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A Kindle, iPad and printed book are magnified 400x
August 17, 2010 6:17 PM   Subscribe

A Kindle, iPad and printed book are magnified 400x.
posted by stbalbach (55 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Amazingly enough, this experiment's fairly easy to reproduce with a good flatbed scanner.

At 2400 DPI, the difference between a laptop screen, inkjet printout, and laser/offset printout is startling.

The iPad doesn't do so well here, but I do commend Apple for being virtually the only player in the PC/electronics industry to be pushing for high-DPI displays. Given the positive reception (no pun intended) of the iPhone 4 and comparable Android devices, it's clear that consumers do notice the difference, and benefit from it to varying degrees.
posted by schmod at 6:22 PM on August 17, 2010


The high quality of the magazine print was fairly surprising to me. I expected it to be better than the newspaper, but the fact that it's better than the book as well was quite startling.
posted by stoneweaver at 6:23 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was recently looking around for e-ink displays as components for use in a TEX-able calculator that'd be really, really pretty.
posted by DU at 6:24 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I saw this earlier today. It's pretty awesome. I've gotta agree with the organic—though I'd just analog—versus digital feeling to the outcome.

There's no doubt that the E-Ink screens are more book-like than the screen of the iPad. The iPad has a lot more going on as far as experience and features, though. It's also really fun to interact via multitouch, though it can be frustrating at times.

I can't decide which I'd rather buy without needing.
posted by defenestration at 6:25 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


With magazines it's the glossy paper. I would expect books and newspapers to be about the same because they're printed on roughly the same kind of paper.
posted by GuyZero at 6:26 PM on August 17, 2010


I expect that the main reason a magazine is sharper than a book is that magazines are generally printed on coated papers. With a coated paper, the ink sits on the surface MUCH more than on an uncoated sheet...which allows the ink to bleed in a bit and thus become a bit softer.

It is very interesting though. eInk is pretty fascinating stuff.
posted by Wink Ricketts at 6:27 PM on August 17, 2010


Given that my eyes magnify the world at 400x, this has definite implications for the device I read on.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:31 PM on August 17, 2010 [17 favorites]


Pretty neat. I bet he gets a whole lot of Amazon referral revenue this month for that nifty USB microscope.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:32 PM on August 17, 2010


I'm sorry, that was really snarky, and really directed more at the commenters in the OP's link than anybody around here. From a more reasoned perspective, this is actually really neato.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:32 PM on August 17, 2010


From the poster, somewhere in the middle of that horribly contentious comments thread: Well one thing I’ve learned today is that I shouldn’t EVER do ANYTHING that even remotely implies that ANY product is better than – or even compares favorably to – an iPad.
posted by griphus at 6:36 PM on August 17, 2010 [17 favorites]


The 400x magnification of the E Ink screen was interesting. The individual pixels are much less regular and spherical than schematic diagrams make them out to be. (for example)
posted by jedicus at 6:39 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


The benefit of single purpose devices for me is that I don't have any urge to stop and compulsively check a blog or my e-mail. I find that I think more about my thoughts (if that makes sense) when I'm reading on my e-ink device, or staring at a blank page in my typewriter. The page is there to be read. Or the page is there to be filled.

With all of these multi-use devices, I just have the urge to absorb more information than I need to at that point in time.

I think that's probably an evolutionary side effect. "More information is always better," said the primate brain, "that's why my eyes are at the top of my head."
posted by atypicalguy at 6:48 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd be interested to see the iphone 4 screen at 400 magnification.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 6:56 PM on August 17, 2010


The 400x magnification of the E Ink screen was interesting. The individual pixels are much less regular and spherical than schematic diagrams make them out to be.

I didn't realize E-Ink pixels were in the 800+DPI range, which looking at the zoom they appear to be.
posted by kafziel at 6:57 PM on August 17, 2010


I've recently used an e-ink device for the first time. What surprised me most was how slowly the pages changed. I probably could get used to it, but it was very distracting.

Thing is -- all of this will come out not to what is the best format, but taste. I don't care for e-ink because I like reading off a backlit screen -- I find the contrast on e-ink and even some paper too low now. But other people don't like the back-light, and that's just personal preference.

Markets being what they are, one format may become exclusive -- but ideally there would be many options for display, in format and in size, so that people can get what they prefer.
posted by jb at 6:59 PM on August 17, 2010


That was a nifty read. I like it when people do real world comparisons like that. Thanks for posting it.
posted by theora55 at 7:01 PM on August 17, 2010


What surprised me most was how slowly the pages changed

I have an older-model ereader (PRS-505) on which the pageload is rather noticeable -- at least compared to the Kindle my coworker just got a Kindle a month ago -- but after the first few hours, I've completely stopped noticing it. It's really taken up the same amount of annoyance-factor as turning a page does.
posted by griphus at 7:04 PM on August 17, 2010


A Kindle, an iPad and a printed book are magnified 400x. The microscope says, "Hey, what is this, some kind of a joke?"
posted by komara at 7:06 PM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


(I also thought of a priest and a rabbi.)
posted by Burhanistan at 7:10 PM on August 17, 2010


I didn't realize E-Ink pixels were in the 800+DPI range, which looking at the zoom they appear to be.

Not really. The individual dots are very small, but the display can't directly control individual dots. Instead, it creates little areas of positive or negative charge and the affected dots align themselves to show either a white or dark side. The charged areas are significantly larger than a single dot. According to their own specs, E Ink's highest resolution display is 200DPI. The current Kindle is 166, I believe.
posted by jedicus at 7:13 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I read on the computer all day and have never suffered any severe eyestrain (I use the cursor to "read along", though).

That said, reading on my Kindle is much more soothing than reading on the monitor. For reading, I don't miss the contrast or colors, for some reason. I've read over 50 books on my Kindle, and I have to say it serves its purpose perfectly. (Sure, you could add bells and whistles, but at the cost of battery life. My Kindle, with wi-fi turned off, will run 10 days of constant reading without a recharge.)

I forsee great days ahead for e-ink.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:35 PM on August 17, 2010


Doesn't look like he used an affiliate link in that blogpost. So sad.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:37 PM on August 17, 2010


Given that my eyes magnify the world at 400x, this has definite implications for the device I read on.

You snark, but you'll be sorry when Von Shrinkenheim's Device reduces you to 1/400 of your former size and the only instructions for reversing the process are stored on his iPad.
posted by No-sword at 7:46 PM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


I must snark, but this person must be fascinating at dinner parties

I will hopefully be getting my Kindle 3 in a couple of weeks (should ship August 27).

It's in my calendar.
posted by the noob at 8:06 PM on August 17, 2010


I don't own a Kindle, but I've played with a few, and I have to say - the screen is very, very impressive. Wonderful contrast ratio, works great in bright light as well as in artificially-lit interior rooms, and terrific resolution.

That said - to my mind, the price is still just too high for what is essentially a single-purpose device, with a clunky, distracting UI, and I think that many people are choosing to essentially settle for the inferior reading experience you get from an iPad because it does so many more things, and even at its higher price point, people nonetheless see it as a better value. On the UI point - I found that the act of physically pressing a button to turn a page on the Kindle was enough to break the spell for me, and I became aware that I was holding a Device, whereas even with the arguably poorer screen quality on the iPad (for reading), swiping the screen to turn the page kept me immersed. Bottom line - for me, the Kindle has one really great pro (its screen quality) but its still not enough to overcome its cons.

Now, drop the Kindle to, say, $50 or some other amount that is below people's impulse-purchase pain threshold, and I think they'd sell a metric shit-ton of them, even to iPad owners. I hope Amazon keeps up their "experiment" and continues to improve and refine the Kindle.
posted by kcds at 8:08 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Completely apart from the nigh-inevitable this-brand-beats-that-brand skirmishes, I found that really fascinating.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:09 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Kindle image is misleading. The little blobs visible are not the E-ink cells. Rather, they are the bumpy surface of the diffuser put on top of the E-ink structure.

I have a sample of E-ink without the diffuser. The actual E-ink cells are hexagonal, and placed above a printed matrix of patterned Indium Tin Oxide. The ITO transfers the charge to the cells. The pixels are a regular honeycomb.

Here is an image from the MIT lab that invented E-ink, showing e-ink without the diffuser. What you're looking is not the version I'm familiar with, which has a perfectly regular hexagonal structure, but rather an earlier form of e-ink which consists of small blobs, but even they don't have the structure pictured in the above article (which I think is wonderful, BTW).
posted by fake at 8:21 PM on August 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


Best damn screen ever for reading text was the old Apple monochrome Active-Matrix screens, as on the Mac Portable and Powerbooks 180 and 110. You could read pin-sharp text at noon under a desert sky. Pixelation isn't evil - poor contrast and refresh rates are evil. iPad? iPhone? Blackberry? Droids? EVIL!

Kindle - not bad, but not good. Step it up, e-ink.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:26 PM on August 17, 2010


Here's a patent drawing describing the hexagonal pattern I'm talking about.
posted by fake at 8:35 PM on August 17, 2010


The printed text was way clearer.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:39 PM on August 17, 2010


Yeah, I swear by my Kindle -- for reading text, at least, the iPad is a dud in comparison. But should the iPad get cheaper -- and, hey, while we're spitballing, should Apple throw in for something like Amazon's Whispernet instead of making me pay a monthly fee -- I will buy one in a second to read digital comics on. The Kindle has kept me from cluttering my place with any further books in the year I've had it; give me a digital comics reader and it'll be like I've got a brand new apartment!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:47 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Slap*Happy: "Kindle - not bad, but not good. Step it up, e-ink."

Technically, that was the older Kindle (2?) because the scanner hasn't received his Kindle 3 yet. It's supposed to have even better contrast, so I'm curious to see scans of the new one.
posted by sharkfu at 8:58 PM on August 17, 2010


I didn't realize how close the workings of e-ink are to a Magna-Doodle.
posted by meandthebean at 9:19 PM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


The iPad sucks. Moving on.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:37 PM on August 17, 2010


The Kindle's screen resolution is okay, not great, but definitely readable. The real downside is the refresh rate, which the blogger will become very frustrated with in short order.

A haptic interface and color will take years to reach the market. Where will the iPad and iPad clones be in three or four generations?

It's a bit of dead-end hardware in the big scheme of things; it's the Kindle software that will save Amazon's investment. Being able to read books on more or less any device is what will save the platform and motivate people to keep buying eBooks through Amazon.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:49 PM on August 17, 2010


The real downside is the refresh rate, which the blogger will become very frustrated with in short order.

I don't think that's necessarily the case. I do a lot of reading on the Kindle, and page flips are faster than turning real pages. Amazon's stated goal is for the reader to disappear in your hands, and that's more or less my experience with it.

I notice it when I'm trying to do UI stuff, but mostly I avoid that, and just read with it as much as possible. Interactivity is slow and annoying, but just straight reading is great.

eInk really does look incredible. When I first got mine, the screen was covered with the typical plastic film, saying to plug in the Kindle before using it. So I took the plastic off, and the words were still there! I assumed they were on the plastic -- they were that sharp.

I wasn't too sure about the Kindle at first, and figured I'd prefer real books. I ended up liking it a lot, but when the publishers jacked their e-book prices way the hell up, it made the unit much less appealing. They simply charge too much.


Jeff Bezos is one smart sonovabitch, and they should have followed his lead. Get the prices down, and the volume will follow. If they stay up at nosebleed pricing, I think they're probably doomed.

Example: I had mentioned Carrion Comfort in the Dan Simmons thread recently, which is about twenty years old, and on a lark I checked to see if there was an Kindle version. Yes, there was, but it was $10! For a twenty year old book. Used paperbacks are like $4.

They're out of their freaking minds.
posted by Malor at 11:17 PM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


The real downside is the refresh rate, which the blogger will become very frustrated with in short order.

It doesn't seem to bother the owners of them who have already posted in this very thread.
posted by markr at 11:25 PM on August 17, 2010


It doesn't seem to bother the owners of them who have already posted in this very thread.

It's got some positives and based on my own experiences, I'd recommend it over an iPad for basic book reading, but it has a number of technical shortcomings that are fair to point out.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:40 PM on August 17, 2010


Blazecock Pileon: "The real downside is the refresh rate, which the blogger will become very frustrated with in short order."

The Kindle 3, due to ship on August 27th, claims to have "20% Faster Refresh Rate".
posted by sharkfu at 11:52 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Kindle looks like a hi-res etch-a-sketch. Neat.
posted by Sreiny at 11:54 PM on August 17, 2010


The Kindle 3, due to ship on August 27th, claims to have "20% Faster Refresh Rate".

My partner is getting one, so I guess we'll see how much of an improvement that is. Keep in mind that it's pretty slow and changing pages to begin with.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:57 PM on August 17, 2010


Nobody's discussing the real meat of the post:


I WANT USB MICROSCOPE!!!!
posted by Pendragon at 2:08 AM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Neat project, but I wish he had used the same word in each specimen.
posted by applemeat at 5:17 AM on August 18, 2010


Any comparisons involving printed material need to take into account the type and weight of the stock as well as the printing process and ink used. Older books printed with "hot type" as opposed to offset presses have a crisper look--the ink is stamped into the paper instead of onto it.

The reason magazine print looks so good is due in large part to the type of stock used. Hard or coated stocks will do well while cheaper paper, i.e. newsprint, will look rough on magnification. I'm sure you could find a huge range of quality among publications currently circulating.

But the electronic media comparisons were very interesting.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:03 AM on August 18, 2010


I've recently used an e-ink device for the first time. What surprised me most was how slowly the pages changed. I probably could get used to it, but it was very distracting.

I noticed this as well. As somebody who reads... relatively quickly... That slow refresh rate would definitely be a deal breaker for me at the moment. Though, I still have a stack of 15 paperbacks in my "to read" pile at the moment, so I doubt I'll be getting myself an ebook reader any time soon :)
posted by antifuse at 6:51 AM on August 18, 2010


Say what you want about a rigged demo, but the Qualcomm Mirasol looks impressive. Color, low power, and refresh rates high enough to do video. Yeah, the color's a little yellow, but if they can make it affordable, I think I'd like one.

Wonder how it looks at 400x magnification.
posted by fings at 7:58 AM on August 18, 2010


I can't decide which I'd rather buy without needing.

In my experience, it's all about interactivity; the Kindle wins hands down for passive reading, it's really just a book with a lot of pages. Yes, it can do other things (really basic web browsing, etc) but these are really just thin gravy on an otherwise perfectly satisfying meal.

The iPad is hugely interactive in every way that the Kindle is not, so for just general sitting around in the sun and reading for fun, the Kindle is a better experience, for everything else, you'd probably want the iPad.

Personally, I'm waiting for the hybrid device; one that has an e-ink screen somehow layered onto an active LCD, where the back-lighting can be turned off and the e-ink would provide a comfortable paper-print experience, or the active LCD could be switched on for color and speed.
posted by quin at 8:10 AM on August 18, 2010


I noticed this as well. As somebody who reads... relatively quickly... That slow refresh rate would definitely be a deal breaker for me at the moment.

It might be less so than you think; I find myself, when using my Kindle, hitting the next page button when I'm about a sentence from done, that way it is changing just as my eyes are flicking back to the top of the page. Once you figure out the timing, it quickly becomes a non-thing.
posted by quin at 8:12 AM on August 18, 2010


Well... I figure I should be in the market for one in... A year or so... So I imagine that at that point they will have improved another leap. Or, they'll be cheap enough that I won't care about just experimenting with one to see if I can live with the delay :)
posted by antifuse at 8:25 AM on August 18, 2010


I like this post, and I think it's kind of dumb that Apple product-related threads are pretty much in I/P territory.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:33 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have both a Kindle 2 and an iPad. The Kindle is preferable for long spates of pure reading, given sufficient lighting -- my second generation model doesn't quite have the contrast I would wish, though I hear the Kindle 3 has improved contrast. You really forget you're using a device after about 5 minutes.

That being said, I don't think most people realize how versatile the iPad is as an e-reader. Think about it: it has iBooks (Apple's native e-book format) and readers for Kindle, Nook, and Borders devices, as well as readers for non-DRMed formats. All my Kindle books show up automatically on my iPad as well. Furthermore, it excels as a comic reader: I have complete series on my iPad, from Lone Wolf and Cub to Y: The Last Man, as well as other standouts like Watchmen, Maus, etc. They all look wonderful. Once the comic industry gets off its ass and starts offering all its material (especially graphic novels) in nice-n-legal formats, it could really take off.

Anything, that's what the iPad can do: I have academic journal articles, D&D books in PDF format, you name it, the iPad can do it. So in an ideal world, I think there's a place for both devices. Read text on the Kindle, everything else on the iPad. It also allows multiple family members to have access to the media at the same time.
posted by Palquito at 8:34 AM on August 18, 2010



Quin - Personally, I'm waiting for the hybrid device; one that has an e-ink screen somehow layered onto an active LCD, where the back-lighting can be turned off and the e-ink would provide a comfortable paper-print experience, or the active LCD could be switched on for color and speed.


It's coming
posted by foonly at 4:26 PM on August 18, 2010


I like buying used books, they're greener and I can read more. I can buy 100 used books for the price of a iPad. I can easily read them in the sunlight. I can easily read them at an angle. I can easily fit one in a pocket. Their batteries last almost forever. Some of them will be so good I will give them to my grandchildren to read, and their operating system will still be current without any downloads. The others will go back to a bookstore to help keep them alive, so that I can go there and browse through hundreds and thousands of books and never be sorry I bought one, and find dozens that I'd never have known existed otherwise.

Guess I'm just old-fashioned.
posted by Twang at 7:46 PM on August 18, 2010


Great link! Here's the iPhone 4 for comparison. I swear this was posted earlier but can't tell anymore.

I just ordered the new Kindle because at $140, why not? But I've always said this generation of eInk displays just feel like a stopgap, like early monochrome LCD laptop computer displays. They're clearly not up to snuff and the drive for something better will eventually win out. I sure hope the Mirasol isn't just hype and has decent yields.
posted by chairface at 7:56 PM on August 18, 2010


My partner's new Kindle arrived. The page turning is much, much improved. The weight difference is vast between the first generation model and this new model. It rendered a complex PDF (ACM monthly) very slowly, but the text display is also much, much improved. Kudos to Amazon for doing a lot to improve their reader. There's a ways to go, yet, but I now have many fewer reservations recommending that someone pay money for this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:49 PM on August 30, 2010


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