Amazon Won’t Launch a Color E Ink Kindle Later This Year


Kindle Color

I’ve been working on this website and blog for nearly three years now, and during that time I’ve noticed a weird phenomenon. Every month or two some unreliable source from some big-name website posts a ridiculous article proclaiming the release of some future gadget from Amazon, Apple, or any other big company.

And then every other tech website under the sun feels compelled to re-write the article and spread the baseless rumor over and over again. And then two months later some other website will pickup the same rumor, put a different spin on it, and then the rounds will start all over again.

This time around DigiTimes is proclaiming that “Amazon is likely to launch color e-book readers in 2H12” in their very insightful, fact-bloated, whopping 6 sentence article.

And not only is Amazon going to release color E Ink Kindles, according to DigiTimes, they are also going be ditching the infrared touchscreen in favor of capacitive touchscreens.

That just shows how ignorant DigiTimes really is.

Capacitive touchscreens and E Ink don’t mix. It’s been proven time and again. Adding a layer over the top of an E Ink screen degrades the quality and contrast of the text. Other companies have tried it, and I could see some small company try it again, but Amazon is not that stupid.

Any loss in contrast is going to be seen as a huge negative. There are already a bunch of people complaining how the new Nook Touch with GlowLight has less contrast than the original Nook Touch because the GlowLight Nook has a screen protector over the screen to aid with light distribution. The difference in contrast is fairly minimal, and even still it has caused an issue for some.

Amazon already uses the infrared touchscreen on the Kindle Touch and it works great; it’s proven to be the perfect touchscreen technology for E Ink ebook readers. Plus it already supports multi-touch, so what would be the point of suddenly switching to a capacitive touchscreen?

And we haven’t even gotten to the point of color E Ink yet. It has been out for nearly 2 years. If Amazon planned on using it they would have by now. The simple fact is color E Ink isn’t very good.

Then consider the Kindle Fire for a moment and how hugely successful it has been. Does it really make sense for Amazon to release new tablets this year, which they most certainly will, and color E Ink Kindles at the same time? Most people that want color are just going to go with a tablet instead. Washed out color E Ink isn’t going to stand a chance next to a bright LCD tablet’s screen, especially when the price between the two isn’t going to be very far off with the high cost of E Ink.

And color makes no difference when it comes to reading ebooks anyway, not unless you favor blue text. Textbooks, comics, and periodicals benefit from color, but all are much better experienced on a tablet. It’s ten times more likely that Amazon will release a 10″ tablet aimed at eTextbooks and other color content than a color E Ink Kindle. The functionality of a tablet is leaps and bounds beyond that of a E Ink device; the color of the screen doesn’t change that fact in the least.

Unless color E Ink technology changes dramatically in the next few months, Amazon won’t be launching a color E Ink Kindle later this year. The source is common sense, DigiTimes. Not some anonymous Chinese parts supplier.

22 Responses to “Amazon Won’t Launch a Color E Ink Kindle Later This Year”

  1. burger flipper May 14, 2012 at 10:47 am

    I strongly suspect you are right.

    They will lure me to buy my first kindle if they come out with their own lighted eink (very likely), and ditch the glass substrate (no idea how likley), and return paging buttons to the touch version (kinda unlikely).

    Be curious what they roll out in the fall.

  2. Well said Nathan! Everyone knows the issues with color E Ink. I’m surprised people are still positing it as an option for Kindle readers.

    Nook note: I decided against purchasing a Nook Glow because of the downgrade in screen contrast. As far as most eReader users are concerned, E Ink screens should only be getting better in contrast, without exception. I am still waiting around for the new E Ink screen that really will “look and feel just like reading paper.” I recently purchased a Kobo reader and noticed a huge difference in contrast when compared to my Kindle 3, Nook, and Sony. When I held the devices up side by side, it is only a small difference, but still noticeable. Customers don’t like downgrades.

  3. I agree, customers don’t like downgrades. It seems like every year we’re given new toys to buy, but they’re almost always a case of “trade this feature for another” or something. How about you just make it better next year? I don’t want lowered screen contrast in exchange for less glare. I don’t want less battery life in exchange for sharper text. And I don’t want color if it means I have to pay twice as much or carry a bulky device.

    Figure out how to actually make an all-around *better* product before you bring it to market, will ya?!

  4. Andrew, I agree with you on the updated e-ink screen. If they could amp up the resolution to 300dpi, which is already done and add 8 bit (256 shades of grey) you will get pretty close to same as paper. The slight grey shade of the background actually helps to cut down on the intensity/brightness while improving the contrast. The other killer feature should be a bigger screen so you can read life sized text from letter sized documents.

  5. Great post, Nathan!

    I always turn to you for straight talk on e-readers.

    Thanks for all you do.

  6. @Jim – Yes, I don’t expect a perfectly white background, but I would love to see the 300dpi resolution you were talking about. Text contrast on eReaders really needs to show noticeable improvement over the next two years if they hope to keep sales up and consumers interested. I’m hoping the next Kindle can boast another “50% improved text contrast.”

    Let’s face it: the addition of a glow light is cool, but rather hokey. I’m hoping that this isn’t a new trend, especially if it means future devices will actually have LESS text contrast than before.

    I have owned all of the Kindles, Nooks, and Sony Readers, and now a have a Kobo, but I have yet to find an eReader that matches up to the Kindle 3. The text is brilliant on that screen. The Nook Touch isn’t far behind it.

  7. In fairness the article didn’t specifically mention a capacitive color e-ink screen, though it certainly seems to imply that. Maybe it’s two different new products.

  8. Besides all the rumors and uninformation, my expectations for pocket technology have largely been unfulfilled. The Personal Data Assistant, or PDA, a term which could be applied to all E-readers, tablets and cellphones: has it not been around for 20 years now? When I first heard about the original Kindle, I wondered what had happened to the Apple PDA. That could have become an E-reader instead of a fossil.

  9. Think your right on color e-ink, it just isn’t good enough.

    Not so sure about them sticking with infrared touch on all models though. Amazon a few years ago bought touchco which were developing a force sensitive resistive screen which would feel much like a capacitive screen but would be able to use a stylus (with pressure sensitivity) as well as fingers. I can see them bringing out a model operating as an e-reader and note taker while retaining the current models.

  10. I guess I’m in the minority, then. But there are those of us out there that would vastly prefer washed out color e ink to a power needy, retina burning, multi-functional tablet for reading mags and text books. Now, would I buy one from Amazon, with no memory card slot and poor directory structure: unlikely.

  11. I agree with you Kris. I to would go for a washed out color e-ink reader. I haven’t got a Kindle Fire because of the power hunger side effect that such a design tends to have. And the eye strain is something that I do not want. I want the reading experience to be as close as possible to the real thing. Give me a color e-ink reader that has a reasonable price and I will jump on it.

  12. I agree with Kris & Bob, I’m reasonably okay about the absence of a consumer grade colour e-ink (or similar) tablets (with infra-red touch screens). But don’t see why we’re not seeing them in yet in the enterprise device niche, where field usability is of more importance than consumer pricing.

    Yes the refresh rate of e-ink currently isn’t particularly fast, but as has been demonstrated in the Sony eReader hack the refresh rate can be improved (albeit with a shorter battery life) to be sufficient to enable usage of typical office/field applications. Video? well just having a handheld device that can be read in all weathers would be a big step forward.

  13. +1 for color eInk.
    Don’t care about a lot of tablet features to read my ebooks.

    Pros eInk reader:
    – very very long battery life
    – no eyestrain
    – very good text definition
    Cons eInk reader:
    – screen size (8″)
    – black & white for now (comics…)

    If the next eBook generation increases its screen size and provides color, it will be a best seller ! 🙂

  14. Hmmm…
    Looks like the new Kindle Paperwhites have capacitive touch screens, while also improving contrast and resolution.

  15. Yes, the Kindle PaperWhite is much better but i’m disappointed that they have not come out with a color e-reader. I would buy the color in a minute. I don’t like a LCD tablet which is heavier, strains the eyes, can’t read in broad daylight, and has low battery life. PrimeView International with their Triton technology has done away with the filter to create color E-ink because it looks washed out. Instead, they bought SiPix which has a better color technology. They will be merging technologies to create a better color e-reader for Amazon. I can’t wait for the new Color Kindle!

  16. Yup, so glad the author was so wrong about the capacitive touchscreen bit. Hoping that means he’s just as wrong about the color e-ink. There is a definite market for that, and the only reason I haven’t pulled the trigger on buying a Kindle yet (for myself at least). I doubt at this point that it will be coming before the end of 2012, but I do think Amazon is smart enough to see the market.
    Tablets (i.e., color LCD devices) are a whole different market. Not for readers, more for browsers.

  17. LCD panels are decent for textbooks, but the way that one tends to use them causes a serous drawback on mobile devices. Battery drain from a static state image for hours at a time is negligible on eink, not to mention the softer view which is much appreciated by eyes tired of the artificially bright screens that surround us. Color eink is not supposed to compete with a mobile computer, though they each have parts that superficially seem to overlap.

  18. I agree with a lot of posts here people don’t look to e ink for the same reason as back lit LCD’s I have enough options in the tablet domain to see me happy.. I want a device that has colour that would allow me to read comics and other graphic novels with out the eye strain, with out sucking the battery dry, and without having to lug an assortment of books around with me. the only way the technology and price of these devices is going to improve is if the production starts on mass scale until then the isn’t the finance going into the development.

  19. As far as i am concerned i want a device that works as an ink ereader but when I use that same ereader to surf the internet via wifi or 3G i wanna be able to have colors and great video content as available with regular tablets. Or it could be the other way round. Have a tablet that when used for ereading uses ink technology. Is taht even technically possible ?