Electronic Ink Changes the Game for Newspapers and Magazines

80beatsBy Eliza StricklandSep 8, 2008 6:42 PM


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Developments in "electronic ink" technology are letting publishers experiment with new ways of bringing printed material to the public, and several futuristic products are close to hitting the marketplace. A new device being previewed by the company Plastic Logic is pointing the way to the sci-fi dream of carrying one flexible screen that could display written material from any source at the touch of a button, from newspapers to complete novels. Meanwhile, the men's magazine Esquire will sport an electronic image on the cover of its October issue:

A 10-square-inch display on the cover ... flashes the theme "The 21st Century Begins Now" with a collage of illuminated images [AP].

Both Plastic Logic and Esquire are using technology created by the company E Ink, which has also provided screens for Sony's eReader and Amazon.com's Kindle, two devices primarily intended for book-reading. The screens use electronic ink,

which is made up of microcapsules embedded with white and black pigment. The capsules respond to electric charges, creating images that are easily viewed during the day, from any angle and require very little power [San Francisco Chronicle].

The current Plastic Logic device is a stiff screen the

size of a piece of copier paper, it can be continually updated via a wireless link, and can store and display hundreds of pages of newspapers, books and documents. Richard Archuleta, the chief executive of Plastic Logic, said the display was big enough to provide a newspaperlike layout. “Even though we have positioned this for business documents, newspapers is what everyone asks for,” Mr. Archuleta said [The New York Times].

The device, which hasn't yet been named, is expected to go on sale early next year; company executives say they will announce in January which news organizations will provide content. Plastic Logic is also testing prototypes with flexible screens and color displays. The Esquire issue, with the electronic cover image and one electronic ad on the inside cover, will go on sale Wednesday, and marks the magazine's 75th anniversary.

"This is an indication of what will happen and become more prevalent over the coming years," [Esquire editor] Granger said of electronic paper displays. "I hope to find other compelling ways to use digital technology to improve print." ... The cover itself contains the two displays, a thin electronics board and a small battery that should be able to provide moving images for up to 250 days, Granger said [

San Francisco Chronicle]. In the future, Granger said magazines could contain E Ink pages that can be updated with a wireless link. Image: E Ink Corporation

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