Color for eBook Readers

July 12th, 2009

One of the ongoing hot-topics in the eBook reader debate centers around the perceived need for eBook readers to be able to display color images in a user-acceptable fashion.

epapercentral reports on one of the most recent attempts to tackle the challenge (there are many others, at various stages of development).

According to the report, “Pixel Qi has taken a unique approach and reversed the (existing eInk) process to attain its goal. The company has started with traditional liquid crystal display technology, which already provides high-quality color saturation and video switching speeds, and looked to tweak the components to achieve low power consumption and sunlight readability.”

Most interesting is the interview with Dr. John Ryan, COO and VP, Marketing of Pixel Qi, who discussed his thoughts on the company’s mission, strategy and technological expertise.

“We targeted the screen, rather than doing a new laptop for example, because we know how to do significant innovations in LCD screens,” said Ryan. “What inspired us is this … the LCDs in notebook computers today are designed as if they were little TVs: bright, fast, power-hungry, and without great resolution. Our observation is that much of what people do and want to do with their portable computers is actually reading (and writing) and so the portable devices need great resolution for text, lower power consumption, attuned for use in all ambient light conditions, etc. To do this, we’ve redesigned the entire LCD screen.”

I’ve long argued with those who think eInk is the be-all and end-all of online reading experiences: adjust the settings on your LCD. Turn down the brightness. Switch to greyscale. You can easily emulate the Kindle on you existing computer. And if there’s color to be displayed, then just adjust brightness and contrast. All recent computers feature sophisticated graphic cards with controls that make this possible.

Pixel Qi is certainly taking a new approach, which is all to the good. Yet this is a field where developments are fast and furious. Stay tuned.