Have E Ink Screens Reached Their Technological Peak?


This time of year I usually post a video from CES showing E Ink’s booth full of new ereading products and prototypes sporting E Ink displays.

However, E Ink’s focus has gone farther and farther away from ereaders over the past few years.

This year I haven’t seen a single video from CES showing anything remotely interesting or new from E Ink in regards to ereader displays.

All they want to talk about anymore is digital signs, and things like luggage tags and gimmicky watches.

Kindle and other ereaders made E Ink famous. If not for ereaders, no one would know about electronic paper and E Ink the company probably wouldn’t even exist.

Now it’s gotten to the point where it feels like E Ink is taking ereader displays for granted. They’ve put them on the back shelf and barely even mention them anymore.

Technological updates can be considered marginal at best, and take years to get released on the market.

You have to wonder if it’s gotten to the point where E Ink ereader screens have reached their peak. Technology can only be advanced so far. Maybe the limitations of E Ink technology itself prevent any further improvements.

Color E Ink screens for ereaders came and went. E Ink tried them and failed miserably because of low contrast and poor color quality. Color E Ink has been at a complete standstill for three years. E Ink Triton 2 surfaced in early 2013, and then we never heard about color E Ink again…

E Ink has been trying to get their products into other markets for as long as they’ve been in business but nothing ever seems to really take off.

The biggest problem usually comes down to price. E Ink is a very expensive display technology compared to LCD, and there’s the fact that it’s not as clear or bright as LCD without some form of external lighting.

The only thing more troubling than the lack of developments in the E Ink ereader field in recent years is E Ink’s apparent disinterest in even showing off new ereader displays or prototypes anymore.

Thanks to a lack of competition, E Ink doesn’t have to care as long as they’ve got Amazon buying screens for Kindles. Lots of people have been hoping for a color E Ink Kindle for years, but it doesn’t look like that’s ever going to happen.

14 Responses to “Have E Ink Screens Reached Their Technological Peak?”

  1. Have to wonder what’s the market they are chasing. Hard core readers? Probably have sold something with an e-ink screen to them already, i.e., they’ve reached market saturation with current technology. Would I like a color e-ink screen? You bet, but not for $300-400. Even as a multi purpose platform, that’s way higher than a tablet, so who’s going to pay the initial high costs until there’s sufficient sales to drive down prices? I think the window for e-ink as a technology was small and has closed. Everybody else is more of a multi purpose tablet consumer where reading is an option; it’s good enough.

  2. I would guess that the next evolutionary-step for eink devices will be in the larger format (e.g. 13″ Mobius) segment of the market for the educational market. LCDs are too hard on the eyes for long durations of reading and I can forsee a future device with a tablet/LCD screen on one side and an eink screen on the other side … one side suited for quick scrolling and video-watching, while the other side suited for reading.
    If a company could develop a 13″ eink device that has robust internet-browsing capabilities, I’d gladly spend $750 on that … as I’m sure the strain on my eyes from looking at monitors over the long run will cost me more than $750 in future co-payments of having to see an eye doctor for the strain + moisturizing eye drops 😉

    • Perhaps here we have an idea for Amazon (or Barnes and Noble, but I won’t hold my breath on that one). A Fire tablet with an LCD on one side and an eInk screen on the other. The eInk screen would have to be packaged similar to the screen on the Voyage to prevent damage. I don’t see any need to go up to a 13″ display. Would a 10″ Fire with a wide screen aspect ratio could hold a 6″ eInk screen on the back? This would allow Amazon to use existing technology for both screens.

      • That would be a neat idea. The only thing would be the thickness.

        • I wouldn’t worry myself about the thickness as much as the weight … If somebody comes up with two screened device with ~ 500g weight i’ll buy it. If it could have some decent PPI density it would be even more desirable … at least to me … 🙂

    • There is a 13′ monitor in the market already. Do a google search “DaSung Second Screen 13.3″ E-ink Monitor” or visit this site http://dasung.com.cn/. It’s a bit price at the moment. I would love to see this becoming a trend so the tecnology can develop faster to have a high refresh rate for videos and colours. Can you imagine working in front of the computer screen without eyestrain, headache and the suchs…. Freedom!!

  3. When I was looking for a new smartphone I came across one , I think it was made in Russia, It had LCD for the phone at the front and an eink screen at the back but when I saw the price I thought forget it.

  4. There is more potential and use-case scenarios for e-ink. One of them is education, with larger (colour) e-readers for open access textbooks. The technology is there but e-ink doesn’t develop anything, due to lack of demand (if only the DX didn’t flop). However, something like electrowetting is far more versatile, even possibly replacing LCD, but I haven’t heard anything from Liquavista for some time. I believe OLED is the direction of manufacturers and I can see it becoming more widespread, like IPS, in the coming years (at the moment it is more restricted to the premium end of devices).

  5. I would love another e ink ,i had the 7 inch and could go for a larger one . I bought the kindle 8.9 fire thinking it would help me see better and it doesn’t . i am using more eye drops than ever . i keep going back to my 6 inch so my eyes aren’t squinting ..ho hum

  6. People who criticize eInk devices in general (eReaders in particular) don’t have a clue about the meaning of a thing called… COMFORT.

    It doesn’t matter if a tablet is more versatil. Even with the lowest bright possible or with black background and white letters, reading on a tablet sucks!

    I use my Kindle with the lowest light possible and it seems that I’m reading a book, a piece of paper. This is COMFORT. And I like it.

  7. SERIOUSLY. I’m saddened that I didn’t pick up a color eink device now. I understood that the color was not as sharp as an LCD screen but it looked exactly like paper.

    Even sader, that was over 3 years ago. Nothing new has been forth coming and I blame the poor marketing of eink devices in general. I’m still explaining to people why eink devices are essential.

    The main essential is that if your an avid reader, you don’t want to be reading from an LCD or TFT display for long durations. The only thing that will match just reading a standard book is an eink ebook reader. You simply can’t beat them.

    Out of my cold dead hands will you pry my my cheap generic 6″ and 7.9″ Sony PRS ebook readers.

    Oh and one very important aspect, you can read on one of these devices for days. Good luck with a few hours of your tablet devices. Great for reading on the bus, train, plane or while waiting for transport or filling in time.

    Mind blowing device that sadly too few are getting due to the abundance of tablet promotion. The only promotion I have ever seen for eink devices for example was what I found on the internet and that was only because I was looking for a suitable device to read all my ebooks on.

    Low and behold the paper equivalent ‘eink’ devices appeared and I’m ever so grateful.

    Here’s hoping a color version can become an affordable reality for the masses and then I’m certain they will become a house hold name.

  8. Development is stuck. There was a recent press release of e-ink going to make larger ebook screens and maintain the 300+ dpi rule.
    Well, besides the whole eyestrain thing they are massively ignoring another aspect of “real” books that still isn’t incorporated in ebook readers: the ability to flip pages. Not just in a book, but also from book to book.

    Just an example: I like to read scientific documents and user manuals as well as normal books. Whereas with normal books you read from back to front 99/100, not so with manuals and comparing documents.

    In other words, the user interface and it’s speed is severely lacking.

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