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Why are eBook Readers Black & White

Updated on July 22, 2010

Yes there are eBook readers advertised with color screens but if you want to be able to read ANYWHERE then you have to stick to mono screens. Why?

Have you every tried taking your laptop outside on a sunny day or done the “mobi shuffle” as you try to shimmy around until your mobile phone screen is shaded enough to see? If you have then you know the answer. Glare from bright light makes life difficult out of doors.

The technology used in the better (read that as useable) eBook readers is caller E Ink. It reflects ambient light the same way ordinary paper does, so it gets better in brighter light. Conversely, you need a light source to read in low light.

Laptop and phone screens have a very shiny surface and their own light source. This competes with ambient light and almost always loses when ambient light is very bright.

These E Ink screens do have 8 or 16 shades of gray but that’s it. If you go for one that will show photos then be prepared for disappointment. The 800x600 screen that your typical eBook Reader has will display the image well enough but rendering 16 million colors or more down to 8 shades of gray isn’t going to be impressive.

Compromise time. If you want something that can show color pictures and even movies then you won’t be able to read outside without seriously shading the screen, If you really want a book you can take anywhere then bite the bullet and get an eBook reader complete with mono screen.

You will then have to get an illuminated cover if you want to read under the bed covers or in other dark places. The other compromise you will have to make is between portability and readability. You can have a 5 inch screen and turn the page more often or a 6 inch screen and not quite be able to slide it into your coat pocket.

E Ink vs color display


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