Honestly, I thought mass-marketed e-books were dead when mega bookseller Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS ) decided to stop carrying them. It seems only Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN ) , patron saint of all things virtual, remains to hawk e-books in large numbers. And that's thanks in no small part to Adobe's (Nasdaq: ADBE ) Portable Document Format, or PDF, technology, which makes writing, reading, and downloading e-books simpler.
Yesterday, Sony (NYSE: SNE ) , Philips Electronics (NYSE: PHG ) and start-up company E Ink announced they will introduce an electronic book in Japan in April. The twist? The e-book uses electronic ink.
Called the LIBRIe, the device is similar in size to a paperback book and features what Sony and Philips term an electronic paper display. The screen, unlike the typical liquid crystal computer display, apparently operates equally well in bright or dimly lit settings. At the core is E Ink's technology, which features chips floating in dye-filled capsules. When electrically charged, the chips create text that Sony says is designed to look like newspaper print.
There's no question this is very cool technology. But will it catch on? Maybe. If it does, it is unlikely to happen overnight. Witness the slow adoption of tablet PCs, variations of laptop computers that look like a digitized writing pad that were hyped by Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) last year. Count me among the uninitiated. It's not that I'm a technophobe. I just like paper, and I suspect that I'm not alone.
Much as I admire the track records of Sony and Philips -- they did co-invent the compact disc, after all -- I can't see myself rushing out to Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) to get the inky e-book if it crosses the ocean and lands here in the States. Nope, I'll take my books large, obnoxious, and dog-eared.
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