Breakthrough may make Kindle go the way of the 8-track

Breakthrough may make Kindle go the way of the 8-trackIt’s hard to believe now, but listening to music on 8-tracks once was the state of the art. The speed of technology often outstrips the capabilities of the latest gadgets and makes them obsolete. A recent innovation may make the Kindle the next victim. While Kindle vies against the Nook for supremacy, a new electrowetting technique may cast the current e-readers into the trash bin of technological has-beens.

The displays on most e-paper devices are based on electrophoretic technology. Millions of tiny particles are treated to have an electric charge and suspended in a solution between two parallel plates. The unit manipulates electric charge at precise points, making the particles migrate between the plates and resulting in words appearing on the screen. The most widely used e-paper devices, including the Kindle and the Nook, employ electrophoretic technology developed by E Ink.

Electrowetting uses voltage across liquid droplets on a solid host material to change the shape of the droplets and reveal text. The advantages of electrowetting over electrophoresis include needing less circuitry and having a higher switching speed. The challenge, however, is finding a suitable host material that demonstrates electrowetting behavior. Professor Andrew Steckl of the University of Cincinnati may have found just such a material.

The ideal for e-paper is to make it look and feel like real paper. So Dr. Steckl and his team investigated what would seem, in retrospect, an obvious candidate: actual paper. And they found that paper could perform as good as the current industry standard, the glass display. In the words of the good doctor:

"It is pretty exciting," said Steckl. "With the right paper, the right process and the right device fabrication technique, you can get results that are as good as you would get on glass, and our results are good enough for a video-style e-reader."

Dr. Steckl hopes to commercialize the technology in five years. He even imagines using this technology to develop disposable e-readers. Such a use, however, would negate the environmental advantages of e-paper, particularly when one considers how many Kindles and Nooks would also be trashed. Perhaps Dr. Steckl’s next research project should examine recycling obsolete e-books.


Oh no! The people who purchased the kindle are screwed!!!!!

We already have a paper version of book technology and I'm not sure this direction is a good thing for consumers or the environment.


In no way do we want disposable electronics to get into our environmental system. This is a nightmare waiting to happen.


What would be good for consumers is a well built ereader that lasts as long as the books they are designed to read. This is the direction this technology needs to take in order to ensure that is it valuable to the consumer as well as being as environmentally friendly as possible.

For more information on the subject please visit my ereader blog at the post above and read what I have to say about the subject along with others. You will find I am not an industry shill nor am I against advances in technology that make sense in the long term, unlike the one discussed in this article.

I find it funny that the comments are screaming no when consumers scream yes. A trashable ereader is exactly what the public wants; that doesn't mean it is "health for the enviroment". You think that there will be a lot of trashed Kindles/Nooks, just look at the laptop indistry and tablets. Apple is trying to push out laptops, that is forcing people to rid themselves of bulky laptops and desktops. That will do more harm to "the enviroment" then a disposable ereader. At the amount of people my age, 16-25, this is hardly detrimental to "the enviroment". Who am I to judge your version of relaity that says it is. My enviroment can take all the garbage we though at it.
From a non-recycling white male college student. Have fun out there.
This looks interesting.
Furthermore, this means video ads on things you read everyday, maybe a newspaper, who knows where this could lead. I cannot wait. :D