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ereaders of yesteryear

Updated on January 22, 2011

We are in the era of the iPad, with the amazon's kindle 2 having taken a back seat to the revolution soon about to take place. Could it be the time for electronic books to be one of the big surprises to hit the mainstream? Will e-readers today be the success story iPod was in 2001? The iPad is shares several fundamental similarities with the iPhone, whose sales may perhaps even be cannibalized to a certain extent as feared by stock watchers.

As of writing, more than 2 million iPads have been sold worldwide, and of course more will be sold before the end of the month. The kindle has been grossly displaced from its previous position of the most popular e-reader. Companies have started to withdraw from the competition, even as iPad clones enter the scene. iPad has snatched major publishers, of newspapers, of magazines and even books like Barnes & Noble to its platform. Apple has upstaged every single one of them.

What did these old e-reader screens look like however? In the past, not too long ago, almost 99% of the e-readers were built around a display technology called E Ink, which in today's book looks to be heading south. It was birthed from MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and it is a piece of interesting technology, until it was shadowed by the bright shiny touchscreen of the pad.

What was this E Ink technology? It was based on the idea of mimicking paper backs, in black and white, so that it resembles ink but retains the flexibility of quick change like electronically read outs. Transparent electrodes in a top and bottom layer stimulate electric fields surrounding very tin capsules that are filled with white particles that are charged positively and black particles that are of course charged negatively. With a bit of electrical movement, the polarity is such that it is on a micro scale changed to many different whites and blacks, that on the macro scale forms an image. This is also termed 'electrophoretic' technology.

This technology of mayhems the past has one important advantage, it is easy on the eye as it does not beam powerful light rays into the iris. It can be read easily in bright sunlight unlike your iPad, which if you take it out in the sun even with an anti glare protective screen is still a horrible experience. The other plus is the minimal battery power it eats up, but that has been effectively neutered by Apple's incredible 10 hour battery life. Its shortfalls than starts to mount. It changes its displays slowly unlike turning a digital Winnie the pooh page on iBook. OLED turns many things around, but is expensive which was why it did not make it to the pad.

For example, The Nook from Barnes and Nobles previously used E Ink for the main reading portion, but for navigation i used an LCD screen filled with color for easy usage, that switched itself of to save on battery usage.

There was a short movement to bring colors to E Ink, but now that the iPad is out, funding is likely to be cut. Another technology was Pixtronix which used micro shutters. Another even uses water and fluids to make colors. Other technologies include mirasol that is like its name implies involves creative uses of mirrors. These were the technologies of the past! That might disappear in the wake of the iPad today.


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    • billyaustindillon profile image


      8 years ago

      Yes it basically comes down if you want just an e-reader or the whole kit - the Nook seems pretty good for just being an e-reader though.

    • Csjun89 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      I agree totally, despite the technological advances they still can't trump the ipad which uses rather old technology!

    • billyaustindillon profile image


      8 years ago

      It is amazing how far e-readers have come the Nook and Kindle are fighting now to get market share with new versions as iPad sells so well.


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