BACKGROUND: Sony Reader is a new electronic book device that uses a new display technology called electronic ink. Developed by E-Ink, a company based in Cambridge, Mass., the display provides a natural reading experience with no backlight, unlike reading standard computer screens. Other prospective uses for electronic ink include displays on credit cards that won't break when they are bent; fresh food shelf labels where the price can change throughout the day; and watch and cell phone displays.
HOW IT WORKS: Sandwiched between layers of plastic film are millions of transparent, nearly microscopic liquid-filled spheres about the diameter of a human hair. Inside these "microcapsules" float even tinier black and white particles; the black particles are negatively charged while the white particles are positively charged. Depending on how the electrical charge is applied to the plastic film, either the black or white particles rise to the top of the spheres, forming patterns of black and white. For instance, when a negative electric field is applied, the white particles rise to the top, while the black particles are pulled to the bottom of the spheres. The surface will appear white at that spot. When a positive electric field is applied, the black particles rise to the top, and the white particles are pulled to the bottom, so the surface appears dark in that spot.
BENEFITS: The E-Ink technology is reflective, so it uses almost no power; even large displays will use a minimum amount of electricity. So the Sony Reader need not be turned off; it can be set aside just as one would do with a printed book. The current page remains on the screen without draining any battery power. In fact, a single charge is good for 7,500 page turns. The screen is easily readable outdoors. And E-Ink can be used to coat almost any surface, so it is ideal for flexible display applications. Also, studies have shown that users reported increased readability and minimal eyestrain compared to other electronic book technology.
The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.