Colouring Books and the Future of E Ink Devices

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Sometimes curiosity can get the best of me, and then I just become more confused than I was before. While playing around with my Kobo Aura, I decided to search for “coloring books” just to see what there was. I was shocked to see that there were over two hundred results, all promising a fun colouring experience. Of course, having an E Ink device meant that actually being able to colour the pages of these books was next to impossible. Unless you wanted to take markers and colour on the screen of your device, which I don’t suggest you do.

So what was Kobo’s purpose in having colouring books available for purchase in their library? As it turns out, given the increasing popularity of colouring books, this may be an option Kobo is striving towards. At least, they are hoping to one day have coloured ink appear on their screens.

According to Rafi Letzter, we have yet to see colour appear on any E Ink devices due to the difficulty of making colour appear.

Unlike more common LCDs and LEDs that shine colored light at the viewer to create an image, e-paper screens reflect and absorb the ambient light in a room—just like a page in a book. Once e-paper displays an image, that image remains on the screen until an outside source changes it again…

This happens because e-paper displays rely on moving matter around instead of coloring bright lights.

However, it appears that Kobo, among other eReader companies, are working towards having their dreams realized. Andrew Liszewski detailed how E Ink Holdings has developed an E Paper that is capable of changing colours. The only downfall being that this technology has yet to be applied to any devices.

E Ink Holdings announced the availability of a new color-changing film known as Prism that’s based on the company’s electronic paper technology used in devices like Amazon’s Kindle … But the new material isn’t destined to finally bring a dash of color to your electronic books. Instead, it’s being positioned as a tool to let architects and interior designers dynamically change the color and mood of a space.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for colouring on our eReaders. Over the past few years, very little has taken place in terms of eReader innovation. Nathan of The eReader gave a very pessimistic outlook on the subject.

You have to wonder if it’s gotten to the point where E Ink eReader screens have reached their peak. Technology can only be advanced so far. Maybe the limitations of E Ink technology itself prevent any further improvements.

Color E Ink screens for eReaders came and went. E Ink tried them and failed miserably because of low contrast and poor color quality. Color E Ink has been at a complete standstill for three years.

Sorry folks, but we probably won’t be able to colour away on our eReaders anytime soon!


Reflecting On Children’s Books In eBook Format


The other day, I was browsing through the Kobo Bookstore when I came upon Robert Munsch’s The Paper Bag Princess. Immediately, my mind filled with happy memories of this beloved children’s book. I’ve never been one to resist an impulse buy, so within seconds the book was downloading on to my Kobo.

What happened next: a little bit of nostalgia paired with some disappointment. My device displayed the lovable writing and artwork I had remembered, but there was something different about it. That’s when I realized that the E Ink display completely took away from the experience of reading this classic book. My memories of the colourful images next to exciting passages were replaced with black ink on gray. Not to mention how odd it was to not have the text and pictures display all at once.

So this got me thinking about picture books on eReaders in general. Roxanne Weber commented on why parents are switching to eBooks for their children.

…eBooks are becoming even more popular as they become easier to carry on trips and have with us anywhere we go.

Given that so many young families are digitizing their daily lives, I asked myself how this option would affect the experience that children have reading them.

The understanding that I always had was that picture books are essential to a child’s learning, and that the colours only further help to develop a child’s brain and eyesight. So you can imagine the confusion I felt as I stared at the boring black and white versions of the drawings in Munsch’s book that had been separated from their accompanying text. Bianca Schulze has commented on the importance that children’s books play in child development.

The illustrations of a picture book help children understand what they are reading and allow young readers to analyze the story. When children are having difficulty, the illustrations can help them figure out the meaning of what they are reading… [Also, c]hildren love art. Why do you think they spend so much time coloring, drawing and doing crafts? Whatever the reason children are drawn towards a book, it’s a means to get them to read.

So if the images themselves are so important to children’s books, why aren’t many eBook distributors trying to do something about it? The answer I found was a little disappointing. Priya Ganapati reported that many E Ink devices will not be able to display colour for years to come due to technological issues.

For a color display, E Ink needs to put a color filter on top of its black-and-white display. A color filter usually has four sub-pixels—red, green, blue, and white —that are combined to create each full-color pixel. That also means reduced brightness of display.

This is pretty unfortunate news, considering the demand E Ink devices and eBooks. Until some progress is made, it looks like parents will have to make a decision about what they value more: experience or convenience.

You can purchase The Paper Bag Princess for Kobo here!