An electronic newspaper is a self-contained, reusable, and refresh able version of a traditional newspaper that acquires and holds information electronically. (The electronic newspaper should not be confused with newspapers that offer an online version at a Web site.) The near-future technology – researchers expect to have the product available as soon as 2003 – will use e-paper (electronic paper) as the major component. Information to be displayed will be downloaded through a wireless Internet connection. A number of versions of the future technology are in development, although there are two front runners, Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) is working on a newspaper that would consist of a single sheet of their e-paper (called Gyricon), while Lucent, in partnership with a company called E Ink, is working on a multi-page device (also called E Ink).
The Gyricon version consists of a single sheet of transparent plastic, containing millions of tiny bichromal (two color) beads in oil-filled pockets. Text and images are displayed through rotation of the beads that occurs in response to electrical impulses: a full rotation displays as black or white, and a partial rotation displays as gray shades. The user would pull the page out of a slit in the cylinder; in the process, the page would pass over a printer-like device which had downloaded data from the Internet through a wireless connection. To access another page, the reader would return the sheet to the cylinder, select the page, and draw the sheet from the scroll.
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The challenge involved in creating a viable electronic newspaper is to develop a device that has the desirable characteristics of traditional paper in addition to its own inherent benefits (such as being automatically refresh able). Like traditional paper, the electronic newspaper must be lightweight, flexible, high-resolution, glare-free, and affordable, if it is to gain consumer approval. Sheridon proposes that the Gyricon version could cost about the same as a year’s subscription to a regular newspaper. At the forefront of electronic ink display technology are two companies—E Ink Corporation of Cambridge, Massachusetts (recently acquired by Prime View International, Taiwan) and Xerox (through its subsidiary, Gyricon Media) of Palo Alto, California. E Ink’s display technology is already in widespread use in such devices as Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, iRex iLiad, and many other e-book readers.
E Ink’s electronic ink uses a type of clear liquid plastic with millions of micro capsules, which are tiny (at almost the diameter of one of our hairs) spherical objects. The micro capsules contain white-colored and black-colored chips. The white chips are positively charged and black chips are negatively charged. This electronic ink is coated on to an ultra-thin plastic sheet containing a tiny printed circuit board. This circuit can selectively send positive and negative charges to the pasted e-ink, making the chips move, thus altering the display. Business wire recently reported that the electronic reading devices will have an increase in production from 1.1 million units in 2008 to 20 million units in 2012. The cumulative annual growth rate, according to iSuppli analyst Vinita Jakhanwal, is around 105 per cent.
The development of electronic paper technology quickened as the public became fond of the new e-book reading gadgets. The Oprah Winfrey Show endorsed Amazon Kindle, and Oprah called it ‘her favorite gadget’, making Kindle very popular among book readers. E Ink Corporation and Prime View International together support about 20 e-book device manufacturers, including Amazon and Sony. According to Digital Book Readers, introducing e-ink technology into home use, school curriculum, library facilities, and business use provides a win-win scenario with benefits to be had at all angles.
The user would pull the page out of a slit in the cylinder; in the process, the page would pass over a printer-like device which had downloaded data from the Internet through a wireless connection. To access another page, the reader would return the sheet to the cylinder, select the page, and draw the sheet from the scroll. The device could be carried like an umbrella, and would fit in a large purse or a briefcase. Sheridon projects that a Gyricon-based electronic newspaper could be available within three years. Currently, Gyricon uses 50-micron beads for a resolution of 200 dpi (dots per inch); the use of 30-micron beads will increase resolution to 300 dpi, slightly better than that of traditional newspapers. Lucent’s E Ink device uses electronic ink and combines thin, plastic, flexible transistors with polymer LEDs (light-emitting diodes) to create what are called smart pixels.
The process involved – which is not dissimilar to traditional printing processes – uses silicon rubber stamps to actually print tiny computer circuits onto the surface. E Ink uses electronic ink for display: millions of tiny capsules filled with light and dark dyes that change color – charged dye particles move either up or down within the capsules – when exposed to an electric charge. According to Paul Drzaic, the director of display technologies, prototypes of the device have been running on watch batteries. Although the technology has been used for retail signs, Lucent says that an E Ink-based electronic newspaper is still at least 10 years away, because electronic ink has not been sufficiently developed to make complex displays practical. Charged dye particles move either up or down within the capsules – causing light or dark areas to appear in the display – when exposed to an electric charge .
The whole device could be rolled or folded similarly to a traditional newspaper. Like the E Ink-based electronic newspaper, IBM’s version is several years away.Like traditional paper, the electronic newspaper must be lightweight, flexible, high-resolution, glare-free, and affordable, if it is to gain consumer approval. Sheridon proposes that the Gyricon version could cost about the same as a year’s subscription to a regular newspaper.