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What Defines an E-Reader?

Blaze Display Technology Co., Ltd. | Updated: Oct 28, 2015

【R&D Department of Blaze Display】Until recently, pretty much all e-readers used E-Ink displays like the ones in Amazon´s Kindle and Barnes & Noble´s Nook. However, at CES we´ve seen a number of concept designs and prototypes-from both Asian contract manufacturers and established companies-that are billed as "e-readers", but useLCD screens like the ones in typical notebooks. Are these devices truly e-readers? The whole point of electronic paper-based e-readers is that the display, which doesn´t use a backlight, mimics the look of physical paper and is easier on the eyes than a bright, backlit LCD. I saw many LCD "e-readers" at the show, but none had those same qualities. Tech companies are as susceptible to trends as teenage girls and I´d argue that many of the companies making LCD-based e-readers are simply jumping on the craze for these devices. Many of these so-called e-readers are no more than tablet PCs or MID (mobile Internet devices), capable of displaying e-books with e-reader software but not really optimized for that purpose. It´s no different, really, than a mobile phone running Amazon´s Kindle app, or any other e-reader software for that matter. The only difference between the two categories is the size of the screen. Much of the hype is just that. After all, this is CES-the place where companies go to put forth ideas and gauge the reception from the media and potential customers. Which brings me around to the MSI 10-inch dual-screen e-reader concept. The clam-shell prototype device was surprisingly lightweight in my hands, and had a touchscreen that made it easy to navigate around the Windows 7 starter operating system. The screens responded to being reoriented from the vertical position to horizontal; in horizontal mode, the unit has a virtual keyboard with haptic feedback. The prototype is intriguing, to be sure, but, MSI has no plans to bring it to market, and according to a product manager, the product won´t be manufactured until at least 2011. Ditto for the company´s other concept display, a half-inch-thick (give or take) tablet "e-reader" with touchscreen, running Google Android. Both devices ran e-reader software, had LCD screens, and used full-featured operating systems. They were capable of far more than many traditional e-readers, but will they be optimal if what you really want is a device primarily to read novels on your commute? Other e-readers, like the Entourage eDge and the Spring Designs Alex Reader, also include multi-purpose LCD screens. But in addition, they have E-Ink displays of equal or greater size that the manufacturers intend for use as the primary reading display. While many of the tablet/MID devices introduced at CES look promising, none appear ready to replace electronic paper for long-form reading. When the sun set in Vegas, they´re still just small PCs that let you access electronic books, along with doing a whole lot of other stuff.

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