Posted by: Moon Ihlwan on January 14, 2010
Most e-readers available in the market so far have been just too small for newspapers. But it could soon be a reality for you to enjoy the sensation of holding a sheet of newspaper during the morning subway commute without having to check your mail box (or go to the newsstand) to pick up your daily. South Korea’s LG Display on Jan. 14 unveiled the prototype of a 19-inch flexible e-paper that’s almost as large as a page of a tabloid newspaper.
The device, optimized for an e-newspaper, has yet to be packaged as a marketable product. LG Display specializes in display panels and doesn’t make any finished product. “This will be the start,” says LG spokesman Lee Bang Soo, adding that he expects a manufacturer to introduce a commercial e-reader that not only could replace newspapers and paper magazines but also allow users to enjoy audio and video content.
The e-paper is virtually paper-thin with thickness of only 0.3 millimeters. It uses thin-film-transistor on metal foil rather than glass substrate to give the device flexibility. Measuring 25 centimeters by 40 centimeters (9.8 in. by 15.7 in), it weighs only 130 grams, though it will get thicker and heavier if a manufacturer wires it up with touchscreen technology to give full Internet access.
Last week at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, New York publishing company Hearst unveiled its Skiff Reader with 11.5-in. screen that used the same LG panel technology. The Skiff, weighing just over one pound and lasting over a week of average use between charge, is due to be sold later this year in more than 1,000 Sprint retail outlets across the U.S. The Skiff service will let users directly download magazine issues, books and newspapers. LG says the new flexible e-paper can also be wrapped around pillars and other locations for advertisement applications.
Pricing will be a hurdle for the time being. While LG gave no pricing information, existing e-readers with 10-in.-screen are sold as much as $700 a piece. Nevertheless, market researcher DisplaySearch expects the e-book market to grow to $1.2 billion next year from $370 million last year. If prices drop quickly, newspaper companies could do away with printing and distributing millions of sheets of paper in the not-too-distant future.
BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.