May 8, 2003 8:00 AM   Subscribe

E-Newspapers? Researchers unveil an ultra-thin electronic-ink display screen. Is e-paper the way to go for portable media?
posted by liam (17 comments total)
So, no more newspapers, huh?

Just what am I supposed to line the birdcage with, I ask you?
posted by jonmc at 8:11 AM on May 8, 2003

e-birds don't shit.
posted by liam at 8:14 AM on May 8, 2003

This is cool. Thanks for posting it, liam. I just wish there were more info. I don't understand how you would get the data onto the screen every day if it were to be used as an e-paper (and if you can roll it up to 4mm, what's the big bugaboo about being unfoldable?). I mean, what's the interface for such a slim display?

There's apparently a full-text article, but it's subscription only. Anybody either know more of the story behind this or have access to the piece?

Similar technology could even make clothes that double as video screens.

Just wait till the teenagers get ahold of this. They'll mean it literally when they say "gawd, that is so fifteen minutes ago."
posted by soyjoy at 8:17 AM on May 8, 2003

I wonder how this compares to full-color FOLED technology, which has been bandied about for a few years. They both appear to be displays in the traditional sense, although I remember reading that the OLED technologies still have a ways to go before they reach market.
posted by SteveInMaine at 8:37 AM on May 8, 2003

Whatever it's used for it seems unlikely it'll replace newspapers. They're already cheap to manufacture and perfectly adapted for their use. Technology is pointless unless it fulfils a real need.
posted by Summer at 8:43 AM on May 8, 2003

I bumbed into this yesterday.
Could be handy replacing a large steet map.
posted by ginz at 8:52 AM on May 8, 2003

Whatever it's used for it seems unlikely it'll replace newspapers. They're already cheap to manufacture and perfectly adapted for their use. Technology is pointless unless it fulfils a real need.

Can the paper usage qualify as a "real need"? Maybe the current technology can't replace the massive Sunday paper, but computers tend to get smaller, faster and cheaper very quickly. Eventually, if they can provide the convenience of an online newspaper, downloadable to something with the comfortable format of regular paper, there will be a customer base.
posted by Gary at 9:34 AM on May 8, 2003

We're certainly getting closer to traditional interfaces for text. I'd love to be able to do most of my reading from an ebook with paper pages.
posted by Songdog at 9:40 AM on May 8, 2003

I think the "real need" is for a library that doesn't take over your entire apartment (or your entire library stacks, if you're an institution) and keep on growing. Here at work we now have to face the painful task of library "weeding" because a pending major donation will make us overflow our existing space. If some of the books could exist as portable interfaces and a database, we would be delighted to migrate them. And at home I might be able to clean up some of the piles of book which are threatening to take over the little floor space I have left. Sometimes all you need is the text.
posted by SealWyf at 10:07 AM on May 8, 2003

Technology is pointless unless it fulfils a real need.

I "need" to read the Times of London every day, but those shipping charges are a bitch, plus the papers are days old before they arrive. Sure, this won't replace printed newspapers, but there would definitely be a demand for such technology.

As for the interface, a USB connection in one corner of the page would be all you'd need. Pick your paper of choice from your PC every morning and download it to the page.
posted by jpoulos at 10:46 AM on May 8, 2003

(I mean, I need to read the Times of London from my home in the United States. Damn US-centrism!)
posted by jpoulos at 10:47 AM on May 8, 2003

uh, newspapers ain't that cheap to produce. the largest expense is newsprint, after all.
posted by krewson at 11:07 AM on May 8, 2003

There's a bit more here, and there's a lot more on the manufacturer's web site.
posted by beagle at 11:08 AM on May 8, 2003

I read an article about this technology a few years ago that talked about research into full color electronic paper. The article mentioned possible applications such as "Fahrenheit 451"-style video walls, as well as incorporations in clothing.

Imagine the resolution and crispness of a wall-sized screen made of this stuff - or a theater
-sized screen!
posted by syzygy at 4:26 PM on May 8, 2003

This stuff is very impressive -- you can see more about it at their website. One of the big advantages is that it's bi-stable, that is, when you turn the power off, the image would remain. So imagine, perhaps rather than a newspaper, an object that looks and feels almost exactly like a book. But each page is made out of this material, with a flexible grid on the inside to apply charge. One minute, the book is Moby Dick. The next, it's Valley of the Dolls. Let the battery run out, it's still Valley. Recharge it and use a stylus on the first page, it becomes a notebook, or a pda. Give it wifi capabilities and it's a web-browser in a book, akin to what Inspector Gadget's niece used to use.

Bottom line is, this stuff could really revolutionize the way we think of a display, if they can get the bugs out. They've been working on it for years (there was a big NYT article in 98 or 99 as I remember it), and the progress has been slow but steady.
posted by condour75 at 9:35 PM on May 8, 2003

I don't understand this antiquated thought process of trying to make this new technology look like a book, or how we're concerned that is can be rolled but not folded. You don't need an entire book of these pages. You only need one page, just as a computer only needs one screen. Rather than flip pages, the 'spine' of the device could include AC/DC energy input, USB input, and simple navigation interface. I've never liked books anyway. They're bulky and trees die to have them made. I prefer trees because they produce oxygen. Books only gather dust. This technology seems best geared towards improving PDA devices. I'd read something about this epaper idea back when Yahoo Internet Life was still being published, some years ago.

I'm beginning to think the real reason for the economy downturn and the dotcom boom/bust is because science is still making breakthroughs in technology so fast we humans can no longer keep track of where progress is going, and what to invest in. Does this mean book publishers are going to go belly up? It's doubtful looking at it now, but two years from now that could be more practical.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:33 PM on May 8, 2003

I'm with you, condour75. That's what I was getting at.

ZachsMind, the wonderful thing about this stuff is that everyone could do their reading using their preferred format. You don't like books? Fine, use an ultra-lightweight PDA. I love books, so I'll have maybe a pocket book for commuting reads and a nice hardcover at home. The thing is, there's a great deal of history and practical design behind the print interface. A large newspaper page has its own advantages and disadvantages. So does a textbook page. So does a computer screen.

This technology should greatly reduce our paper use though, because we'll read all of the new bestsellers from the same book. By the way, it is possible to love both trees and books. Books and shelters are good uses of trees. Unnecessary packaging and paperwork are terrible uses.
posted by Songdog at 7:47 AM on May 9, 2003

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