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Old 09-30-2006, 10:34 AM   #1
Bob Russell
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The search for the Holy Grail of reading lights continues

With the present excitement about the new e-ink reading devices comes the question of how to read in the dark. The forums are already full of some great discussions about whether or not the lack of some sort of built in light is a big deal or not. And there are already some thoughts about solutions, like maybe a light wedge side lighting solution or clip on light, which would be even better on an e-ink device than a book, because page turns don't require anything to be moved.

One of the more interesting points made so far has been by romance author da_jane who says that "42 readers of the 60 some who responded on my blog wanted a backlight. We aren't technophiles but we are avid readers. For those who don't know, romance ebooks are currently the most downloaded genre. Look at any ebookstore for the bestsellers. At least half will be romances. Why is that? Because romance readers, on average, buy at least 5 books a month and sometimes up to 20. We primarily read mass market titles and we are used to carry these things around everywhere we go. The need for a backlight or some integrated light source comes from the fact that we often read in lowlight situations. During movies with our kids, in the car (while someone else is driving of course), in bed with our SOs who frequently complain about the light (hence the huge aftermarket business of booklights)."

Personally, the disturb-your-significant-other light bleeding issue isn't currently a problem for me right now, and the lack of a built-in light is not a deal breaker for me.

But a lighting solution would be great. So while starting to do a little hunting for a light that would clip onto my bed's headboard and plug into an A/C outlet, I found someone else that has been doing some hunting. BookOfJoe presents an interesting look at lighting solutions for paper books. He shows some of the interesting solutions he's tried, including a caver's light that is worn on your head. As of this article, he doesn't seem to have come up with the perfect solution yet.

I didn't expect backlighting to be the hot topic about e-ink, but it's shaping up that way. Fortunately, if there some are good lighting solutions out there, somebody is sure to find them and let us know!
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Old 09-30-2006, 02:30 PM   #2
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my favorite solution

for commercial lights, about 20 years ago someone came up with a side-lit piece of clear plastic and sold it in both large for hardcovers and smaller for paperbacks. I recently saw them again and purchased one. Very similiar to one that I came up with when I had access to my father's lab at work. When EL panels were rare things, rather than the night lights I can pick up for $2 today, for a project I built a similiar item but rimmed with EL material. A little too green, but that was the only color available at the time. A couple of people at the lab loved them - but prototypes were running $600 at the time (Told ya it was early in the EL game...). Some were actually made to overlay on maps for the Pentagon - I got credit for them but no pay. (EL material was the backlight for the Frankin Ebookman (very poor implimentation) and the Sony Clie's). So - what actually could be done today is a clear touch screen with EL material (rather than spotted LEDs) surrounding the panel on top of the E-ink display.
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Old 09-30-2006, 02:38 PM   #3
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Reading in bed — Episode 2: The search for the Holy Grail continues

Reading in bed — Episode 2 appeared in my blog, bookofjoe, in August of 2005, a follow-up to the post in late 2004 so kindly referenced above by Bob Russell.

Long story short: I still haven't found what I'm looking for.

Here's a link to the 2005 post:

http://www.bookofjoe.com/2005/08/reading_at_nigh.html

Best,

Joe

http://www.bookofjoe.com

'World's most popular blogging anesthesiologist'
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Old 10-01-2006, 04:27 AM   #4
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Is it possible to make backlit e-ink display?

Everybody talks about the newest e-ink readers missing a backlight. The question is, can an e-ink dislay have backlight at all?

TFT display can have a backlight. In fact, it is unuseable *without* a backlight.

Black and white lcd display (ala digital watch, or a classical calculator) can have a backlight, because it is transparent. it doesn't really need backlight - in optimal light conditions ;-)

I do not think e-ink display is transparent and I doubt there will be device with a backlit e-ink display in the foreseeable future.

Think about it. The principle of e-ink is: large numbers of very small hollow transparent spheres are filled with white liqiud and black magnetically charged powder suspended in liquid. You can magnetically "pull" the powder to the bottom of sphere - in that case it will apear to be white. Or you can "push" magneticall the powder to the upper part of the sphere, making it look black.

Now close your eyes and imagine a strong light source behind such a display. What do you get? Right. A nice looking uniform gray color.

Take your pick
- do you want an e-ink based bookreader
- or you want a backlit bookreader ?
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Old 10-01-2006, 05:40 AM   #5
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I don't know whether E Ink displays can have a backlight theoratically.

But I know a backlight would defeat the purpose.

Think about it... E Ink was made to conserve battery lifetime as much as possible. And one of the biggest battery drainer in a mobile device is usually it's backlight.
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Old 10-01-2006, 08:35 AM   #6
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So if you mainly read in badly lit places, the PDA rules?

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Old 10-01-2006, 08:41 AM   #7
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TFT can have a backlight, front/sidelight or use ambient light.

The lightguide, reflector, polarizer and TFT design together determines which type it is:
  1. Transmissive - Backlight required
  2. Reflective - Front/sidelight or ambient light required
  3. Transflective - Backlight, front/side light or ambient light

Whether it is STN (or DSTN, SSTN, CSTN) or TFT, does not limit the above configuration.

Just so we all know.

For current eink designs, Ambient light is needed. Embedded front/side light should possible.

eReaders should have the front/side light embedded and connected to a AA or AAA battery that is easily replaced so that there is the option to have built-in front lighting that is convenient.

Lightwedge is pretty cool and I think was mentioned above.
http://www.lightwedge.com/
http://www.theledlight.com/lightwedge.html

Quote:
Originally Posted by kacir
Is it possible to make backlit e-ink display?

Everybody talks about the newest e-ink readers missing a backlight. The question is, can an e-ink dislay have backlight at all?

TFT display can have a backlight. In fact, it is unuseable *without* a backlight.

Black and white lcd display (ala digital watch, or a classical calculator) can have a backlight, because it is transparent. it doesn't really need backlight - in optimal light conditions ;-)

I do not think e-ink display is transparent and I doubt there will be device with a backlit e-ink display in the foreseeable future.

Think about it. The principle of e-ink is: large numbers of very small hollow transparent spheres are filled with white liqiud and black magnetically charged powder suspended in liquid. You can magnetically "pull" the powder to the bottom of sphere - in that case it will apear to be white. Or you can "push" magneticall the powder to the upper part of the sphere, making it look black.

Now close your eyes and imagine a strong light source behind such a display. What do you get? Right. A nice looking uniform gray color.

Take your pick
- do you want an e-ink based bookreader
- or you want a backlit bookreader ?
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Old 10-02-2006, 01:39 AM   #8
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Backlight problems

I can not see properly in low light situations. I bought my first palm for this reason. There are many products on the market with backlights and read anywhere screens. Do we really need to pay money for something that dosen't take care of a basic need such as seeing what we are looking at. There are a large numper of Tablet PCs currently hitting the market. I will probaly purchase one of these. I also like something that is not so delicate. I saw a product called a switch back that will run windows XP and windows mobile. Two operating systems on the same devise and it will fit in pants pockets. Looks and probaly is quite pricey. The thing that is most disturbing about the electronic industry is that they are not willing to bend to the customers needs. The battery on most devises with few exceptions is not large enough. As they make advances in battery technology they also lower the size of the battery to keep the same dismal capacity. I am probaly going to need a pc for school next year and am looking at a canadian product that boasts nine hours between charges. Lithium polymer. Yes a backlight and a longer lasting battery will weigh a little more and cost more. I would rather pay the price than be without.
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Old 10-02-2006, 11:07 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reb1
I can not see properly in low light situations. I bought my first palm for this reason. There are many products on the market with backlights and read anywhere screens.
I love my Pilot, but I can't read it's screen outside in the daylight, so it's not "read anywhere" in my book.

In fact I can't think of any display technology that can be read under all normally experienced conditions. Not even paper. It's a bit disingenuous to imply that Palm has overcome that, it has its trade-offs too, e-ink just has different trade-offs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by reb1
Do we really need to pay money for something that dosen't take care of a basic need such as seeing what we are looking at. There are a large numper of Tablet PCs currently hitting the market.
Which also can't be read in daylight.

I know a fellow that owns an engineering company. He equipped his guys with Tablet PC's to use in the field for filling out e-forms. They got out to their job sites and couldn't see the screen. Trade-offs.

It comes down to what an individual user needs, and what best suits those needs. E-ink, and these devices, just aren't going to meet everyone's needs, so they'll choose something different. But that applies to everything -- no one thing is everything.

I mentioned that I love my Pilot, I've had one for ~10.5 years, and their products fill my needs in that area marvelously well (except the LifeDrives, blech), However, I regularly tell people that they shouldn't get a Palm when I find from talking to them that it won't do what they need/want to do.

These devices are no different. Nor is any device, for that matter.

You gotta decide for yourself what works best for you. I'm just glad that we live in a world that does have so many options, and I think these e-ink readers are excellent additions to the option set.
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Old 10-03-2006, 03:46 AM   #10
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Again Reading in the dark

Quote:
Originally Posted by NatCh
I love my Pilot, but I can't read it's screen outside in the daylight, so it's not "read anywhere" in my book.

In fact I can't think of any display technology that can be read under all normally experienced conditions. Not even paper. It's a bit disingenuous to imply that Palm has overcome that, it has its trade-offs too, e-ink just has different trade-offs.

Which also can't be read in daylight.

I know a fellow that owns an engineering company. He equipped his guys with Tablet PC's to use in the field for filling out e-forms. They got out to their job sites and couldn't see the screen. Trade-offs.

It comes down to what an individual user needs, and what best suits those needs. E-ink, and these devices, just aren't going to meet everyone's needs, so they'll choose something different. But that applies to everything -- no one thing is everything.

I mentioned that I love my Pilot, I've had one for ~10.5 years, and their products fill my needs in that area marvelously well (except the LifeDrives, blech), However, I regularly tell people that they shouldn't get a Palm when I find from talking to them that it won't do what they need/want to do.

These devices are no different. Nor is any device, for that matter.

You gotta decide for yourself what works best for you. I'm just glad that we live in a world that does have so many options, and I think these e-ink readers are excellent additions to the option set.

There are tablets that can be read in sunlight they are very expensive. I'm not interested in reading in the sun. In the dark or in the shade will do just fine. I believe most people who use tablets use them out of direct sunlight or with some shade. I as stated before will not even consider the purchase of a product that does not have some type of lighting devise so it can be read in the dark. As much as this descussion might seem fun to some it has no merit. The manufactur who produces these products have been listening to other people than me or you. Palm pilot owners have been complaining about and urging palm to manufacture devices with both outside and indoor reading options for years. Yes you can read the old palms in the sunlight. I have purchased my last palm. I will by a windows mobile and put StyleTap on it before I put up with Plastic worthless touchscreens and no option on a battery. Back to the light, You can find shade under a tree, in a car, or under a tarp. It is evident so far that you can not get a manufacture to make a devise with the features you need because we are all differen't. Palm is happy selling to business types who don't have my needs. I use text entry on the screen. I am not interested in a cell phone.
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Old 10-03-2006, 11:04 AM   #11
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Yup.

And all I'm saying is that each of us has to (and gets to, thankfully) decide for himself which product best suits his needs.

I'm just glad that a product that suits my own, previously unaddressed needs has been added to the mix.
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Old 10-17-2006, 03:11 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reb1
I as stated before will not even consider the purchase of a product that does not have some type of lighting devise so it can be read in the dark.
So you never buy books?

It seems you don't get the point of e-ink. E-ink attempts to replicate the perfection of paper. Reflective displays are much better for your eyes. You can't read from a glowing, flickering window without wearing out your eyes.

Ever try reading a novel on your LCD monitor?

I, personally, would never consider an e-reader that has a backlight, even if it were useable outdoors. The point is to have digital paper.
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Old 10-17-2006, 10:04 AM   #13
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Extreme conditions require extreme measures and that is 1% or any gadget use. Complying to these functions only compounds complexity, price, computing power and power saving, all to the manufaturer's profit. I favor the KISS approach.(Keep It Simple Stupid)
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Old 10-17-2006, 11:51 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vrf
So you never buy books?

It seems you don't get the point of e-ink. E-ink attempts to replicate the perfection of paper. Reflective displays are much better for your eyes. You can't read from a glowing, flickering window without wearing out your eyes.
Do you still see flicker any more? Seriously, I think LCDs and the accompanying plastic are so much better. I sincerely don't see flicker any more and I find it all to be quite readable.

Not all LCDs mind you, but many.
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Old 10-17-2006, 12:13 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tcv
Do you still see flicker any more? Seriously, I think LCDs and the accompanying plastic are so much better. I sincerely don't see flicker any more and I find it all to be quite readable.

Not all LCDs mind you, but many.
Flicker is not necessarily visible but it can have an effect on how your eye/brain coordination relates.
My son has the Ipod video. The image is beautiful crisp and flicker free. He lent it to me so I could watch Ice Age on it. Ten minutes in, I was crying like a baby. Not the movie you i...t! It was the relation between size and refresh rate... I did'nt finish the movie, can someone tell me how it ends?
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