Screens and Eyestrain
The launch of Apple Inc.’s (AAPL) iPad is fueling an ocular debate: What type of e-reader is easiest on the eyes: the black-and-white screens that simulate ink on a printed page or the back-lit color screens used by computers and the iPad?
The question isn’t just academic. A battle is under way to replace a 550-year-old invention called the printed book, and the winning technologies could have a big impact on everything from how students learn to the way people read a novel at the beach.
The two underlying screen technologies differ markedly. Many e-readers, including the Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) Kindle, Sony Corp.’s (SNE) Reader and Barnes & Noble Inc.’s (BKS) Nook, use what’s called e-paper technology created by Cambridge, Mass.-based E Ink Corp. These screens use tiny capsules filled with charged black-and-white particles to give the appearance of ink on paper. As a result, they reflect light like ordinary paper, use no backlighting and are black and white only.