The online bookseller Amazon is expected to unveil a larger model of its Kindle e-reader at a press conference today, and the company hopes that the device will revolutionize several old-media industries: textbook publishing and the newspaper and magazine business. Photos show that the new reader will be about the size of a sheet of paper and will have a 9.7-inch screen, which will be more conducive to displaying content from textbooks, newspapers, and magazines.
The new product will be unveiled at Pace University, one of six colleges that will use the Kindle to distribute course material to students next fall in a technological test run. Experts say that bringing college textbooks to a light and portable e-reader makes loads of sense. Anyone who’s been to a U.S. college in the past few decades could tell you that textbooks are very highly–some would say obscenely–priced. They’re also bulky, and often difficult to get rid of once purchased: Selling the third edition of an introductory biology textbook on the used-book market is pretty difficult when the fourth edition comes out a year later. Theoretically, this should be the perfect market for an electronic reader like the Kindle…. “I do think the textbook market will be the killer app for e-readers,” said Sarah Epps, a media analyst at Forrester Research [CNET]. However, Epps added that it would probably take several years for the technology to catch on, and for publishers to reach acceptable profit-sharing agreements.
A synthetic material that mimics the qualities of an iridescent opal may have wide-reaching technological applications, its creators say. With the application of an electric current the material can rapidly change to any color of the spectrum, and the developers, who said they’re ready to sell the technology today, added that their ‘photonic ink’ (P-Ink) material could soon be used in electronic books or advertising displays [ZDNet].
The synthetic material can be likened to an opal, a mineral that owes its variety of colours to its layered structure: regions with a high refractive index, in which light travels slowly, are interleaved with regions with a low refractive index. Light waves with a wavelength – or colour – similar to that of the space between layers are scattered in a way that gives opal its iridescent sheen [New Scientist]. The synthetic material has a similarly layered structure, but with the addition of a little voltage the space between the layers swells or shrinks, allowing for fine-tuned control of what color of light the material scatters.
Developments in “electronic ink” technology are letting publishers experiment with new ways of bringing printed material to the public, and several futuristic products are close to hitting the marketplace. A new device being previewed by the company Plastic Logic is pointing the way to the sci-fi dream of carrying one flexible screen that could display written material from any source at the touch of a button, from newspapers to complete novels. Meanwhile, the men’s magazine Esquire will sport an electronic image on the cover of its October issue: A 10-square-inch display on the cover … flashes the theme “The 21st Century Begins Now” with a collage of illuminated images [AP].
Both Plastic Logic and Esquire are using technology created by the company E Ink, which has also provided screens for Sony’s eReader and Amazon.com’s Kindle, two devices primarily intended for book-reading. The screens use electronic ink, which is made up of microcapsules embedded with white and black pigment. The capsules respond to electric charges, creating images that are easily viewed during the day, from any angle and require very little power [San Francisco Chronicle].