Electronic Paper — Paper Route
THERE WAS a time not long ago (2005) when scarcely a week would go by without there being news of some new development in the growing “electronic paper” market. Perhaps “market” is the wrong word to use, as almost all the news that came out comprised solely of technology demonstrations, announcements of strategic partnerships, and prototype media and devices—none of which were available commercially. As a result, there was no real “market” to speak of.
Still, the news was always exciting and sent the gadgets and gizmos crowd swooning with anticipation. And then, silence. What happened?
It’s possible to interpret all the early “pre-news” as a cunning plan to prime (or create) the market for electronic paper. What happened during the “quiet time” was that companies ceased all the blue- skying and got down to the business of actually introducing for-sale products. The latter half of 2006, consequently, saw the release of the first generation of e-paper-based devices. More introductions are said to be on the way.
Focus on Devices
This article—drawn from two recent PrintForecast.com special reports, “E Is for E-Paper: An Electronic Paper Primer for the Graphic Communications Industry” and “E-Paper Technologies and Opportunities in Publishing, Communications and the Graphic Arts”—will examine the two major product releases (the iRex iLiad and the Sony Reader) and then look at some of the other potential devices waiting in the wings.
The first e-paper-based device to hit the market (in Europe) was the iRex iLiad. iRex Technologies is a Philips spin-off whose iLiad is a 1,024x768-pixel e-book and e-newspaper reader based on an electronic ink technology developed by E Ink (see sidebar). The iLiad has a total storage capacity of 64MB of RAM, plus 128MB of internal flash memory for storing content—enough, says the company, to hold one month of newspapers, 30 books and many other documents. The iLiad weighs about three-fourths of a pound and features a rigid, Philips-based 8.1˝ display.