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Display Resolution & Paper

So far, there have been a few attempts at making e-books, where an electronic device could replace a bundle of paper. There are technical problems that have not yet been overcome, but here is some of the basic things that need to happen to make it successful:

1- Display resolution

screen resolutions today are about 100dpi, sometimes less. If you took a 17" monitor with 14.7" usable and ran it at 1600x1280, you would get ~135 dpi. I argue that you need a much higher resolution before some sort of display could even begin to replace paper. At a minimum, 200 dpi. preferably 300-400 dpi. You might say that it's rediculous to make a display with that resolution, but if you go with monochrome, today's laptop screens are already 300 dpi: 100 dpi * 3 pixels of red, blue, and green. Well, at least in the horizontal measure. In the microdisplay world, they have displays that already exceed 1000dpi, and there's one that's about 1600dpi (0.5", 620x480). These miniscule screens require some sort of magnification, but their small size, light weight, and extreme durability may lead to some alternative designs for ebooks

But I also got to thinking: paper and modern printers do something that screens can't do today: overlapping dots!

2- Contrast

Regular, run-of-the-mill paper has a 15:1 contrast. the best display today has 8:1. There's still a ways to go here *** these numbers are from a distant memory, I'm probably wrong

3- Backlight / ambient light

Backlights are interesting, but in the long run, most people won't want them because the battery life is dramatically reduced (10-100 times?) when using a backlight. This means that the majority of displays will use ambient light. This means reflective, not emissive displays.

4- Distribution

There is no model today for e-book content distribution. There are concerns on all sides of the problem: copyright holders will want their works protected, publishers want to retain control of distribution. A good milestone to see where we're headed is the current fight over music and mp3's.

There is also no method for physically handing out cheap data. (See Also: Data Exchange) (Find: paper-disk of punch-holes) This is important for newspapers, but the newspapers won't move until there's a readership to sell to. However, newspaper concerns for duplication of content will be signifigantly lower, since their content is signifigantly dated - by tomorrow a new edition of the newspaper will already be out.

5- Head Mounted Display

Instead of a handheld display, why not a head-mounted display? a monocle of some sort? It would allow people to unobtrusively read personal documents, or do other naughty things, as long as they don't disturb the people they're sitting around. Ref: FaxView

6- Throwable

The device needs to be throwable. People throw notepads, paperbacks, and all sorts of things, but nobody ever throws electronic devices to each other (except maybe for cordless phones and pagers) such as pilots, for fear of dropping and breaking them. The device needs to be rugged, and toddler proof.

created - 1999.04.21 kjw
last modified - 1999.04.21 kjw