Amazon Upgrades Kindle DX E-Reader with New E Ink Display

7/1/10Follow @gthuang

Can this device take on the iPad? Last night, Seattle-based Amazon.com announced its new version of the Kindle DX (its larger e-reader device), which it touts as having “50 percent better contrast for the clearest text and sharpest images,” as well as a slew of other features including long battery life, 3G wireless connectivity, and a reduced price of $379. Its new screen comes courtesy of E Ink, the longtime Boston-area company now based in Taiwan, which today is officially announcing the availability of its “Pearl” display technology.

E Ink is all about making electronic displays that look like ink on paper. The company was founded back in 1997 by MIT Media Lab researchers, and it has endured a long road to widespread adoption in millions of devices worldwide—not just the Kindle, but most of the top e-readers including those from Sony and Barnes & Noble.

The new Pearl display uses E Ink’s core technology of microcapsules filled with white and black particles that respond to electrode charges. The key advance now is chemical engineering that has made the whites whiter and the darks darker. The company says this means the contrast between the words and the background has gone from the look of a typical newspaper to that of a paperback book. And, unlike the backlit LCD screens of laptops and tablet computers, the E Ink display is readable outdoors in direct sunlight (something we haven’t had to worry about in Seattle yet this year).

It sounds simple, but it’s the kind of incremental advance that takes years of reformulating the “overall chemical stack,” and developing and testing new pigment systems that are robust and reliable, says Lawrence Schwartz, the product director at E Ink responsible for its e-reader business. A key part of the development is making sure the new systems work with large-scale manufacturing processes, and integrating correctly with device partners like Amazon’s Kindle.

OK, so everyone is wondering how the new DX stacks up against Apple’s iPad. (The DX is the Kindle with the larger screen, 9.7 inches diagonally—the same size as the iPad.) Well, the DX is now $120 cheaper than the iPad, and it certainly works well for reading books, newspapers, and magazines. But it doesn’t play video or render full-color pictures, for example. They’re very different devices with different use cases.

What about future versions of e-reader displays? Back in February, Amazon acquired Touchco, a touchscreen technology startup in New York. This raised questions about whether future Kindle devices might offer a touchscreen, full-color display, or some sort of hybrid of a touchscreen and an E Ink display.

E Ink certainly has been working on ways to integrate its technology with different kinds of resistive, capacitive, and inductive touchscreen displays. Schwartz couldn’t go into detail about any particular partners, though. “We’re trying to support all the options out there,” he says.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.

  • http://ebookreader-ben.com/blog Ben Lee

    LOL, Crunchgear was reporting 50X better contrast for a moment there. We all wish, right?

    Can’t wait to get my hands on this and test out the new screen. I seriously love the current screen technology already, so I cannot imagine how much more satisfied I will be when the contrast becomes 50 tim….err, 50% better :)

    Am guessing that Kindle 3, whenever it arrives, will use some form of this screen as well. Makes sense, but I hope they offer it at a better price than $379. That’s still a bit high considering the cost of iPad.

    Thanks again for bringing the news. You can see my comments on this news on my new post: http://ebookreader-ben.com/amazons-latest-kindle-dx-has-50-better-contrast-than-nook/

    Cheers,
    Ben

  • http://www.jonmichela.com/blog JMichela

    Thanks for the info on e-reader technology and the e-ink. Loved the technical discussion.

    Something missing here though is a comparison of markets and target market shares. Does the Kindle even want to compete with the i-Pad? Do they appeal to the same demographic?

    I think for people who love their books and non-electronic reading, e-ink is a good way to go. Serious readers don’t care that they can access 15 apps and have full screen color. The reading is about the material, not the way it appears. People still read old books, like over 50 years old, why? because they want to read a good book. There will always need to be a good book to read, and I think the Kindle may offer that to people that care.

    Not everyone cares about technology. Some just want clear, clean, approachable content.

    Excellence doesn’t flaunt itself but rather gives substance to the world.

  • http://wirelessreadingdevicenew.blogspot.com Kindle DX

    I own a Kindle 2 and wanted to use it to read PDF documents which I have done with limited success. I bought the Kindle DX graphite hoping it would fill-in the gaps left by the Kindle 2. I have to say it has pretty much done that–I am please with my purchase of the Kindle DX graphite. http://bit.ly/bRVzmP

    Thanks again for bringing the news. You can see my comments on this news on my new post: http://wirelessreadingdevicenew.blogspot.com/2010/07/kindle-dx-wireless-reading-device-free.html

  • Cam

    People are talking about the DX color version on the Amazon Web site. Supposedly there are those who are beta testing the color version NOW. The question is, is the color version the one being released on Nov 2, 2010, which is the “new” release date for the latest DX.