This is the first article of what I hope to be a series of discussions on products that seem to have all the pieces in existence, but for some reason no organization with enough capital has invested in it. This doesn’t mean there aren’t technical challenges in implementing it, but rather I know of no company doing it, even though the tech exists.
I want an e-book, not an e-page
Today’s topic is real e-books, not the tablet style Kindle or Nook which are essentially glorified screens with the ability to read more than one article. Rather, a book with real pages that you can turn and update to have any content you want. While I like the fact we at least have the ability to read books digitally in a nice fashion, I still think we are falling short of the real capabilities of e-ink and digital technology.
To get the vision clear, please note that a book is not a single page. A single page is essentially a pamphlet or brochure. When I read a book, there is the physical enjoyment of turning the pages of the book, but even more so, the ability to position physically different parts of the book so I can flip back and forth to compare and contrast what I’m reading.
This is especially useful for text books. However, it is a real part of the book reading experience that is fundamentally lost with any of the existing e-book readers.
So, with that in mind, what am I envisioning? I’m envisioning a digital tool with multiple screens made up of e-ink, say 50 pages worth. With the front page I can load a book (or at least 100 pages of the book) into the reader and then I can start reading, flipping the pages myself rather than having to click on a next page/previous page set of buttons.
Pieces of the Puzzle
Bendable, think e-ink pages.
This technology has been kicking around for over a decade now. At the last CES, Sony, LG, and a variety of other providers were showing not only that it bends, but that it’s a lot more durable than ever. I don’t think it’s impossible to make one that would last a while now.
You don’t need a lot of power in a processor to generate a page that remains static on an e-ink screen. The arduino micro is an extreme example of how small you can get, but to be honest, the fact we can pack the equivalent to a computer I had 12 years ago into an iPhone demonstrates to me that this tech isn’t the hangup.
Small power source
Again, look at the kindle, it is lightweight and has a tiny battery with a good battery life. I don’t see how you could not resize this to fit into the binding of a book.
Why does this not exist?
This is the only hangup I can find. How can you manufacture these cheaply? My bet is that once you have a plan to sell enough of these, the price of the bendable e-ink screens drops. Similar to how the retina screens on the iPhones got cheaper suddenly once there was a demand for them. This is the biggest question mark in the “why does this not exist?” category. However, price, to me, always seems like something that is solvable given good quality industrial engineers.
Maybe I’m the only person who would love to have a digital book I can flip pages with.
Patents/Unknown tech restraints
I am unsure of the legal atmosphere around this technology. It could be that e-ink pages are patented by someone who wants too much money for the rights to use it.
I have been dreaming of making this for almost 10 years now, I just haven’t been able to build a functioning mock-up or prototype due to the fact I don’t know where to get e-ink screens that are bendable at a reasonable price. Arduinos and programming is easy, it’s the screens where I get stuck.
Hopefully someone out there is building this, because this would be a true e-book and replace my entire bookshelf with one, totally awesome, book.