Here is an interesting “…extract from a coming report, The Future of E-Paper: A Technology Assessment and Market Forecast by David Lieberman, available from in June 2009 posted on E-Book Week:
“The future of e-books will see a continuing proliferation of platforms with a built-in e-reader function. E-reader software has already spread to cellphones, PDAs, portable gaming systems and elsewhere, in addition to residing in dedicated e-reader devices and personal computers. The continuing spread will familiarize more and more people with the e-reading experience and its benefits, while simultaneously stimulating content creation for different market niches.
E-reader platforms will evolve in a variety of ways, particularly in their screen technology. The e-paper screens on today’s e-reader devices, for example, will grow from today’s 5- to 6-inch diagonals to 8, 10 and 14 inches. That’s no stretch at all for e-paper technology. Moreover, e-paper is very conductive to building flexible displays, and so will enable new types of e-reader designs for rollable, foldable, tuckable products. More homes for more e-books for sure.
Larger-screen e-readers will held spread the base of users into the professional realm, with their ability to effectively present more complicated documentation, akin to the document formats common to paper and computer screens today. A reader with a 14-inch screen in the same format as a pad of large paper will have strong appeal for document reading of all types, not only for traveling but for home and office use as well. Furthermore, if you flip it from portrait to landscape mode, such a device would comfortably display two pages side by side of a best seller.
Today’s e-reader displays are primarily monochrome devices with 4 or 16 gray levels. That, like a 6-inch screen, is fine for general-purpose kicking back with a best-selling novel. For a number of other applications, however, lack of multiple colors is a hindrance, so color is in demand. Medical books, atlases, many textbooks and a number of other instances come to mind.
Partly because it is a reflective display technology, e-paper does not deliver very saturated colors. The early efforts in multicolor e-paper rely primarily on RGB (red, green, blue) color filters, which is the de facto standard technique for colorizing LCDs (liquid-crystal displays) but a technique that is highly inefficient. E-paper colors using filters are not very saturated and have a pastel look like color photos on traditional newsprint. E-books with some kinds of illustrations will do fine with pastel-like color; others will not.
Some vendors are improving the picture by stacking individual RGB subdisplays to achieve multicolor. This avoids the inefficiency of RGB color filters, which automatically discard 2/3 of the available light at a pixel location. (That is, a red subpixel filters out the blue and green components of the available light.) Other vendors are working on patterning discrete RGB lines on a display–perhaps the optimal solution.
In addition to better color, e-books can also look forward to e-reader screens that have a bit more zip than the latest crop. It typically takes a full second for an e-paper screen to be redrawn–that is for an e-book to “flip” to the next page. That’s not a problem, but it limits how well the screen can handle additional functions we take for granted such as maintaining the visibility of a cursor as we move it across the screen. That’s a hindrance.
For general purpose reading, higher-speed response would also enable the use of simple animation in e-books: this would be invaluable, for example, in e-instruction manuals and elsewhere.
David Lieberman is a veteran display journalist and analyst. This article is an extract from a coming report, The Future of E-Paper: A Technology Assessment and Market Forecast, available from in June 2009. Lieberman is also the author of NanoMarket’s Signs of the Times: Opportunities for Printable and Organic Electronics in the Signage Market.”