A brief introduction and history to the electronic book reader
Despite the popular belief, Amazon’s Kindle was not the first electronic book reader that was made available for the broad public.
Just like the Apple iPad with Tablet PCs, the Kindle was mass produced and advertized extensively and is therefore considered as the starting point of a trend.
The whole idea of electronic book readers and eBooks in general started with desktop publishing and the development of the Adobe Acrobat PDF format in the early 1990s, which, including all the competitors’ products as well, made the idea of electronic books interesting. Any text could be read on a display screen, but it is the format and the perceived reading experience that make an electronic book reader being considered at all.
In 1997 the E ink® Corporation was founded, following research that was conducted at the famed MIT Media Labs. The idea was to create some sort of a display device that was initially meant to replace newspapers, but ultimately was extended to books as well. Considered was not only the display format, but also the reproduction of fonts, photographs and printed matter in general. Copying the visual effect newspaper and magazine print had on the eye was an arduous task, but the solution was no less staggering. Namely, electronic paper simulation required this new E Ink® technology to have millions of tiny microcapsules, which are like pixels in a LED screen, only instead of containing liquid crystal, they contain positively charged white particles and negatively charged black particles in clear fluid – in case of monochrome displays. Nevertheless, first eBook readers were made available even before this technology was made available, like in 1998, the Cybook, which was made in France, or the Franklin eBookMan, released initially at the same time, which was a PDA clone that had not only eBook reading capabilities, but also a touchscreen, handwriting recognition and synchronization per USB.
This did not last, even Barnes & Noble, the only store that started offering eBooks for sale, gave up, despite the eBook only release of a new Stephen King novel, “Ride The Bullet”, which was later released in conventional matter anyway. It was the entertainment industry giant Sony, who actually started the real turnaround with the release, only in Japan, of the Sony LIBRIé EBR-1000EP eBook reading device. It was the first device to implement the E ink® technology, although only in a four level grayscale. Some other companies were also developing their own versions of an electronic book reader, but Sony came back with the Sony Reader PRS-500 still a good year before Amazon unveiled the Kindle reader.
The story of electronic book readers is actually insignificant until the release of the Amazon Kindle in late 2007. Amazon subsidiary Lab126, Inc. developed the device and is still responsible for the further development and improvement of the eBook reader. The integrated E ink® technology as well as the wireless connectivity that made it easy to acquire and read not only e-books, but also any digital media, magazine, newspaper or even blog that was made available through the Amazon store made all the difference in the world. It was the huge success of the Kindle and the mobile phone revolution, which was initiated by the release of the iPhone that triggered the development of Tablet PCs in the first place. It is interesting to note that Lab126, the manufacturing arm of the Amazon Kindle, is currently hiring developers with proper knowledge of the Android platform. Barnes & Noble is also offering a service similar to Kindle, their reader “Nook”, currently in the second generation, is based on the Android platform.
Sony, of course, did not abandon the electronic book reader project and is currently very much in the race with a whole line of Sony eBook reader devices, including a pocket edition PRS-350, a touch edition PRS-650 and a daily edition PRS-950; the latter two have also a touch-screen. Other notable eBook reader manufacturers include the Kyiv, Ukraine headquartered PocketBook, which is a Foxconn manufactured device with PocketBook design and software. The notability is warranted, because this electronic book reader is market leader in supported text formats. It is a small but interesting side capability that the latest devices are able to allow users to play simple 3D games such as Doom 2 in E ink® monochrome. It is also necessary to point out that most tablet PC devices are capable of functioning as eBook readers as well.
Despite such abundance on available eBook reading devices, it is the goal of TabletPC-Zone.com to provide you, our readers, with the most comprehensive, detailed and independent overview of the electronic book reader market, including plenty of suggestions and evaluations that are designed to make your choice easier and more educated.