E-reader dilemma

Recently, I have been pondering over which e-reader to buy, and I’ve had some thoughts about e-readers in general. Sure, it has the appeal of being eco-friendly and all that good stuff, but for me it has yet to reach the point of coming close to replacing print media. E-ink is fine with text, but when images need to be rendered, it is easy to see how e-ink fails at the task. I would like to be able to read comic books, manga and graphic novels, when a capable color e-ink display (presently, it is able to display about 16 shades of grey) does come out; it is safe to say that I’d be first in line to get one.  Screen refreshing comes next, smooth transition is just not viable with the present e-ink technology. I am not asking for a full-fledged animation to flip pages, just a faster and a less jitter-free transition. What is next in E-ink technology? This video is a little old, but the person who is being asked the questions is pretty knowledgeable about the technology and he does a good job explaining it. It seems that the technology for color-e ink has been in existence for quite some time. And the wow factor seems to be that the color technology in itself is just a passive layer on the existing e-ink technology, which means that we can still expect to see a battery life of a month or perhaps longer.

But interestingly, there have still not been any commercial devices that are available for purchase, yet. The major players have been holding off, complaining that the technology is not ready yet, and Sony complained about the color e-ink displays not being vibrant enough . Hanvon, a Chinese manufacturer announced one color e-reader back in 2010 and they demoed at CES, this year.  It was supposed to be due for sale on March 2011, but I still couldn’t find it on sale anywhere online. I did however stumbled up on something else entirely, Mirasol Display. It is not the same as e-ink or LCD, and Kyobo debuted it’s Mirasol Display device in Korea, it is definitely something to look forward to considering that it has e-ink like properties (long battery life, no trouble reading in direct sunlight). It also reminded me of the Pixel Qi display that was gloriously shown off with Notion Ink’s Adam. Notion Ink, a while ago the company had been battling delays in manufacturing and poor customer support. That aside, the Adam is still not a good e-reader, because the glass on the display does reflections a whole lot worse than the Kindle. However, it doesn’t seem like a fair comparison (when the Adam is also a tablet), what would be a fair comparison is Pixel-Qi against Mirasol.

Lastly, I am disappointed with the current lending library system that Amazon has in place, they have tied it with an Amazon Prime membership, which is just wrong (although, I can’t gloat enough about Prime membership when it comes to online shopping), they should be able to offer it as a separate service. And the limitations of one book a month and one book at a time, doesn’t help either. I haven’t yet had enough time to read about the capabilities of the Nook yet, but I’ve heard that from a hacking (modding) perspective, that it is the way to go.

Update: I got the Nook, and I am loving it so far.


About krithik

An Electrical Engineer by training, who occasionally dabbles in programming and design.
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