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?