E-Books Utilize High-Tech 'Ink And Paper' Technology Fans of Amazon.com's Kindle 2 and Sony's Reader say the new digital books are easier to read than earlier generations, with a more "booklike" experience. That's due in part to the technology the e-books use for display — a digital version of ink and paper.
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E-Books Utilize High-Tech 'Ink And Paper' Technology

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E-Books Utilize High-Tech 'Ink And Paper' Technology

E-Books Utilize High-Tech 'Ink And Paper' Technology

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


I'm Robert Siegel. And it's time now for All Tech Considered.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: Walk down the aisle of a plane or a subway car these days and you'll very possibly see someone engrossed in what looks like an Etch A Sketch for grown ups. It's an eReader and that person is reading a book or a newspaper on an electronic screen. It might be a Kindle from Amazon, Sony also has the PRS-600 and Barnes and Noble is coming out soon with the Nook. In a moment, we will hear from our resident tech expert about the stiff competition for the pretty small number of people buying eReaders.

First, we'll hear about the technology that tries to make these devices easier on the eyes than laptops and iPhones. Tina Antolini from WFCR in Amherst, Massachusetts has that story.

TINA ANTOLINI: If my neighborhood public library is any indication, digital readers could soon be giving old fashioned books a run for their literary money.

So, I'm here in my local public library, which has three Kindles that it loans out to people. There is a really long waiting list for all three of them. I had to kind of sneak in when the library first opened this morning, so I can snag it for sometime before they sent it out again with the next patron. My charge? To see how the read of a digital reader measured up to, say, my laptop. Let's turn this thing on. And it has opened up to "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers" by Mary Roach.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ANTOLINI: Apparently, that's what the last person was reading on here. It is a lot easier to read. There's, like, no glare. Making the text on this Kindle's page, be it about cadavers or whatever else, look more like a real book. It was the goal for E Ink. That's the company that makes the quote-unquote, "paper" for these devices. Sri Peruvemba is vice president at E Ink.

Mr. SRI PERUVEMBA (Vice President, E Ink): The kind of displays that you use in laptops and monitors and so on and so forth, the contents are not fun to read at all. It strains your eye and what we tried to do was create an electronic display that makes it look kind of like paper. Yet, the contents are changeable.

ANTOLINI: Here's how they did it. Each display page of the e-book is covered in millions of tiny micro-capsules that can turn black, white or some shade of gray. An electrical charge prods the capsules to turn one color or another. And they can be programmed to form words, images, you name it.

Mr. PERUVEMBA: In some ways, it's like the Christmas lights. You can turn them on and off in a sequence, so you get the feeling that the lights are actually moving when they're actually stationary. That is the beauty of this technology.

ANTOLINI: Right now, E Ink has a corner on this market, but next year will bring competitors with a less expensive product, and ones that give you a color display. It's not just gadgets like the Kindle that are using this reader-friendly technology. Peruvemba whips out a cell phone made by Samsung. When you turn it on its side, the phone's numbers can morph into letters.

Mr. PERUVEMBA: You have the option to do some texting and the keyboard changes on you and you're in texting mode because it's not ordinary keys. They are E Ink displays that form these keys and the keys are reprogrammable.

ANTOLINI: And with 30 million people already staring at the little screens on their iPhones, cell phone manufacturers have incentive to make their products a little easier on the eye. So maybe I wouldn't mind reading a whole book about cadavers on my phone.

For NPR News, I'm Tina Antolini.

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