Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A New Page -- Can The Kindle Really Improve On The Book?

First off, check out this e-reader that will launch in China before the end of 2009. The article calls it a Kindle copy. Thanks to Bahay Talinhaga for the link. I've written before, and I'm more convinced now, that e-readers will become as ubiquitous as mp3 players.

Then, read this article from The New Yorker: A New Page -- Can The Kindle Really Improve On The Book? An excerpt:

Instead of ink on paper, there’s something called Vizplex. Vizplex is the trade name of the layered substance that makes up the Kindle’s display—i.e., the six-inch-diagonal rectangle that you read from. It’s a marvel of bi-stable microspheres, and it took lots of work and more than a hundred and fifty million dollars to develop, but it’s really still in the prototype phase. Vizplex, in slurry form, is made in Cambridge, Massachusetts, by a company called E Ink. E Ink layers it onto a film, or “frontplane laminate,” at a plant in western Massachusetts, and then sends the laminate to Taiwan, where its parent company, P.V.I. (which stands for Prime View International, itself a subsidiary of a large paper company), marries it to an electronic grid, or backplane. The backplane tells the frontplane what to do.

The prospect of Vizplex first arose in the mind of a scientist, Joseph Jacobson, who now works at M.I.T.’s Media Lab and avoids interviews on the subject of e-paper. Sometime in the mid-nineties, according to a colleague, Jacobson was sitting on a beach reading. He finished his book. What next? He didn’t want to walk off the beach to get another book, and he didn’t want to lie on the beach and dig moist holes with his feet, thinking about the algorithmic beauty of seaweeds. What he wanted was to push a little button that would swap the words in the book he held for the words in some other book somewhere else. He wanted the book he held to be infinitely rewriteable—to be, in fact, the very last book he would ever have to own. He called it “The Last Book.” To make the Last Book, he would have to invent a new kind of paper: RadioPaper.

At M.I.T., Jacobson and a group of undergraduates made lists of requirements, methods, and materials. One of their tenets was: RadioPaper must reflect, like real paper. It must not emit. It couldn’t be based on some improved type of liquid-crystal screen, no matter how high its resolution, no matter how perfectly jewel-like its colors, no matter how imperceptibly quick its flicker, because liquid crystals are backlit, and backlighting, they believed, is intrinsically bad because it’s hard on the eyes. RadioPaper also had to be flexible, they thought, and it had to persist until recycled in situ. It should hold its image even when it drew no current, just as paper could. How to do that? One student came up with the idea of a quilt of tiny white balls in colored dye. To make the letter “A,” say, microsquirts of electricity would grab some of the microballs and pull them down in their capsule, drowning them in the dye and making that capsule and neighboring capsules go dark and stay dark until some more electricity flowed through in a second or a day or a week. This was the magic of electrophoresis.

Click here to read the whole piece.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


5:57 PM  
Blogger pgenrestories said...

Oooo. Interesting. Thanks, Anonymous!

8:42 PM  

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