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How does E Ink Work?

Updated on November 17, 2013

The Kindle

An E Ink pioneer
An E Ink pioneer | Source

E Ink. What is the Attraction?

When I first saw the amazon Kindle and its E Ink system I had a quiet laugh to myself as to my eye how could a simple black and white screen compete with the already dynamically beautiful LCD tablets and readers on the market? As the owner of several 7" tablets over the past few years I still couldn't understand the appeal of E Ink and why corporations were developing newer versions of both E Ink and the readers.

Amazon were soon joined in the production of E Readers with companies such as Kobo and Sony powering ahead with the development of lighter and smaller readers.

So what was so special about the E Ink readers and what was I missing? I was soon to find out.

A Beachside Moment of Clarity

The Sun Setting in Sri Lanka
The Sun Setting in Sri Lanka | Source

The E Ink Reader. My Epiphany.

I still puzzled as friends purchased Kindles and Kobos as I played the latest version of 'Angry Birds' on my bright and colourful 7" tablet. Then came my circumnavigation of Sri Lanka. For those of you unaware, Sri Lanka is a small island that has almost continuous beaches around the coast. Long sandy beaches that just cry out for you to lay back, order another cold Lion Beer and read a good book.

Not wanting to be the odd man out, this is what I did. I grabbed my tablet and started to enjoy some of the classics that I had downloaded from the internet. Jack London's 'Call of the Wild' was taking me to a time long gone, when all of a sudden the low battery light started to flash, after only two hours of reading.

This was my lightbulb moment as I squinted to read the screen in the bright sunlight of Sri Lanka.

The Kobo


The E Ink Reader Wins a Convert.

For reading books you just can't beat an E Reader. In Sri Lanka I resorted to paper books taken from book exchanges or purchased cheaply from second hand bookstores, but the selection was limited and I have an aversion to carrying heavy books about. This is one of the areas that the E Reader is a god send. It is light, featherweight even. The standard E Ink amazon Kindle weighs a paltry 170g (6oz) yet it can hold more than a 1000 books, all easily downloadable using the built in Wi-Fi connection.

The other great feature of E Readers are that they can be read exactly the same as a book. The simple black on white page can be read in bright sunlight without an issue, whilst some of the newer E Readers come complete with backlighting for people who like to read in bed whilst their partner is asleep.

But the real eye opener for me was how much reading you could do on one charge. Around 60 hours of normal reading without any of the fancy options turned on (Wi-Fi etc.). That is 7x8 hour days on the beach before the dreaded battery low light came to life.

Suddenly it was all very clear to me as to the reasoning behind owning an E Ink Ebook Reader.

But how does this E Ink work? Witchcraft? Magic? The answer is a simpler!

The Kobo 5" E Reader


The Kobo 5" reader is the E Ink reader of choice for me. I love that in an E Reader that fits both in the palm of my hand and my coat pocket I can carry over 1000 books of choice.

Convenient, stylish and everything I was looking for in an E Ink Reader, the Kobo is my current favourite gadget.


E Ink Explained in Pictures.

How E Ink works.
How E Ink works. | Source

It's Not Quite Witchcraft

E Ink wasn't brewed by witches!
E Ink wasn't brewed by witches! | Source

What is E Ink? and How Does it Work?

E Ink consists of tiny microcapsules that have a thickness of around 0.0018mm (about the width of a human hair). These microcapsules contain both white and black particles which are suspended in a clear oil and placed within a film-like layer. These microcapsules contain both positive and negatively charged particles with white being positive and black negative.

Then depending on what you want to display, you apply a negative charge which causes the white particles to surface or conversely you apply a positive charge and the black particles pop up to the surface. The diagram above shows exactly how this works. Done over the whole surface of the screen and you have crisp, clear black writing on a white background. Just like a book!

A Picture is Worth a 1000 Words

Many Classics are Available Free


Are You an E Ink Convert?

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    • debarebear profile image

      Dani Forster 4 years ago from Melbourne

      I never knew...

    • Monica Kay 215 profile image

      Monica Kay 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Nice explanation of how e-ink works.