The World of E-Readers
Because reading is so incredibly easy to come by, machines dedicated for the sole purpose of reading have been invented. E-readers employ a technology referred to as electronic paper to emulate the look of a paper book as well as is possible. Most readers would say that it is hard to beat the look and feel of a real book, but e-readers are going to try. Readers on the fence about e-books stand to benefit from understanding what e-readers are and what they can do.
Reason for E-Readers
According to Harvard Health Publishing, computer vision syndrome is indeed a real thing someone can get from spending too much time with their monitors/smartphones, and it can lead to two primary issues. One is dry eye, which can be easily treated by remembering to blink, and the other problem is eyestrain.
Eyestrain can be caused by Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD) and Light-Emitting Diodes (LED) screens that are incredibly common. The issue lies in the fact that these screens emit blue light. All About Vision mentions the human eye is not feeble at blocking blue light. The light penetrates directly into the retina with little or no resistance while other lights such as ultraviolet are blocked from getting that far into the eye completely unfiltered. The incredible issue an Amazon search for blue light blocking glasses results in well-over 5,000 results.
How E-Readers Work
E-readers provide a way to read digital content without fear of retinal damage while also using significantly less power. Electronic paper’s presentation is different from the traditional monitors and smartphone screens because rather than backlit screens like LCD and LED, e-paper uses a technology described in the Wired article “Electronic Ink Will Be Everywhere in the Future”:
An e-paper display is filled with really tiny ink capsules, which have electric charges. Some of the ink in each capsule is white, some are black. Using electrical fields, the display rearranges the ink to show different things on the screen…That rearranging takes a very small amount of power, but when it’s done, it shuts off. Keeping an image on the screen doesn’t require any power at all.
The e-reader technology is a bit behind by the standards of modern computer/smartphone screens. A big issue is the refresh rate for these screens. Ghosting occurs when the previous image is still burned into the screen of an e-reader even after the page has been “turned.”
As a result, these e-readers cannot display multimedia like videos or animations due to the nature of the technology and its intermittent use of power to change the image one time.
In The Wired Shopper’s “Comparison of Kindle Paperwhite vs. Kindle”, shoppers can see that the original Kindle had pixels per inch (PPI) of about 167. The advancement made with the release of the Paperwhite, aside from being more like a white piece of paper in appearance, is the fact that it has 300 PPI. The more pixels a thing has, the more it is like looking at no pixels. Good E-Reader’s article “A Short History of E-Ink and the Ereader Revolution” mentions 600 PPI technology on the rise. Electronic paper is steadily becoming more like real paper in appearance.
A major issue in the history of e-readers has been color images. The ink capsule technology used in e-readers only allows for monochromatic colors much akin to a novel or newspaper; which, to be fair, is exactly the reason they were initially designed.
Color technology for electronic paper does exist, however, and it has been tackled in a variety of ways. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) published an article on one method of color for electronic paper displays: “RGB-White (RGBW) color filter arrays (CFAs)” which are as exhausting to understand as they are to see in action. They use traditional red, green, and blue filters over the monochromatic screen to “filter” in colors to the screen.
The E-Ink Triton 2 uses this technology to create these washed-out images. This is the world that Advanced Color Electronic Paper (ACeP) displays are addressing. The ACeP technology is taking a different route. According to the article from The Ebook Reader blog, instead of filtering the color, each cell has four pigments: cyan, magenta, yellow, and white. These colors can produce all eight primary colors, and consequently, can produce over 32,000 colors. The former CFA style of coloring only allowed for 4,096 colors. While that is workable, much like a 150 PPI display, it leaves plenty of room for improvement.
E-Readers are here, and they are determined to only getting better. Although it may never be feasible to replace the look and feel of a favorite book, companies like E Ink are not going to stop trying.