Technocrats constantly say that one or another technology will “kill” the paper book. So far predictions like that hold no ground. But maybe after the introduction of e-reader, another advancement in technology would allow for the wider spread of e-books. That innovation is the flexible e-paper, which could potentially pave the way to rollable, twistable ereaders, which will increase the resilience to breakage.
Regardless which tech blog you visit – there will be a mention about the new Sony flexible e-paper that was presented at 2010 Dealer Convention. Sony aren’t saying what exactly they’ve done to the e-ink technology itself but it’s said to use a plastic substrate rather than the usual glass panel.
Other companies also attempted to commercialize flexible e-paper – LG revealed earlier in the year their optimized flexible e-paper for Newspapers.The e-paper is virtually paper-thin with thickness of only 0.3 millimeters. It uses thin-film-transistor on metal foil rather than glass substrate to give the device flexibility. Measuring 25 centimeters by 40 centimeters (9.8 in. by 15.7 in), it weighs only 130 grams, though it will get thicker and heavier if a manufacturer wires it up with touchscreen technology to give full Internet access. LG says the new flexible e-paper can also be wrapped around pillars and other locations for advertisement applications.
Right now LG has 19 in prototype, which is just the e-paper by itself, without any processor, input device or storage. Adding in these different components would make the paper far less flexible and far less like the newspaper format it’s currently trying to mimic. That’s not to say there aren’t any devices already slotted to use this new technology. Quite the contrary.
Another exciting device is the upcoming Skiff Reader (device from Hearst) which is a 11.5 inch screen that uses the same LG panel technology. The Skiff service will let users directly download magazine issues, books and newspapers.
But the company that introduced the full-color flexible e- paper to the market is actually Bridgestone. Their device is a A4 sized full-color resembling a flexible piece of plastic, and complete with a touch screen surface provided by a WACOM tablet. The main difference is that they use another technology for the e-paper. According to ePaperCentral, “unlike other e-paper devices like the Kindle and Sony’s 505/700, the Bridgestone model does not use E Ink based technologies. Instead, it uses a powerful technology built in house that could completely revolutionize e-paper called QR-LPD.”
And according to market researcher DisplaySearch the e-book market would grow to $1.2 billion next year from $370 million last year. If prices drop quickly, newspaper companies could do away with printing and distributing millions of sheets of paper in the not-too-distant future.