In early March, Deutsche Telekom, together in partnership with major German publishers & booksellers, Bertelsmann Club, Thalia, Der Club, Hugendubel & Weltbild, announced the launch of a new eReader targeted for the German market. The tolino shine is available for sale online now, through one of the above bookstores, or T-Mobile.
There has been an ongoing discussion in press articles, on blogs, and in social media on the topic of what E Ink means to books; and what tablets mean to E Ink.
As the company whose electronic paper is credited with the explosive growth of the eReader market, we have a few thoughts on this subject…
When E Ink started into the eReader space, there was no compelling device that combined a great reading experience with a wide range of content.
In the early 2000, there were some LCD-based eReaders & tablets on the market, but the displays were much thicker, heavier, less color saturated and lower resolution than they are today. Flat screen devices had not yet reached a price point that enabled wide market adoption. Some of us did read on our computer monitors and laptops, but studies showed that most people printed their emails and reading materials, again, due to a sub-par reading experience. In addition, these devices were not easily portable, had poor sunlight reading experiences and a short battery life. And lastly, content was not readily available outside of some smaller publishing houses and independent providers. The combination of these factors ensured that LCD based eReaders and tablets remained a novel product for technology evaluators, and had little to no impact on print book sales.
If you’ve read about E Ink, you’ve probably heard about the attributes which make our technology unique – paper-like screen, low power, thin form factor… but what does this really mean?
First – let’s get some preliminaries out of the way, for those of you unfamiliar with our technology and how it works.
Our technology is not LCD – and it’s not trying to be. While there are several different types of LCDs, the basic premise behind them is the same. To use a very simplified explanation – in Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs), crystals are suspended between layers of glass – a top plane glass, a TFT glass layer and a polarizer layer. When a charge is applied by the electronics, the crystals twist. However, this alone doesn’t allow a viewer to see an image; for that, light is needed. Most LCDs use a backlight; this light sits behind the TFT and, depending on the crystal’s alignment against the polarizer, will either allow the light to flow through the display, or block the light, thereby making an image visible to you.
In contrast, E Ink displays are made up of literal electronic ink – ink capsules containing black and white pigments that are charged positive and negative, which are then laminated in a single layer onto a film. That film is then laminated onto a TFT. When the electronics calls for an image to be displayed, the ink particles move up or down within their capsules, displaying the image for you to see.