In praise of e ink


In the past, I have voiced my opinion that a daylight readable e ink iPod classic would make more sense than killing it or letting it stagnate with spinning HDDs. Last week, I’ve been using a Kindle Paperwhite while camping near the NY/Canadian border, and I have many good things to say about this limited use device, including its “Experimental Browser”.

I’ll start with my conclusions. If e ink’s refresh rate can reach anything close to the passive matrix displays of the first PowerBook, then I think we could have some seriously useful devices.

Aside from the frustratingly low refresh rate (and the heavy ghosting that comes with it) the browser actually renders quite well, even without using mobile websites (although they do make things easier). It does well with non-animated CSS3 too. Scrolling is understandably awful and I really think a tap-to-pagedown would have been much more useful. It’s not the digitizer’s fault, it’s just that e ink doesn’t do well scrolling content. Still, it was much easier to catch up on stuff using the e-ink browser than trying to use my iPhone in broad daylight, especially at the waterfront with no trees.

I used the 3G model, which uses AT&T GSM to access only the Kindle Store. I’m guessing Amazon pays for this with some sort of revenue sharing. It’s a shame they couldn’t also let a weather widget or something use it though. In the future, I’d like to see Amazon’s Silk browser technology enable use of the browser over 3G. I say Silk because it would let Amazon preprocess the pages, remove or greyscale images on their end, consolidate included CSS and Javascript, and send a single HTTP request over the 3G that’s as small as possible.

My point is this, e ink’s limitations can be designed around in software, and I would love to try.