E Ink, the technological progenitor of the Kindle revolution, has released a new generation of e-paper called Carta, “the next generation of electronic ink display technology that sets a new standard as the whitest and highest contrast ratio display in the industry,” as the E Ink communication states. “Carta displays will deliver the best quality contrast ratio E Ink has ever delivered to the market. Carta has been specifically tuned for reading applications, and offers the same benefits as earlier ink generations, including extremely low power consumption.”

According to further information from E Ink:

“E Ink Carta delivers a dramatic 50% increase in contrast over earlier generations of ePaper, giving eReaders a contrast ratio close to that of a paperback book. The crisp text and detailed graphics are also highly readable in direct sunlight. Carta’s 16 levels of grey produce the sharpest rendering of images with smooth tones and rich detail.”

Other pointers indicate that this is an “imaging film” technology, with a display thickness of around 1.2mm, and a resolution of at least 300 DPI. (An equivalent resolution of 150 DPI is fairly common for newsprint.)

And apparently, “Amazon has selected the Carta display for its new Kindle Paperwhite eReader, the first eReader to use the new display.” The new device, available for pre-order and due to ship in the U.S. at end September, offers “higher contrast and better reflectivity,” as well as a “19% tighter touch grid,” and other non-display-related improvements, such as a faster processor and “new generation built-in light.”

And if Amazon has chosen, it must be good, right? Possibly. For those who want exactly this sort of thing, this sort of thing is exactly what they want. Yes, your blacks will be blacker and your whites whiter. And I’ve no doubt that readers using the new Kindle Paperwhites will have a more pleasurable and better reading experience for the introduction of Carta.

Yet this kind of creeping incremental improvement strikes me as far below what E Ink needs to sustain market leadership or hold back the tide of generic tablet devices that are eating into ereader market share. For one thing, the new technology obvious didn’t offer Amazon any reason to trim the price on the new Kindle Paperwhite, which still ships at $119.00 (or $139.00 without special offers). Given the kind of discounts we’ve seen lately on Nook Simple Touches or Kobo Minis, is the jump in readability really that persuasive?

And for those anxious to see some trace of really cutting-edge developments in daylight-readable display technology, Qualcomm has just announced its Toq smartwatch with a Mirasol display, “a revolutionary reflective, low-power display that enables an always on viewing experience,” delivering solid and brilliant colors on power consumption that extends operating life into days between recharges. Yes, it’s only a watch-size gadget, with a miniscule screen. But who wouldn’t rather see that kind of display on their ereading device?

That’s the kind of innovation that E Ink needs to be delivering. I hope they can. Because they’ve done a great deal for the e-book ecosystem in the past, and it would be a shame to see them fall by the wayside.




  1. I imagined that black, electrophoric screen books were going away as well. But wait…a better and better paper display clone on-screen makes some sense. That would further bridge the physical/screen divide for black text even more seamlessly and bring interplay, intersection and interdependence of other distinctive print and screen affordances together. Better and better book reading.

  2. Better contrast is always welcome (I’ve found the contrast made a huge leap and has been quite acceptable since E-Ink Pearl in the Kindle 3), but I agree it’s another evolutionary upgrade, when a revolutionary one may be needed (like color E-Ink or Mirasol or bendable displays).

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