularly wedded to EPD screens, although I think they are currently the best technology around for novel reading, especially when it comes to battery life. Quality-wise, they are comparable to newspaper print - not ideal, but certainly readable. I too hope that emerging technologies will offer real alternatives, but I suspect that's not going to happen this year.
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Old 01-01-2010, 07:36 AM   #93
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I AM arguing that a significant share of the e-reader market is GOING to be eaten up by multifunction devices (which may or may not be eInk devices, but they WILL be color, they WILL be fast, and their battery life WILL be shorter than a pure "eInk (or some successor) novel readers."
Perhaps, but that also depends on how we define that "market share."

For example, it's plausible that in a few years, the vast majority of US and EU citizens will own smartphones that run ebook software, and that far more smartphones are in circulation than epaper devices.

However, people do not purchase books in equal amounts. According to a 2008 Zogby Poll, 50% of the public buys 10 or fewer books per year; 24% buy 11-20 books per year; 14% buy more than 20 books per year. (Even if these particular numbers are inaccurate, I have no doubt that there is a smaller group that reads far more than the majority.) Chances are that those who read, say, 15+ books per year will want a device that is made for reading, rather than made to watch movies, and that these users will be a major force in driving ebook revenues -- far more than the people who buy 5 or fewer books per year, for example.

Separately, a device that is relatively free of distractions and can go days without a charge makes more sense to the education market (especially K-12) than one that shows movies, can receive email in class, and has a battery life shorter than a single school day. Education could easily affect the market share numbers.

Also, it doesn't quite make sense to say that ebook reading market share will be "eaten up" by multifunction devices, because this is not currently a zero-sum game -- especially with wireless technologies, which can sync your books across many devices. E.g. you may have your epaper device with you most of the time, but jump on your smartphone to read when you're stuck in a queue and didn't bring your epaper device with you. A tablet sold is not necessarily a lost sale for an epaper device, and there is obviously going to be growth in both sectors.

As to whether tablets specifically will flourish, I have my doubts. The current crop of tablets (i.e. laptops with touch screens) have some utility, but have hardly taken the market by storm. IMO that's much more about hype than interest by the general public, at least at the moment.
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Old 01-01-2010, 07:51 AM   #94
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I've been reading eBooks for something like 25 years (since the days of the Psion 3, in the early 1980s), so I'm afraid that for me, the idea that it's something "new" seems a little strange.
Nothing in what you quoted said it was new. And, yes you can be an early adopter for 25 years. And something can have existed for 25 years and still be fringe.
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Old 01-01-2010, 08:05 AM   #95
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Nothing in what you quoted said it was new. And, yes you can be an early adopter for 25 years. And something can have existed for 25 years and still be fringe.

Fringe can only be defined by specifying a core. If the core is books/publishing, that is a very different thing than if the core is PDA/Cellphone/netbooks
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Old 01-01-2010, 10:11 AM   #96
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I've been reading eBooks for something like 25 years (since the days of the Psion 3, in the early 1980s), so I'm afraid that for me, the idea that it's something "new" seems a little strange.
I never said it was "new". I said it was a fringe novelty for most of the reading for pleasure population, for the reasons stated.

I started reading eBooks in earnest on a Handspring Visor Deluxe perhaps 10 years ago, though I'd been reading electronic texts on a desktop or laptop prior to that . The main change was starting to read fiction in electronic form.

But then, I'm in the "reads alot" category, as well as qualifying as an early adopter, since I'm a tech and am always looking at new gadgets.

Fundamentally, dedicated readers are still a niche market item, though the niche is big enough thus far to support several vendors. Given the new offerings in the pipeline, the next question is when we see the shakeout as the market gets too crowded and some entrants fail/depart.
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Old 01-01-2010, 11:43 AM   #97
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You know, if I could have PDA functions on my Kindle or an eInk device that would be great. But the big problem is screen refresh time. The keyboard makes it relatively painless to make entries but the screen refresh is not fast enough, yet. I know there are work arounds but it still isn't as easy as my smartphone. Even if my dedicated reader could easily maintain my calendar and contacts I would still have a cell phone but not a smartphone. All I really need to do with my cell is make and receive calls and text. I do not like to read on it and the on screen keyboard isn't as nice as a physical one.

I'm sure that eventually we'll be able to pick and choose the functions we desire on our devices. As long as the display is at least as easy on the eyes as eInk then I'll be satisfied.
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Old 01-01-2010, 01:03 PM   #98
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It's a continuation of my earlier assertion that too many people presume "reading" to be nothing more than text-viewing.
Well, one might make the argument that there is a significant difference between 'looking at a stream of text' and 'looking at the pictures'. And that most people would probably accept the first under the generic term 'reading', I doubt that most would include the second.

If those pictures should chance to be high resolution line art, e.g. circuit diagrams, exploded diagrams, construction blue-prints and so on, then the requirements - apart from screen *size* are largely those of monochrome text: good contrast ratio and high resolution (even grey-scale capability is optional if the resolution is high enough). Though, to be honest, when you get to a diagram that needs to be A0 or larger to make sense, frankly, you need A0 or larger paper to hold it. Scrolling around will never suffice.

If you need high contrast high resolution images with good colour fidelity, then whether you are dealing with paper or electronic display devices, it's going to cost - in the case of electronics, it's going to cost a lot in both hardware and power costs, with current or near term displays.

As it happens, I have a hobby involving photography - and in particular, archaic techniques - and a number of books from the 1850s onwards. They contain detailed images - both line, litho, and actual photo images ranging from cyanotypes through bromo and cibachrome. But I wouldn't consider them as suitable candidates for transfer to *any* of the current ebooks, nor any current computer except possibly some of the high-end typesetting systems. There are some things which are simply better - by *my* terms - in book form.

That said, ninety percent or more of the books I own either have no pictures, or (in the case of my science fiction magazine collection) pictures I don't want in the text stream - just the covers. And a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests there's around a third of billion words to enjoy in that collection. I shan't worry about the inability of current readers to display pretty pictures.

It seems to me there are two questions to ask: (1) Does the text display of the reader suffice to your requirements? and (2) Do I want to full aesthetic experience of a paper book?

If the answer to (1) is yes, then get pretty much any of the current displays and start reading. If the answer to (2) is yes, then pick up a book. There's no reason to suggest or require the 'death of eink' simply because it can't manage a niche display requirement.

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Old 01-01-2010, 01:18 PM   #99
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Perhaps, but that also depends on how we define that "market share."
I'm trying NOT to play semantic games by 'defining' things one way or another. I'm trying to look at the "big picture." You have to keep in mind that prices/costs are driven by market share: the more of something that is sold, the cheaper it can be sold, and the cheaper something is, the more of them that will be sold. Now, I'm sure your argument will be that eInk machines will inherently always be cheaper than fast color multi-function devices, but if that's so, why don't we still have monochrome word-processing machines in all of our offices? It's because the added functionality and flexibility of fexible color computers so FAR out-weighs the savings in cost, that the market for those b&w word processors dried up to the point at which it was unsustainable.

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50% of the public buys 10 or fewer books per year; 24% buy 11-20 books per year; 14% buy more than 20 books per year.
Exactly. Thanks for proving my point. Current eInk readers are being supported by 14% or less of the population. The REST of the population still reads, and reads a tremendous amount, but it's newspapers, magazines, WEB SITES, etc, all of which benefit tremendously from faster, color machines. When more than 80% of the population wants fast color reading devices, where do you think the market is going to go?

Again, I am NOT saying the eInk devices (or some other "optimized for book reading" devices) will go away, or go away soon. I personally believe they WILL, but that's very much just-my-opinion. But I think it's pretty indefensible to claim that eInk/"optimized for book reading" devices will (or even should) retain a majority share of the market. It's just not going to happen.

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(Even if these particular numbers are inaccurate, I have no doubt that there is a smaller group that reads far more than the majority.) Chances are that those who read, say, 15+ books per year will want a device that is made for reading, rather than made to watch movies, and that these users will be a major force in driving ebook revenues -- far more than the people who buy 5 or fewer books per year, for example.
Correct. Absolutely. (well, mostly...) But again, from the same data, we draw two VERY different conclusions. Yes, those who read 15+ books per year will want a device that is GOOD for reading (but that doesn't mean it WON'T be good for other things too... technology marches on). Just because something CAN play movies, too (and quite well) doesn't mean it can't display books in an excellent fashion, too. Maybe we don't have the technology today, January 1, 2010, but I think you're being very short-sighted if you think it will never happen (and likely sooner than later). And yes, those 15+/year book readers WILL be a major force in driving ebook revenues, but ebook revenues are a tiny (and rapidly shrinking) percentage of all 'media' consumed today and in the future. The market products are driven by the market demands, and yes, niche products can (and sometimes DO) survive, but the mainstream (ie, highest volume) products are inherently not niche products, and a 14% market share is NOT mainstream. And the actual market share for novel-reading-optimized devices, once fast, color, flexible, reasonably cheap devices become available will be far less than 14%, probably closer to 1% of the market. I bought pretty close to 15 books just last MONTH, but give me the choice between a gray-scale eInk-ish device that does nothing else, and a fast, color, flexible, reasonably priced device that also is good for reading novels, and I'm gone in an instant without looking back. And I have no particular desire to watch TV or movies on such a device. But I do want to do many other things on it. I'm not (and won't be) the only one.

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Also, it doesn't quite make sense to say that ebook reading market share will be "eaten up" by multifunction devices, because this is not currently a zero-sum game...
You say to-may-toe, I say to-mah-to... I consider a device that drops from around 80 or 90% market share to less than 10% in a 10 year period to have been "eaten up". We can argue this until the next blue moon, perhaps, without changing anyone's mind, so let's come back in 10 years and see where the market is?

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As to whether tablets specifically will flourish, I have my doubts. The current crop of tablets (i.e. laptops with touch screens) have some utility, but have hardly taken the market by storm. IMO that's much more about hype than interest by the general public, at least at the moment.
The hype is there because LOTS of people want those things. "The current crop" haven't taken the market by storm because the right combination of technology and design and marketing hasn't yet come along. But to claim that's evidence that it never WILL seems ...short-sighted. Look how long it's taken the e-book market to take off. People have been reading e-books for 20 years or more... in VERY small numbers. But it's only been in the past year or two that e-book READERS have taken off. The Amazon Kindle was not the first e-reader. But it was the one that triggered the sudden acceptance of e-readers and e-books by a large enough population to suddenly make the market sit up and take notice. When the right technology, design, pricing, marketing combination comes along with light-weight, fast, color, flexible readers/computers/slates/tablets/whatever-you-want-to-call-them, it's going to make the Kindle intro look like a blip in history, because suddenly 80-90% of the population is going to want one instead of 5-10%.

Too many of the arguments I'm reading here by the staunch defenders of eInk/novel-reading-specialized devices seem to assume that technology will not march onwards, that fast color displays with flexible operating systems will never be able to come anywhere close to the quality of reading experience of the current (or future) eInk displays. I've been around (yes, here's the "old geezer" argument) since before the days of LED digital watches, the ones with red readouts that required you to push a button to read the time because the LEDs would run the battery down in no time. They were succeeded by LCDs which were always on and lower power, and easy to read in the sun (the red LEDs were harder to read in direct sun). I've watched the birth of home computer kits with hex-LED readouts (and built my own), the explosion of "home computers", the intro of the Apple and IBM PC computers (with b&w monitors, then 4-color CGA, then 16-color EGA and 256-color VGA and on and on, and then LCDs...). Blah, blah, blah... after a while, you get a feeling for the technology market and how the mass of people behave in the market place and how the market place reacts to them. The future of (the majority of) the ereader market seems obvious to me.

But maybe I'm wrong. I was once before, when I thought I'd made a mistake...
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Old 01-01-2010, 01:26 PM   #100
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It seems to me there are two questions to ask: (1) Does the text display of the reader suffice to your requirements? and (2) Do I want to full aesthetic experience of a paper book?

If the answer to (1) is yes, then get pretty much any of the current displays and start reading. If the answer to (2) is yes, then pick up a book. There's no reason to suggest or require the 'death of eink' simply because it can't manage a niche display requirement.
It all depends upon how you define 'niche', doesn't it? You're defining it as YOUR niche, because 95% of what you work with is words. I define "words only optimized" as niche, because I think only 5% of the population (marketplace) would be happy with "words only optimized". You and I are part of a niche. We read LOTS of words. That makes it not a niche for us, but it makes us a niche in the marketplace.
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Old 01-01-2010, 03:13 PM   #101
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ekaser, what is the primary use for a gadget? There is no question a tablet can be used as an e-book reader. I have a primitive tablet/e-book reader (CyBook Gen 1). However given a choice between the two, I choose an e-ink reader for novel reading. Easier on the eyes, and it doesn't have to be charged up every few hours. A tablet is ok for a light duty reader. And you are right, the majority are only ever going to use a gadget for a light duty reader, at best. (Most likely, they'll never read a thing on it, when they can watch a super-duper hero movie instead.)

But what's wrong with a niche product? Apple's Macintosh computer was a niche product for over 20 years. ( And not a whole lot better that niche today.) Flexibility is good, but not at the cost of the primary use. Your primary use is high-definition color images. Fine. Text oriented user will tend to prefer gadgets that fit their niche needs better. They'll pay more, but enough of them will be around to provide a market.

Will e-ink get supplanted in the niche their in? Probably. but the supplanting devices will have to be bistable (so they use low energy amount AND they don't flicker), and read existing software formats. Color? Probably, but I want to be able to see a product before I'll say it'll take over. For me, and most text readers, image reproduction is a secondary task, not a primary one.

Maybe I'm set in my ways. But you know, in 1995, everything was totally Personal Computer centric, the classic multi-tasking device. Since then, there been a steady growth of "gadget" tech, with a single main purpose, and what ever secondary purposes can be easily added. Portable game players, music players, cell phones, Personal media players, ect. Each one has a primary use, and whatever secondary uses the builders feel is worth sticking in on the gadget. I don't see this pattern going away.
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Old 01-01-2010, 03:26 PM   #102
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Originally Posted by ekaser View Post
I'm trying NOT to play semantic games by 'defining' things one way or another.... I think it's pretty indefensible to claim that eInk/"optimized for book reading" devices will (or even should) retain a majority share of the market. It's just not going to happen.
It's not a "semantic game." It's pointing out that there is a big difference between device type X being in the hands of the majority of individuals, compared to device type Y driving the majority of the revenues.

Let's assume that a total of 10 million people purchase ebooks in 2010 at $10 each. 50% buy an average of 5 ebooks; 24% buy an average of 15 ebooks; 14% buy an average of 30 ebooks. The first tier generates $250 million in sales; the second, $360 million; the third, $420 million. From a revenue perspective, if that top 14% (and some of the second tier) wants a device that's dedicated for reading, and epaper happens to offer the best reading experience, then it's pretty clear that epaper devices will not only stick around, but command a significant percentage of the ebook market.

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Originally Posted by ekaser
Now, I'm sure your argument will be that eInk machines will inherently always be cheaper than fast color multi-function devices, but if that's so, why don't we still have monochrome word-processing machines in all of our offices?
Not really, device price isn't terribly critical to my argument. I've also pointed out in previous posts that the complete cessation of a focused device because of a superior multifunction device does happen, but this is extremely rare; so far all I know of are these dedicated word processors and PDA's.

And if convergence is so fantabulous and inevitable, then why do most people still have separate TV's and computer monitors? Why don't most TV's have DVD and/or Blu-Ray and/or DVR's and/or home theater amplifiers built into them? Why do we have separate applications for word processing, spreadsheets, page layout, HTML layout, image editing, database functions and so forth instead of one converged application that does it all?


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Originally Posted by ekaser
The REST of the population still reads, and reads a tremendous amount, but it's newspapers, magazines, WEB SITES, etc, all of which benefit tremendously from faster, color machines. When more than 80% of the population wants fast color reading devices, where do you think the market is going to go?
Hard to say, as that depends on how long it takes color epaper to become viable.

And if that 80% uses their Plastic Fantastic Tablets to get the magazine for free via the web (a setup that doesn't provide magazines with sufficient revenue to stay afloat, btw) while the remaining 20% happen to be on epaper devices and actually pay for the magazine content that also includes trackable ads, which do you think the publishers will want to emphasize and cater to?


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Originally Posted by ekaser
Just because something CAN play movies, too (and quite well) doesn't mean it can't display books in an excellent fashion, too.
Based on current technology, this is probably incorrect. Again, epaper is light, thin, cheap, easy on the eyes, and terrible for animations; an LCD-type display is great for motion and has color, but will result in a heavier device, far less battery time, etc etc.


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Originally Posted by ekaser
Maybe we don't have the technology today, January 1, 2010, but I think you're being very short-sighted if you think it will never happen (and likely sooner than later).
Y'know, maybe if Duke Nukem Forever actually came out, your tech optimism would be valid.

More to the point is that a) I expect both LCD and epaper to improve moving forward, thus largely preserving their relative advantages; and b) regardless of technological issues, a focused device is always going to be better for the specific task of reading. Separately, 90% of the functions people want to shove into their ebook readers will be included into all these other devices. Why will you need a calendar in your ebook reader, for example, when you've got synced calendars on your 2 home computers and your smartphone?


Quote:
Originally Posted by ekaser
And yes, those 15+/year book readers WILL be a major force in driving ebook revenues, but ebook revenues are a tiny (and rapidly shrinking) percentage of all 'media' consumed today and in the future....
EBooks are a small slice, but a rapidly growing part of the (iirc) $135 billion book industry (about $35 billion in the US). Not bad, considering that movie theaters in the US broke $10 billion this year and that US video game revenues were around $42 billion. The ebook market isn't likely to stay "tiny" for long.

I have no idea when ebooks will constitute a major percentage of the book market, but it seems very likely this will come to pass long after color eInk is shipping.



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Originally Posted by ekaser
You say to-may-toe, I say to-mah-to... I consider a device that drops from around 80 or 90% market share to less than 10% in a 10 year period to have been "eaten up".
Then your consideration isn't taking into effect the fact that this is a nascent market, not an established or zero-sum environment -- i.e. one tablet sold does not necessarily mean one less epaper-type device sold (or vice versa). E.g. the figures you cite could easily result in eInk making 10 times more screens for reading than they do now, or that epaper devices may drive more than 50% of the revenues of the electronic end of the industry (especially if they wind up making big gains in the education market). E.g. Apple has a fairly small market share overall, but obviously commands an influence (particularly over the media) which is far in excess of any rational measure of its market share or revenues. I'm not sure anyone would describe Apple as "eaten up" by Microsoft, or BMW as "eaten up" by GM or Ford, or Prada as "eaten up" by Levi's, despite their small share of their markets.
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Old 01-01-2010, 03:51 PM   #103
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Okay, I've talked enough on this one. It's obvious (to me) that we're talking to cross-purposes. To summarize my position:

1) The future (no more than 10 years from now) of the majority of the "reader" market will be color displays with fast response time.
2) eInk (or something similar) may well stick around (or maybe not, if #1 is equally good for reading, but probably will stick around, because battery life will never be as good with fast displays as with a bi-stable display).

All the rest is just reasoning and preferences. But that's how I see the future.
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Old 01-01-2010, 03:56 PM   #104
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Originally Posted by ekaser View Post
Okay, I've talked enough on this one. It's obvious (to me) that we're talking to cross-purposes. To summarize my position:

1) The future (no more than 10 years from now) of the majority of the "reader" market will be color displays with fast response time.
2) eInk (or something similar) may well stick around (or maybe not, if #1 is equally good for reading, but probably will stick around, because battery life will never be as good with fast displays as with a bi-stable display).

All the rest is just reasoning and preferences. But that's how I see the future.
Thing about some of the replacements for E-Ink like Mirasol is that they are bistable and they are capable of fast refresh. There's no real sacrifice involved, only gain. Rather than the screen being one of the big limiting factors, underpowered processing (for low cost or easier thermal management) may become the major performance bottleneck limiting things like video playback.

Last edited by LDBoblo; 01-01-2010 at 04:00 PM.
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Old 01-01-2010, 03:58 PM   #105
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Thing about some of the replacements for E-Ink like Mirasol is that they are bistable and they are capable of fast refresh. There's no real sacrifice involved, only gain.
If they make it out the commercial door. I want Mirasol to, but until I can see it in the marketplace, I won't bet on it....
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