What’s New with E-Reading Screens?

So, e-reader displays that you could bend and fold like real paper? That’s cool, I guess. What practical purpose could that be put towards in reading an ebook? How would that page-bending work in practice for navigating an ebook? Well, anways, Sony showed off some new bendable display technology, Engadget: “Sony shows off, folds up super flexible organic TFT display.”

Here are a few neat video demos of how E-Ink could work on fabric (just think of all the untapped monetizable ad space on t-shirts, or underwear, or something. It’s like Tron come to life!!), courtesy of CrunchGear “E Ink Shows Off More Flexible, Crunchable Screens

Talk of flexible screens has been bandied about the news for a number of years now (The New York Times, November 2000: “Flexible Displays for Electronic Ink.”) It’s anyone’s guess what form any of this might eventually take, so it’s still part of the Believe-It-When-We-See-It category. My two cents: flexible, reusable e-newspapers could be kind of cool. But I still also wonder, other than the tactile wow-factor, what this might add to the overall reading experience.

And in an example of technological convergence, here’s something else: a “PaperPhone” described as an interactive paper computer which is the product of research at the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University in Ontario. On the one hand, it “looks, feels and operates like a small sheet of interactive paper.” On the other hand, does this make it more or less breakable than an iPhone? For more information, along with video and images, check out their full press release (also: would it kill them to use capitalization?)

You know what’s funny about some of these on-going experiments with e-reading screens? It seems like the race to invent the next big thing in screen technology is to make new technology (screens) more like old technology (paper). I suppose that’s all part of the popular ideal of making the involved technology “disappear.”

How close can we get to the experience of words on the page/screen, from actual words on a page? Sure, the touch-navigation of touch screens is a more pleasing, somehow more involving experience than manipulating other kinds of human interface devices like a button on a keyboard, or a mouse, or laptop trackpad. Which is why I have mixed thoughts on the decline (?) of the stylus as a user input device. For a countervailing perspective — and proof that I don’t always just read things I agree with — see: “A Real Tablet has a Stylus.” A really, really good stylus interface could be a legitimate replacement for some people for the pleasures of putting pencil to paper. But, honestly, when have we seen a really, really good stylus interface? (pic related)


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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

tyler shores cambridge

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