I came across an article in the NY Times today, about a new e-paper reading device, which sounds like it does all the stuff that I bought my tablet pc for, for a fraction of the price. I can’t wait until everybody has one of these things, and we can stop wasting so much paper. Earlier this month a Belgian newspaper started testing versions of electronic paper, using a device called the iLiad E-reader.

This device is made by a company called iRex Technologies. Sony is releasing their own e-reader device later this year. Both of the devices are able to download newspapers, books, and can double as a notebook for jotting down notes. The reader devices weigh a mere 0.8lbs, making them light enough to hold comfortably in one hand, and are expected to cost USD$400 initially, although this cost is expected to drop as they become more common. Right now when I whip out my PDA on the bus to read an ebook, I’m usually the only one doing so, whereas if I pull out my ipod to listen to some music or a podcast, I’m just the same as everyone else. Ebooks have been around for a while, but haven’t really caught on yet. New technological advances in e-paper indicate these devices may do for ebooks what the ipod did for mp3s by bringing them to the masses. What makes this technology different than other tablet-style readers, is the screens are designed to reflect rather than emit light, which makes it appear more like normal paper, and easier to read in all light conditions. This results in very long battery life, another reason this technology is great. Another benefit of e-paper news readers, is the ability to show dynamic advertising that is not only related to time of day, avoiding showing beer ads in the morning or coffee ads at night, but could also show ads based on the demographic of the reader, and even ads related to location as determined by wifi hotspots.

The other obvious application for this is in the classroom, where an ereader could replace textbooks, notebooks and assignment sheets. Students wouldn’t lose their homework, and assignments could be transmitted digitally to the teacher’s reader. Perhaps instead of blaming the pet dog, students might one day report that their homework has a virus..

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Steve holds a degree in Environmental Engineering Technology from Humber College in Toronto, is a LEED Accredited Professional and a Certified Sustainable Building Advisor. He currently lives in Victoria BC and works as a green building consultant specializing in residential projects.


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