back to article Multi-colour e-ink to splash down in six months?

Electronic ink is going colour - but you should probably wait a bit for your rainbow-friendly e-reader. A year ago we looked at e-ink technologies, and suggested it would be 2011 before we saw colour e-ink devices on the shelves. On this occasion it seems we got it about right; though if you can wait until the latter part of …


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  1. Anonymous John

    Cost is a major factor for a colour dedicated ebook reader.

    Most of the average book is black and white. I'm not going to pay a premium just to see the front cover in colour.

    I can't even see any compelling need to upgrade from my Cybook to a Pearl screen.

    1. Edwin


      'grey-and-slightly-darker-grey' suits me fine, though vizplex was a nice upgrade over the original displays.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What price colour?

    Personally I'd happily buy a black-and-white reader, provided it did at least both pdf and djvu, for a price of, say, about a third of what the currently cheapest thing that does all that sells for. Should it surprise me that prices have barely fallen in the last year or two? Or is that just the being spoiled by the usual price cuts in IT talking?

    1. Robert E A Harvey
      Thumb Down

      software, not hardware

      I reckon the readers are pretty good already. What puts me off is

      * the risk of lock-in to one or two formats

      * the limited range of titles available

      * the pricing, which seems remarkably close to the cost of a paperback

      * the licencing, which means I can';t give my surplus ebooks away or to the Oxfam shop

    2. oddie

      soo.. you want a reader for 36 quid?

      in UK money anyway.. the amazon kindle is 109 quid.. a few years before that pretty much every reader on the market were 300+.. the kindle does PDF, but off the top of my head I can't think of any readers that do djvu, but someone can probably help you out on that one... they really are as cheap as chips now, after buying one for myself and seeing how good they were I just bought one for the gf as well.

      I doubt the price will come down much from around a hundred quid, it will probably just hover there while the features and storage space increase. You might as well take the plunge now (or wait for the next gen when it comes out.. probably in about a years time.. but you could do a lot of reading in that time :)

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Kindle is $109

      The Kindle is $109 - or about £70. You want to wait until they're £25?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        Kindle is $139 not $109

        As above... Note US $139= £86 but in the UK it costs £109.

    4. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

      Prices have halved, more or less

      I bought a PRS505 a few months after launch, for £200. Today I can buy a Kindle for £109, or a PRS350 for £129. What's the problem?


  3. Charles 9

    What about the other color e-ink techs?

    The Reg has mentioned a few other alternative color e-ink techs in development, such as electrowetting and electrofluidic displays. If they're at the prototype stage at least, perhaps they're worth at least a mention.

    PS. It also may not be a bad idea to refer to the technical name for the Mirasol technology: interferometric modulator displays

  4. colly

    Digitial Photoframe

    Once the resolutions are improved, I could really see this e-ink being used to make great digital photoframes. I've never wanted one of the current generation LCD screen photo frames because of their bright LCD screen and the fact that they need a powersource.

    A device that doesn't produce light will look more like a traditional photoframe and if it doesn't require a power source will mean they can be hung pretty much anywhere, yet it could be updated with a different photo if the owner fancies a change.

    1. andersonshelter

      Digital Photoframe

      Bit like a real photo then.

    2. GrahamS
      Thumb Up

      Re: Digitial Photoframe

      Yep, current digital photoframes are a joke. Crap resolution, horrible designs and light-emitting so far too distracting to have as a background ornament.

      I'd love to see a proper high-resolution wooden-framed colour eInk photoframe that I could hang on my wall and set to change the photo every hour or so, or possibly just once a day/week.

      Ideally pulling the photos from a DLNA server on my wifi and charging itself between transitions via discreet photovoltaics along the top of the frame (so it wouldn't require any wires running to it).

      1. Diamandi Lucas

        Re: Digitial Photoframe

        You can get good Digital Photoframes with good resolution, I find 800 x 600 gives a good image. Problem is most of the cheap ones on the market have terrible resolution, probably due to the screens being originally designed for portable DVD players.

        There are also wireless ones but that really drives the price up.

        1. GrahamS
          Thumb Down

          Re: Digitial Photoframe

          @Diamandi Lucas: Well personally I don't think 800 x 600 is a "good resolution", especially not at the sort of size that I'd like to hang on my wall, or even put on a mantelpiece. (The iPhone screen is higher res than that and it is only a 3.5-inch diagonal).

          But the main problem with the current crop is backlighting and power consumption. You just can't leave a digital frame quietly showing photos in the corner of the room. The transmissive display draws the eye far too much and requires power to run.

          Colour eInk could solve this issue perfectly.

  5. BioTube

    Color is nice

    But they were talking about using this stuff in newspapers back when they first announced it, so where the fsck are the ebook readers that look like actual books? The ability to flip amongst several pages is still a pretty big advantage for dead wood.

    1. martin burns


      Yes, flipping is very much an advantage for dead trees (particularly for dip in/reference books that aren't driven by obvious keyword search).

      But every page you add increases the cost & fragility dramatically. Until the displays are as tough as paper (ie you can damage a part of it, get it wet etc and still not destroy the entire experience) and very, very cheap, we're not getting flippable ebooks.

    2. Charles 9


      Flipping will simply be replaced with sliding. Start with the top right corner for page one and the bottom right for the last page and you can use your finger to slide along the book pretty quickly. With multitouch and rapid-refresh tech (both on the horizon), it's a gesture that isn't too far off of page flipping. And with bookmark support already existing, going back and forth between pages shouldn't be too difficult, either.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why colour screens on readers?



  7. martin burns

    Spot Colour

    I would expect that full colour e-ink using RGB (or even CMY) filters will look like guff - the blacks would suffer from the same problem as standard print: you need a true black as the combination of the other 3 just won't do; you'll get a muddy brown light being reflected back.

    And a true black won't occupy the same space as the other colour px without layering - which has the update & low contrast problems as FLEPia.

    The thing that would most easily dramatically increase the experience wouldn't be full colour, but a single additional colour.

    Depending on your choice of the secondary colour, you could use it for duotones, or for highlights.

    Just as with dead tree publication, you really do not need full colour printing for every publication. Or even the majority of them. One colour printing covers 75% of the needs. Two colour printing would cover 75% of the remainder.

    Yes, the print industry got this a long time ago.

    1. DuncanL

      re: RGB (or even CMY) filters will look like guff

      "the blacks would suffer from the same problem as standard print: you need a true black as the combination of the other 3 just won't do; you'll get a muddy brown light being reflected back."

      Which is why it's a four colour matrix per-pixel - RGB and black. It's a bit like CMYK, but with light rather than pigment.

      1. Charles 9

        E-ink is usually subtractive.

        Since they're trying to block rather than emit colors, you need a subtractive system to properly handle the colors, just as you would with real ink. So the proper matrix would be CMYK: Cyan (-Red), Magenta (-Green), Yellow (-Blue), Black (-All).

        PS. Why can lights get a good enough white by blending the RGB lights together but we have a harder time making a black from a combination of CMY?

  8. Brennan Young

    what's wrong with monochrome

    I must join the chorus calling for affordable monochrome e-ink *today*. Why, if the tech is working fine are they dragging their feet getting products to market? You can still buy monochrome laser printers, and they are still really useful machines - not to mention cheap.

    I suppose this obsession with color is driven by the fantasies of marketing men, and hardware firms looking for fat margins - but really, I only need 2 bits of grey - or even 1 bit of black/white to read Dickens or Dostoevsky, or indeed 99% of the project Gutenberg texts comfortably.

    Capitalism fails to deliver again.

    1. Charles 9

      Fine for those two...

      ...but what if your favorite writer/artist happens to be Stan Lee? Or perhaps Neil Gaiman (they're both comic book artists)? Most comics books are in color, and seeing them in grayscale can be tricky (believe me, I've tried). Then, as others have mentioned, many technical books have color diagrams, which can be important when a diagram gets complicated and/or crisscrosses a lot. Sure, it's not always needed, but it has its uses, which is why television went to color decades back and why most comic books stick to color.

      But for now, I'm patient. I still have my classic Sony Reader, and it does fine for the time being. Once a good-performing but affordable color e-Reader comes along that will still fit in my pocket, then I'll consider a jump.

  9. Lottie
    Thumb Up


    there seems to be some serious research going on into this. I think when we finally get colour ebook readers, if they can read a .cbr file, I'll take the plunge.

    The above idea about a digital photoframe is a good one. I like the idea of taking a screencap from a DVD or whatever and having it on my wall for a few weeks until I see the next cool thing.

    1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: So

      A 16GB iPad with the free Arc Reader installed ( makes a bloody good .CBZ, .CBR reader/viewer IMHO.

      1. Lottie
        Thumb Down

        Yeah, but

        Arc reader is available for the Android OS as well. I could get an android tablet and use that instead. The point is, I don't want to read comics or ebooks or whatever on a device that, frankly, hurts my eyes after a while. LCDs aren't a good medium for ebook use. If they were, I'd stick with my Aspire One.

        Also, have you got a bet going on how often you can mention the iPad?

        1. thecakeis(not)alie

          Why not mention the iPad?

          I despise Apple (the company) for many of their business tactics and practices. I think poorly on them for a lot of the crap they pull and I believe their sense of corporate secrecy is appalling. I would never, /ever/ deal with them on a business level and I will never /ever/ trust them in any way, shape or form to be reliable or consistent in anything.

          But that iPad doohicky of theirs is pretty sweet. Like the iPods before it – and gods help me even the iPhones – the iPad is a great /CONSUMER/ device. From a business standpoint, I tend to prefer dealing with a company that does things like publish roadmaps, have a proven track record of not abandoning it’s userbase at the drop of a hat or deprecating things without so much as “how-do-you-do” until after the outcry becomes deafening.

          From a “build you a disposable computing appliance that you will use for three years strictly on a personal basis and then discard” they can’t (currently) be beat. That said, I have no intention of discarding any of my toys after three years. I do use them for business purposes and like consistency, reliability and quality support.

          So personally, I build my own PCs. For business I use Supermicro and when it comes to portable…I go HTC.

          That said, HTC doesn’t have an iPad replacement. Samsung’s is flimsy overpriced and inadequate. There are a squillion cheap Chinese aPads available – all with 2 hours of battery life if you turn the screen of and don’t look at them sideways. You could get a slate/netbook running a fat operating system like Linux or Windows – but it will have equally terrible battery life, cost a heap and still not deliver a comparable experience to the iPad.

          Let’s face it; as much as I despise how Apple treats the clueless walking wallets that lap up it’s crap; if you are in the market for a tablet (as I have been for about 15 years) then they have – by far – the best one going. I await HTC’s gingerbread tablet with great anticipation. I will be absolutely crushed if it isn’t at least 1366x768 with an SD slot, a USB port and at least 10 inches.

          I don’t care who makes it. I don’t care what OS it’s running. WebOS, iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7…so long as I can root it ensure that I can run what I want without some ungodly restrictions. I want 10 hours of batter life, 1366x768, standardised removable storage coupled with decent internal storage, a USB port for peripherals and charging, a screen large enough to properly type on and I want it running a dual-core Cortex A9. First company that comes along with that will get between $750 and $1000 of my hard-earned depending on the details of the specs.

          Right today at this moment the closest still seems to be Apple. So pump up the iPad I say. Give it as much press as possible and mention it everywhere. Get the manufacturers interested and get some real competition in this market. Let’s get to the point that we have a real – and open – tablet platform that has good performance, battery life and touchscreen experience.

          If that means being nice to Apple (for a little while at least) then so be it.

          1. Lottie


   awful lot of wants from an ebook reader!

            1. thecakeis(not)alie

              ebook reader

              Why should an ebook reader be separate from a tablet/slate? Many current readers are Linux or Android-based. Just make a good tabpet, and a /GREAT/ ebook app. The rest will come together in time.

  10. Ian Michael Gumby
    Thumb Up

    Color is important...

    Ok, so you look at the people who have e-readers.

    Those that want a portable way of carrying a couple of novels as they ride the train to and from work, and those computer geeks that want to be able to carry a bunch of manuals in .pdf as well as e-books.

    Then there's power points as .pdf which many are in color. Diagrams in color.

    Sure there's gray scale. (I've done enough B&W photography to be comfortable) But color makes life easier.

    What I'm looking at is the next gen iPad to see if it has the ~300 dpi display, and seeing 300+ color dpi i e-ink.

    I think if you can get the resolution high enough and the refresh fast enough, e-ink is very viable.

    Also I'd love to see e-ink on different substrates.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    e-ink TV's?

    "...the technology is as scalable as Qualcomm keeps telling us it is (ideal for Tvs, and all sorts, we're told)..."

    "E-ink screens ... work better in bright sunlight than under the covers; most of them can't be back-lit even if it were desirable..."

    So a TV that really only works in bright sunlight?

    "Sorry dear, but we're going to have to install half a dozen industrial spot lamps behind the sofa, as I've just brought one of those fancy e-ink tellies."

    That's all the energy savings from a static screen down the pan then. Sounds like progress to me!

  12. Alan Denman

    Betting on it being the iPad 2

    This revolutionary and magical screen may well be the base for iPad 2.

    It is reasonably likely in that it is only Apple who could sell this at £400+

    1. Charles 9

      Figured it'll be on the iPad 3, actually.

      Mirasol works well in daylight, yes, but I understand these color e-inks cannot support backlighting, and since the first-gen iPad is backlit, you'll be hampering one feature to support another. Might not sit well with people used to being able to read at night without a booklight. Not to mention backlights aren't prone to glare.

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