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Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Colour e-ink: Is there a future now for printing?

Monday, 6 June 2016 | Posted by: Jan Gesthuizen, European Coatings Journal

I don’t have an e-book reader. Why? Because they are only available in black and white, and the screen is too small for my liking. So, I diligently buy printed books, even though my bookshelves are bursting at the seams. But my attitude towards e-readers might change very soon.

The printing inks industry has always been vulnerable to digital products stealing away some of its market and valuable revenue. The widespread retreat among printed dailies is a salient example; nowadays, people read news online.

E-books, too, are a disruptive technology. What’s more, these new digital products really do seem to be usurping the role of printed paper, although the pace has likely eased somewhat of late. 

EInk Display in Coulour

The new colour E Ink display offers a resolution of 150 ppi.

Coloured e-Books on the rise

It used to be very text-heavy publications, such as fiction, that were falling prey to e-books. But, now, publications rich in images and graphics are soon likely to appear as e-books too. At Display Week in mid-May, the company E Ink Holdings introduced a colour E Ink display with a resolution of 150 ppi. And this wasn’t just a small laboratory prototype. No, it was the real deal – a 20-inch version packed with 2,500 x 1,600 pixels.

This means that it is now possible to display non-fiction, textbooks and periodicals in the all-important A4 format. Like standard black/white readers, the ACeP display from E Ink is a reflective display that only consumes power when it turns the page. And also like its achromatic relatives, it is easy to read in direct sunlight.

Improved range of applications

This makes e-readers attractive for use in schools and universities, because free licences would yield even greater money savings. Developing and emerging economies such as South Africa, especially, already have a very active open source non-fiction scene that will further benefit from this technology.

E Ink Holdings is not the first manufacturer to try its luck with colour e-paper displays, but it does seem to have made good progress on costs. For the first time, all the coloured pigments are contained in a single layer, instead of being arranged in stack. That makes production much cheaper.

As soon as affordable coloured e-readers come onto the market, I’ll be one of the first to forsake printed material. 

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