The Comprehensive Guide To Colour Ereaders - Introduction
It's definitely not the end of the paper books we know and love, but it'll be no surprise to learn that the colour ereader is rapidly becoming as popular as its black and white ereader cousin. Reading traditional paper books has always been, and is always likely to be, one of our favourite pastimes. But the electronic versions of books, magazines, textbooks, and comics are slowly taking over.
The next generation of colour ereader models promise to take the ereader into new territory. They're appearing on the market at a time when technological advances are coming thick and fast. We face an abundance of choices in where and how to get our entertainment. We have 3D TVs, we have tablet PCs, we have Smart TV....and any number of other entertainment devices. All designed make it easy to get our entertainment or to increase the vividity of our experiences.
And a colour ereader promises just that by adding a new dimension to those already best selling black and white ereaders.
Since hitting the market around two years ago, those first Ereaders quickly became one of the most popular must have gadgets of the century so far. Suddenly we had one light, rechargeable gadget that could carry the same amount of information as you'd find in a bundle of books. That original reader - Amazon's Kindle - has been the best selling item for the last two years, eliciting more 5 star reviews on the Amazon website than any other product.
And the interest shows no signs of decreasing. The Kindle, the Nook, and Sony's ereader models have been the leaders in a global market which will hit 30 million sales in 2013. That continuing growth of sales will be due to increasing content (Project Gutenberg already holds in excess of 35,000 free ebooks that you can download onto your ereader, including many of the much loved classics), the spread of app stores, and a gradual drop in pricing...and of course the arrival of ever increasing numbers of colour ereaders joining the list of monochrome versions at the stores.
It was the Kindle's early success that spurred other manufacturers into making their own versions available, and whereas the Kindle currently only delivers a black and white display (until the Kindle colour becomes available), many of those manufacturers are now getting into the act with an enticing range of different colour ereader models, and more on the way.
New ereader models are on the way which will have improved color displays capable of handling video. You'll even be able to use them to hook up to your TV for a converged experience, giving true shared social TV. The future Apple TV is likely to be the leader in this area of conergence. And they'll be more flexible too, giving increased strength and durability. With great pricing incentives for buying books themselves - new hardback releases can sometimes be bought for half the price as electronic versions - the continued success of Amazon's Kindle, it's black and white competitors, and the growing number of alternative colour ereader models does seem assured.
What Is A Colour Ereader?
For a quick recap, an e-reader is a lightweight, portable gadget that's primarily designed for reading electronic books, e-magazines and periodicals. This is achieved by the use of electronic paper technology to show content to readers on specially made electronic devices.
Most colour ereaders already available use traditional LCD displays, but their real future most likely lies in the development of coloured screens using E-Ink technology.
It's this E-Ink technology that's contributed to the success of the currently available black and white readers. E-Reading on E-Ink displays prevents straining your eyes from the screen, in contrast to the negative effects of tablet and computer screens in bright conditions. The E-Ink display is designed in such a way that the text can still be clearly read even under conditions of bright light.
But why all the interest in color ereaders?
Technically speaking, a colour ereader is not absolutely necessary except in cases where the text of the book being read requires a colored illustration for better understanding, as in the case of textbooks and similar material. Ebooks for children are a good example.
In fact in cases where most of the material intended to be read is plain text, such as novels, then a color ereader may prove to be more disadvantageous than black-and-white. Particularly in the aspects of battery life and readability in any environment. Readability is an issue because of the LCD displays tendencies to reflect light in bright conditions, whereas E-Ink gives a consistent quality whatever the conditions.
Plus color ereaders are definitely more expensive.
So if you're thinking the time is right to buy a colour ereader, you'll first need to consider the conditions that you want to use it in, and the type of content you want to read. The next chapter on how color ereaders work gives some more background.
Why Do You Want One?
Ereaders really are cool gadgets. They can hold hundreds of novels or documents, you can alter text size, have touchscreen displays, download via Wi-Fi, and they can handle audio and video playback.
Coloured text and video, graphics, and images are useful in reading e-magazines and watching animations. They're great for comics and text books for learning. Bedtime stories for children can become a whole new experience. Many book readers still like to see a well designed and enticing coloured cover page. All of these are great reasons for wanting a color reader
But are these really big advantages over a black and white model? Is a color reader a pointless gimmick?
The answer of course varies depending on what you really want. If you just want to read novels then colour gives you no real benefits. And many people do want to just read novels.
But step anywhere over a basic novel and the benefits become more obvious. Colour gives extra life, especially from an entertainment and learning perspective. There's a lot of hope in the industry that colour ereaders can attract more reading of magazines too, where colour graphics are definitely more important. Black and white eReaders are definitely not on their way out, however the colour ereader does offer something extra to those of us who want it.
So the choice is a fairly straightforward one, but before we take a look at what you really need to look for in a good colour ereader, it's a good idea to understand the technology and how they work. This will simplify your choices later on, though bear in mind that the more complex a colour ereader gets, the close it gets to the fully flung features of an Ipad or tablet.
What's There To Read? - Colour Ereader Content
When the Kindle Colour Ereader is released it's likely to open up a whole new source of ereader content. Amazon have a range of services that will suit the new device superbly.
For now the biggest range of colour content can be found at Barnes & Noble's Ebook store. Look out especially for textbook, learning, and illustrated children's material which gives added benefits when viewed in colour. In fact, any material that is accompanied by video, photos, or illustrations can be enhanced when viewed on a color ereader.
And don't forget Ereader games. There are plenty to play, and clearly games are presented best in colour.
Technology - How Colour Ereaders Work
Black and white (sometimes called greyscale) E-ink e-readers came to the market first and have rapidly gained popularity. E-Ink screens provide a paper-like display. They mimic ink on a traditional printed page, and give the feeling of reading a printed book or a newspaper. E-Ink displays are excellent for reading text volumes and are eye-friendly even with prolonged use.
E-Ink displays work using electrophoretic technology in a similar way to most current ereaders on the market. In technical terms, black and white charged particles float in a dielectric fluid, while enclosed in a minute micro capsule. When an electric field is applied to them, these particles gravitate towards an electrode thus making the surface look black or white at that point on the display.
They're thin and they support very high resolutions, giving sharp, crisp, easily readable writing on a slim and lightweight device.
An E-Ink reader is not backlit, but reflective. That's the very reason why there must be an external source of light to be able to read on its screen. The rule is the more light, the better you can read on it. You can't read on an E-ink reader in the dark unlike an LCD display.
But another advantage of E-ink is that it has a longer battery life giving anywhere up to several weeks use before the battery drains out. The battery life is enhanced because it has no backlighting, a slow refresh rate, and of course no other color except from black and white. E-Ink displays are known as bistable, which means they don't actually need any power to maintain an image on screen. Power is used only to form a new image (ie; when you turn a new page).
Having said that, the quality of colour reproduction is improving all the time as new advanced models are released. Chinese company Hancon released an E-Ink ereader that can display 4096 colours. That's a long way below the ability of an LCD display but at least a start in the right direction.
The arrival of the colour ereader has seen the use of LCD displays which can display the necessary colours in a more vibrant way, and handle other entertainment mediums such as video too. LCD technology is what's used in our laptop screens, flat screen computer monitors and televisions, and it works by twisting "liquid" crystals to create all colors in the spectrum.
The twisting crystals give no light and just relying on a backlighting source, either supplied by CFL florescent or LED technology. LCD type colour e-readers are backlit so they provide rich and vibrant colors in all lighting conditions except in direct sunlight. Their fast refresh rates resulting in nicely moving graphics and sharp focus on images and text. An overall experience you cannot get with E-ink ereader.
One of the big advantages of LCD colour e-readers is that they allow night reading and fast page turn. However, there are some drawbacks. Notably in the areas of higher levels of eyestrain over long reading sessions and consumption of battery power at a greater rate than with E-ink readers. The battery of an LCD colour e-reader typically last for 8 hours up to a day while e-ink readersí battery can last for up to a month. When in comes to pricing, LCD colour e-readers are much more expensive than e-ink display e-readers.
The latter capability is possible with the Dutch-made Liquavista, which utilizes electrowetting technology.
Unlike LCDs, this works without any back light, making it more energy efficient. Electrowetting uses colored oil instead of black and white beads. This works to combine the best of the two other technologies. There is color capability and at the same time energy efficiency and good readability under varied conditions of lighting.
In addition, electrowetting technology is greener. If applied to computer and laptop screens it can significantly lower power consumption and give increased battery life.
If Electrowetting diplays can be perfected they do have significant potential to rival E-Ink and LCD. All the evidence so far suggests they can be viewed in all lighting conditions, offer strong color performance, have lower manufacturing costs, and significantly lower power consumption.
That sounds good. And it must have sounded good to Samsung too, because the manufacturing giant acquired Dutch company Liquidvista - the pioneer of the technology - in early 2011. That gives Samsung a potent weapon to go into battle with, either by creating their own model or selling the technology to other manufacturers.
16.7 million colours is not to be sniffed at. Nor is a refresh rate that's around 70 times faster than on an E-Ink. Liquidvista claim that they've got a solution that works using 10 percent of the power of current LCD colour ereaders.
Once it's perfected, we may well see electrowetting used in next generation tablet PCs as well as color ereaders.
Colour Ereaders - Manufacturers & Models
The number of manufacturers with individual colour ereaders in their offerings is reaching around the twenty mark, and as popularity grows those manufacturers are starting to bring out enhanced, second generation models.
Amazon are a great example, with their colour Kindle due to become available towards the end of 2011. Their rivals - Barnes and Noble - are reportedly readying the Nook 2 for release around the same time.
Choosing the best colour ereader involves giving some thought on what you want it for, and getting a balance between its cost and the quality and features it'll give you.
If you're just reading novels, with the occasional need for some colour, then it's possible to get one of the lower end models at a good price which will meet your needs. As with all things though, you get what you pay for. Ideally you'll want to be looking at the models which are generally recognised to be the leaders. That means either the Nook Colour or the Kindle Colour once it's available.
But let's break down the features individually to get a clearer picture. Many of these are applicable whether you're looking for a color or a black and white reader.
1. Display Type
This is a critical aspect of choosing the best colour ereader to suit your needs. We've already covered the differences in LCD and E-Ink displays in the technology section above. But as a summary:
E-Ink Ereaders can:
Be read in bright conditions outdoors, but need a light source for reading in the dark
Have a low battery or power consumption giving longer life between charges
Be muted in colour tone
Be slow to render pages
LCD Ereaders can:
Be susceptible to glare in bright sunlight, though work well in artificially lit or very dark conditions with no extra light required.
Give vibrant colour performance
Give reduced battery/power performance, sometimes holding only up to 8 hours of charge.
Are best for watching video or surfing the web
Offer multiple ways to download Ebooks - either via USB, WiFi, or 3G
2. The Size of the eReader
Size is going to cover not just physical dimensional size but weight too. How are you likely to want to hold the device?
In one hand or two? Size is going to impact how comfortable it is to hold the device for long periods of time. The larger the eReader (height, width, depth), the tougher the device will be to hold in one hand - especially when you factor in weight.
Also, don't forget to think about the size of the screen. The overall dimensions will impact how big, or how small, the screen is on the device. Many coloured ebooks will be best viewed on a larger screen so you can see any illustrations alongside the text effectively.
The most significant variable will be the weight. Most eReaders weight will range anywhere from seven ounces (half a pound) to sixteen or more ounces (1+ lb). For many people 12 ounces is too heavy for extended reading sessions.
3. Batteries, Power Consumption, and Memory
Another important consideration. You don't want to be continuously charging your reader, and battery life can vary widely. You'll see figures ranging from as few as a couple of hours to as long as 30 days. Power consumption is greater with LCD displays than with E-Ink.
The memory of an eReader will determine how many books you'll be able to store. Coloured ebooks will take up more memory, as will the use of video or audio features.
With this in mind, many eReaders have been designed to have a considerable battery life for longer reading. The E-Ink display does not need to use any power unless a change of page is made. This means that the life of the battery can be measured in units of pages. The ideal ereader in these terms is that which can accommodate twenty to thirty thousand page turns.
Models are available with inbuilt memory ranging from 500 MB to as high as 4GB. That gives you the ability to store anywhere up to 4,000 ebooks. There are usually optional add on storage solutions that give you a memory increase up to 32GB. Probably more books than you're ever going to read, but potentially great for anyone that needs to find specific information - a lecturer or historian maybe.
3. Supported Files & Formats
Supported files or formats are those that any specific eReader is capable of displaying. Think of this as software that resides on the reader, much like Microsoft Office on your home computer.
There are number of formats to consider and some are exclusive to eBook companies. As a good example, Amazon utilizes the mobi format which can be used only with the Amazon Kindle. This is wholly due to the protection against piracy law known as Digital Rights Management, or simply DRM.
DRM ensures that the eBook can only be used by the owner to which the eReader is registered to. If the eBook is transferred to another reading device that is not registered to the owner, then the eBook content cannot be read at all. There are ways to hack or remove this protection however there may be legal repercussions from doing so.
So an ebook purchased from Amazon will not work with the Nook colour ereader device from Barnes and Noble.
Different ebook reader formats or files include EPUB, LIT, MOBI, PDF, JPG, GIF, AZW, TXT, AA, AAX, PDB, BMP, PNG and MP3. Some of these you'll know from working on a PC or laptop, though some will probably be new. The most popular are EPUB, LIT, MOBI, and PDF.
The Portable Document Format, or more commonly, the PDF is the most downloaded document in the internet. It is created by the Adobe Systems Company. What it does is basically take a photo of the document, and store these images as the pages of the documents. Most digital magazines that may be purchased online are in this format, as it can work well with images. For this reason, the file size of a document in PDF format may be larger compared to the other colour ereader file formats.
Another format that may be used with a colour ereader is the ePub, an ebook format created by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). What is good about this format is that it would work with most eReader devices, provided that the ePub file is non-DRM protected. It is very widely used and can even be considered seller independent. Most ebook reader devices can read this file format.
Microsoft also created its own eReader format called the lit file. However, if the lit file is DRM protected, it can only be read using the Microsoft Reader, which can be downloaded from the Microsoft Website. However, there are third party applications that do read lit files. In the Apple iPad, lit files can be read by a third party application called Stanza, created by LexCycle.
The mobipocket or simply, the mobi format is another one that should be considered. This is the format used by Palm Digital, Symbian, Windows, and even the Blackberry. It is also the format being used by the ever popular Kindle.
You'll find that most ereaders will be able to handle eBooks in the more common file formats such as EPUB and PDF, but itís worth thinking about whether you might wish to open the same files across multiple types of devices. Most online stores let you buy the files ready to transfer direct on to your ereader, but there are options to use other software which will let you read the same material across almost any electronic device you can think of.
4. Features and Enhancements
Colour ereaders of course offer more features than those that just deliver black and white text. Among the most common additional features are the capabilities for video and audio playback, taking color readers closer to the realm of the iPad and other tablets.
5. Internet Access
Want to access the internet? There are two choice you need to make - either Wi Fi only or WiFi+3G. Wi Fi only gets you connection as long as you're near a wireless connection point - either at your home or perhaps a cafe with wirelss broadband. Ereaders with Wi Fi+3G will give access to the internet from pretty much anywhere that's in signal range.
Ereaders are dropping in price gradually. Just as you'd expect as a product matures.
You can get a second hand Nook Color from Barnes & Noble for around $200 (as opposed to $249 new) and Amazon Kindles can be found for just under $100.
The new Kindle colour is expected to retail for under $300, so if you want the latest and probably best device it'll be good idea to hang on.
Outside of that there are a number of models to buy in the under $100 range.
Watch out, though. Budget priced models are often budget for a reason. It's a good idea to stick to the well known brands such as Sony, the Nook, the Kindle, or Kobo.
There's a strong chance that many of the very cheap colour ereaders will either be lacking in software to transfer books from other computers to the device, or do not give any support for DRM protected books.
What Are The Drawbacks Of Colour Ereaders?
The obvious drawback is one we've covered in some detail already - that of the LCD display. It uses a lot of power, and isn't a comfortable medium for marathon reading sessions. The E-Ink displays go the other way, with good power consumption and easy to read displays. But colour tones on these are muted and nowhere near as vibrant as LCD. In addition, E-Ink also makes use of a very low refresh rate which makes it a lot harder for manufacturers to implement certain applications that compare to those available on other handheld devices, such as smartphones. Transitions between pages may not be as smooth as they would be on a traditional computer screen.
What Does The Future Hold? Where Are Colour Ereaders Heading?
There doesn't seem to be any obvious ceiling to sales of ereaders, especially when you consider their use from a global perspective. The ereader has yet to conquer the markets in Europe, Asia, and China. But it will do. Just as sales in the US, UK - and other English speaking nations such as Australia and Canada - will continue to grow exponentially.
In the longer term we're probably going to see widespread use of electronic paper in flexible ereader devices, almost the same thickness as a piece of paper. As technology grows and epaper gains the capability to display video, we'll see a huge change in the publishing and manufacturing industries. Eventually we'll see fully interactive flexible newspapers.
That's all still some way off. For now content is the key. Choice is the key. The current colour ereaders add to that choice. As more and more electronic book versions become available, so will the growth in devices. As more and more colour ereader models get released, so will the availability of content which works well in colour. The next step in the evolution of coulour ereaders will be seen in the very near future with the releases of both the Kindle Colour and the Nook 2. Amazon, in particular, may not stop there. During 2011 they've registered domain the names KindleAir.com and KindleScribe(s).com.
These registrations suggests they have some hidden plans for either a new Ereader with some sort of special enhancement or maybe a new type of download service. Perhaps a method of writing your own notes on the ereader display? That would certainly be interesting, giving options for students to annotate notes or for anyone to keep diary entries. Writing is much quicker than typing for many of us.
As we look to the future, the display technologies are clearly going to have a major impact. Looking further ahead, ElectroWetting technology does seem to offer a number of benefits which combine the best of E-Ink and LCD. Samsung could surprise a few people later this year on that front. It remains to be seen if Amazon are also interested in this as a solution for making the jump from ereader to fully functioning tablet, while maintaining an Ereader base.
Another company known as Bridgestone are reportedly developing a liquid powder solution. This is powder that behaves like a liquid, giving high fluidity in motion. The particles move in air and can move with great speed when influenced by electric fields.
A company known as Pixel Qi have developed a hybrid type of ereader display that runs in two modes, combining an LCD which gives full depth of colours and handles video, and a reflective ereader screen that saves power.
These types of hybrid ereaders hold some promise for the future, but they may be challenged by two other solutions which hold the promise of the jewel in the crown - a great, colour rich display with low power requirements.
Mirasol Color Ereader Display Technology
The first we've already mentioned - the Liquidvista solution. The second is known as the Mirasol display. This works similarly to E-Ink by reflecting light so that wavelengths within it clash with each other to create colours. This gives Mirasol displays the potential to show irridescent colours.
Mirasol color displays will be readable in sunlight and rival the energy consumption of E-Ink, possibly even surpassing it. The Mirasol display is reportedly under manufacture in a Taiwanese factory. We may see the first device in 2012. For a taste of what's to come take a look at the video below.
Looking even further ahead the technological advances may see flexible ereaders that can be rolled up like a newspaper. Now that would be something.
It's likely that when either Mirasol or Liquavista colour eReaders do eventually arrive at a commercially attractive price, we'll see some stunning growth in eReader sales and appreciation. The battle for the best ereader will be well and truly on with all manufacturers attempting to deliver top quality full color and video, with fast screen refresh rates, and all while ensuring the maximum possible battery life.
I want to buy a colour ereader, where can I find more information?
I've tried to collect as much information as you'll need here on ColourEreader.com. However there are a host of other websites where you can get extra information. The list below shows some of those sites. You can also check out a few useful videos I've found on Youtube.
Before you do jump off to another site, here's a selection of my own color ereader articles. Some of these may be useful too.
EBookAnoid.com - a blog type site dedicated to ''reviewing ereaders, ebooks, ebook websites and all things related to ebooks and ereaders''.The site runs a collection of articles on colour ereaders.
E-Ink-Info.com is another blog type website that provides useful information on all aspects of ereaders. Here's the search results for their information on color ereaders. You can sign up for a free newsletter on this site.
I love the sharp, clean layout of this site at Portable-Ebook-Reader.net. It's a pleasure to use and has a great collection of informative articles. Also has a free newsletter. The reviews section is particularly useful as it's broken down into price ranges. Many black and white models are covered, but you will find color ereader reviews too.
If you're looking for ereader content then try out this site at PlanetEbook.com. Billed as the home of free classic literature. The site lists a whole range of novels and books which are totally free to download and share.
ChamberFour.com is a great site which is focussed on books of all types. It's very easy to read with some entertaining and informative articles - some of which focus on comparing different models of ereaders.
And to end, the leader of them all. Here's the link to the Amazon Kindle product page. Tons of information on the Kindle itself will give you a great insight into what a colour ereader, particularly a Kindle color, will do for you.
The book and the book industry as we know it are changing - fast. The book is going the same way as video and music. It's becoming another form of digital content that can be distributed and enjoyed in multiple ways. Ereaders are most definitely here to stay.
The success, or not, of colour ereader models will depend heavily on three things.
1. Readers have a need for high quality, small (think 5 or 6 inches) ereaders. Something that can be carried around easily. Colour may not actually be important, but if the model has a good screen, costs no more than a black and white e-ink type screen, plus provides a battery life of around a day then even if the buyer doesn't necessarily want color they'll still buy one
2. Prices will need to drop.
3. Content availability needs to explode. That's very likely with the new crop of readers promising ever increasing access to more media types, not just books.
Black and white ereaders are not going to disappear. They most certainly have their place, but I think that ultimately color will become cheap enough that it will become the preference.
October 4th 2011 - NY Public Library To Loan Ereaders
The NY Library, which provides books to over 2 million borrowers, is the first reported library to consider loaning ereaders themselves to borrowers. If the plan comes to fruition, it looks sure to strengthen the astounding growth of ereaders and ebooks.
Amazon announce impending arrival of the Kindle Fire ereader As was widely reported leading up to September 28th, Amazon announced at the press release in New York that they'd be releasing new versions of the Kindle - one of which is a full colour version....read more....
Sept 23rd 2011 - Amazon to unveil Kindle Color on Sept 28th
There are numerous reports that Amazon have invited industry journalists to a press event in New York on 28th September. Rumours are the colour version of the Kindle ereader will be fully revealed at the event.
Sept 2011 - Amazon launching ebook lending for libraries
Amazon have launched the service which promises to allow Kindle users to borrow books from over 11,000 libraries across the US. Many libraries already provide an ebook lending service in different formats, but the Amazon service suggests many shake-ups in future in the way that books are borrowed and distributed.
Nook Colour 2 - Launch Coming?
Rumours are spreading that Barnes & Noble are very close to launching the next generation Nook Color. There may be two new models, both believed to be under manufacture. Indications are they'll come with the same size 7 inch display as the current version - and using E-Ink technology of course
Waterstone's launching own branded colour ereader
Sept 2011 - The US based bookstore is planning to release it's own ereader in an attempt to muscle in on the hugely competitive market. With a Spring 2012 release the new Waterstone's model promises readers a great experience when buying new ebooks.
The Nook Colour Ereader is now challenging the Kindle for the mantle of 'most popular ereader'.
Colour ereader technology is advancing rapidly. Can Amazon's Kindle Fire become the top color model?
October 20th - Pandigital Releasing Kindle Fire Rival Pandigital has launched a new flagship color ereader to compete with Amazon's Kindle Fire. Know as the Pandigital SuperNova, the new ereader comes with an 8 inch touchscreen display, enhanced battery life, and better cameras. At $229 Th Supernova appears to offer a reasonable priced alternative to the Fire.
October 12th - New iPad in 2012 - Rumour Or Fact?
In the wake of Amazon's impending release of the $199 colour Kindle, there's a rumour that a competitively priced iPad 2 may arrive in 2012. The new iPad would need to be priced much closer to the new Kindle Fire, and if it had the extra features that the current $500 iPad sports - bigger display, cameras, tons of apps - then it would give Amazon a good fight.
October 12th - The Much Heralded Ectaco Colour Ereader Is On The Way
Ectaco have announced that their Jetbook Color will be demonstrated at the forthcoming CES in Hong Kong and Frankfurt International Book Fair. The new ereader model is anticipated to be the first to work using colour E-Ink technology and will be targetted at the student market.