Who Will be the Next to Release a Lighted eBook Reader?

Flex Light eReader Light

Now that Barnes and Noble has released the Nook Touch with GlowLight, which appears to be relatively successful given the fact B&N couldn’t keep them in stock for the first several weeks, the big question is who will be the next to release a similar E Ink ebook reader with a built-in front light?

Amazon is the most likely suspect given the fact they’ve already demoed a prototype. Rumors suggest a lighted Kindle Touch could arrive as early as next month. But Amazon has made no official mention of a lighted Kindle just yet.

Another potential candidate for a lighted ereader is Sony. But then again Sony already tried that a few years back with the PRS-700 and it was a huge flop; they might be reluctant to try it again. But technology has changed a lot since then. It wouldn’t need to suffer from the same glare-prone touchscreen and uneven light.

But Sony is a wildcard; you never know what they are going to do. At times they only seem to halfheartedly pursue the ebook reader market, but then ever year they release at least one new ebook reader, and it’s usually one of the more advanced in the field, if lacking in a few details.

And then there’s Kobo. They could be the dark horse in this race. They usually release a new device in the early part of the year, but this year they’ve yet to release a new device at all. Instead they are updating the Kobo Vox to get support for Google Play and are taking the Kobo Touch to Japan.

I doubt that’s all that Kobo has planned. And if they want to keep pace with Amazon and B&N, they are going to have to do something big. And soon.

It would be really cool if a smaller unknown company would surprise everyone and release a front-light ereader before anyone other than B&N. That would be good for competition, but it’s probably not going to happen.

So who do you think will be the next to release a lighted ebook reader? And will you be getting one?

19 Responses to “Who Will be the Next to Release a Lighted eBook Reader?”

  1. I often enjoy reading in low-light conditions at night on my balcony or in bed.

    So I think a built-in light is a terrific feature as it means I wouldn’t have to use the clip-on light I have now. That product needs 3 AAA batteries which have to be recharged regularly, plus it has an annoying habit of suddenly falling off the reader at unexpected times. It doesn’t light the screen evenly either (some parts are too bright, others too dim and so I’m always changing the angle of my wrist as I read down the screen). I also have to remember to pack it when traveling too.

    A built-in light should eliminate all those problems even if it costs me a bit of e-reader battery life.

    I’m hoping one of those Onyx Boox large-size e-readers offers a lighted version (as that otherwise looks like an ideal product for me). Alas, an email from the sales rep who posted in that thread indicated they don’t think there’s a large enough market for that. 🙁

    So hopefully the success of the Nook Glowlight and any subsequent products will encourage all the ebook manufacturers to give lighted e-readers a chance.

  2. My view is that that back-light is cool, but seems like more of a gimmick rather than a necessary advancement in the technology of eReading. There is so much room for improvement with E Ink displays that the big companies should be pushing harder for higher resolution screens and better text/background contrast instead of light features.

    As I have stated on this blog before, I am still waiting for the day when an E Ink screen really does “look just like paper,” as Amazon has often described. But maybe I’m just picky. I guess the Kindle Touch ghosting/screen resolution issues really aggravated me last year. At least the B&N continues to make text contrast a priority with its “Best Text technology.”

  3. “but seems like more of a gimmick rather than a necessary advancement”

    I couldn’t disagree more. It will be a standard feature for those wanting to compete.

  4. @Nards – I would be more persuaded to agree with you if the addition of a back light didn’t decrease screen contrast, increase the price by $40, and cause extra glare during daytime reading. The idea of adding a contrast-robbing layer on the screen just so I can read in complete darkness during one or two hours seems like a bit of a gimmick to me, but to each his own.

  5. I just don’t understand why no one has developed a true indoor/ outdoor reader.

  6. I was very excited by the announcement of the Nook Glow and was an “early adopter;” but after using it for a couple of weeks, I’ve gone back to using my original Nook Touch because of its higher text/screen contrast. May sound silly, but the lower contrast and screen brightness was noticeable enough for me.

  7. I totally agree Dave. Until B&N or Amazon finds some way to add the back-light without decreasing screen contrast, it will be a detracting (and potentially unnecessary) feature, sort of like the original Sony touch eReaders. The first E Ink touchscreens added glare, decreased resolution, and buried text contrast so much that I thought the display reader I tested out was stuck on some kind of low battery-saver setting. Imagine my dismay when I bought the Sony PRS-600 and took it home only to find that E Ink screens are not adjustable (it was my first eReader). I returned it to Walmart for a full refund within the next two days, and shortly after I bought the first Nook, which was an incredible upgrade at the time.

    Thanks to the development of infrared sensor design, touch has earned its place in the eReading market (Sony Touch, Nook Touch, Kindle Touch, Kobo Touch). If the screen contrast issues are solved for glow, it too may become a “standard feature” among eReadrs, as Nads put it.

  8. To me, the back light is must have, since i have time to read only in the evenings when is dark. For my home needs i’ve bought kindle touch which i’ve returned for the obvious reason, the need for back light. If i need to read, i need a source of light which creates problems, since somebody tries to sleep. I’ve fixed this problem with a tablet, now i do not disturb anybody but myself (my eyes get tired). I will not buy e-book reader until amazon releases one with back light. I do not care for the contrast of display as long as it is with back-light, but i would welcome high-resolution display.

    • Just to be clear, E Ink ereaders have to use a front light. Back lights won’t work with this type of screen technology.

  9. Bormasina belongs to a very small segment of the market that only wants an eReader to read at night, and doesn’t care about screen contrast or the glare issues during daytime reading, an activity he/she doesn’t seem to participate in. For that reason, I think the Nook Glow does fill a particular niche need. But should “glow” become a universal feature on every eReader, despite the deficits that result from its current limitations? Not until the glare/contrast issues can be resolved.

  10. Ah, yes technically this is a front-lit display. LEDs lights wash down the front of the screen and illuminate it, giving it the appearance of a “back-lit” device. The added screen protector is used to evenly distribute the light down the screen, and this is what causes the contrast reduction and glare.

  11. Yes, i kept writing back-light, when it suppose to be front-light. I perfectly understand the technology and the difference, but i guess my mind got stuck with “back-light” for some reason.

    I understand that i may be in “minority” here with my requirements for an e-book reader, but they (Amazon) need to understand that they won’t get my money until they deliver … Until then, i’ll survive with my Xoom …

  12. Uh, Amazon *is* doing a frontlight Kindle.
    Not a rumor.
    A fact.
    They have a contract with te US Department of State to deliver as many as 7000 of them per year.
    Check the DESCRIPTION OF WORK, clause 2:
    “2. The Contractor shall deliver devices meeting the specifications of the Kindle Touch, as follows: must provide at least a 6″ diagonal E Ink display, optimized with proprietary waveform and font technology, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 16-level gray scale; must hold up to 1,400 books or have at least 2GB of internal memory; must be accessible to public and private Wi-Fi networks or hotspots that use the 802.11b, 802.11g, or 802.11n standard with support for WEP, WPA and WPA2 security using password authentication or Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS); must not connect to WPA and WPA2 secured networks using 802.1X authentication methods; must not connect to ad-hoc (or peer-to-peer) Wi-Fi networks; and must include a front light feature.”

    Right at the end: “…must include a front light feature.”

    There was a big fuss in the publishing media over the bundled back end services a couple weeks ago.

  13. Wow that is interesting! $16,500,000 worth of lighted Kindles. I found this article which poses some interesting questions: http://paidcontent.org/2012/06/11/why-the-u-s-state-department-is-paying-amazon-16-5-million-for-kindles/

  14. Bear in mind that the $16.5 Million is *not* for the Kindles. Nor is that amount guaranteed: the contract is simply a delivery vehicle for embassies and other State Dept facilities to buy up to 7000 3G Kindles a year for use on a centrally-managed worldwide content delivery system. That *system* is where the bulk of the money goes. And if you read the contract, Amazon is supposed to pay for the worldwide 3G delivery charges on those readers. As well as providing service and support and maintaining the back end servers. The contract is really a *service* contract tha just happens to provide some cheap hardware along the way.
    The Amazon haters might be scandalized at the total cost but a thorough reading of the contract terms make it clear that not only is Amazon the only vendor that comes even close to delivering such a system, the Government is actually getting a pretty good deal.
    Anyway, reading the full contract specs it is easy to see what the next Kindle is going to be like: front-lit, faster refresh (possibly good enough for video) and 3G will still be available.
    CNET today has an article discussing the new Kindles and they suggest even the low-end, non-touch, model may get the front lighting.

  15. I just hope they call it the Kindle Torch. It’s a cool name. =P

  16. Kobo might be next… I was speaking with a clerk at a Vancouver, BC Chapters store yesterday and asked if they were expecting a new Kobo Touch this year. He said that they were expecting a lighted Kobo Touch like the Nook Glow as well as a mini Kobo Touch that won’t be lighted. He is low in stock on the current Kobo Touch so it should be sometime this Fall. I have an old Nook from 2010 so am eagerly awaiting upgrading to something lighter as well as supported in Canada. Although with the concerns expressed here I will be certain to compare very closely the new lighted Kobo Touch with the old when it comes out.