Cheep paper thin Ebooks?

I was reading the newest issue of a polish version of the Chip magazine (every once in a while they have interesting articles, plus it’s nice to read technology related publications in my native tongue – keeps me up to date with the polish technical vocabulary) and I stumbled upon an article about new polymer based screens.

The technology basically boils down to colored dye particles floating over the surface of a sheet equipped with electrodes. You apply positive charge to some areas of the sheet, and the negatively charged dye floats to the top. This allows you to make a paper thin monochromatic display which can be rolled up, folded in half or stepped on without being seriously damaged.

With this type of technology would this be possible to revive the notion of a hardware based ebook that you would carry around with you? So far sales of ebook hardware has been really stagnant – people now own laptops, palmtops, pocket pc’s and cellphones – which can all be used to read stuff. Who wants to carry around a tabletop sized ebook, if they can just carry around multi functional tabletop?

But if you get the hardware down to the size of that shown in the picture here, it no longer sounds ridiculous. Sadly we live in an age when everyone is slobbering over DRM. So, if you could release a book on a single electronic sheet with a built in reader software – that would be a perfect DRM ploy. If the sheets are cheep, and can be mass produced I could possibly see them being used. Under one condition though – crippling DRM scheme must be introduced which will all but kill the PC ebook market. And I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Besides, no matter what they do – printing paper will still be cheaper than building these devices.

I see more interesting applications here though. A flexible paper thin screen would be a perfect replacement for that fragile LCD on my laptop, and pda! This thing could replace LCD technology altogether thanks to the light weight and bendability (is that even a word?). In the future you will be able to throw your cell phone out the window without fear that the display will crack and shatter.

Of course, for that to happen this technology must be cheep to produce. Cheaper than LCD. For now however Chip magazine quotes the price of a 9″ display fluctuates around $650. I wouldn’t call this paper cheep.


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