On cue in 2004, Philips and E-Ink, together with their partner, Sony, announced the world's first consumer application of an electronic paper display module in Sony's new e-Book reader called LIBRIe which went on sale in Japan in April 2004.
These displays can be read as easily in bright sunlight as in dim surroundings and they read at wide angles, just like paper. They have a thin, lightweight form-factor; and low-power consumption. At 170 pixels per inch, the resolution is better than many electronic displays and it resembles newspaper. E-Ink and Philips have been working together through a strategic partnership since February 2001 and they expected to have broad commercial distribution of products by the end of 2004.
Russel Wilcox, President of E-Ink said in 2004 "E-Ink is thrilled that our first commercial launch is in a product by Sony. Since the inception of our company, our goal has been to change the way people receive and view information. The strength of our partnerships with Philips and Toppan printing has helped to make this dream a reality."
E-Ink also has a collaboration with Lucent. A 16 x 16 pixel prototype was demonstrated with them some time ago. Substrates are flexible plastic. The drive transistors employ soft lithographic processing with modest TFT requirements of under 0.1 cm2/VS mobility as a requirement. The concept enables large area, high throughput, they say.
The proponents of E-Ink argue that in the form of, say, an 'E-book', it has less demanding parameters than OLEDs. Voltage is the exception. The book is powered by four AAA batteries.
Sales of the LIBRIe are reproted to be very good, but input from consumers is that the media content is a problem, with users finding it difficult to have a wide selection of titles, and the fact that many have reported to feel they are treated like criminals because the content is so closely guarded, such as limiting how long each book is active for on the LIBRIe, how they can share it and so on. Don't forget the content!