Foldable devices are, like, so in right now. Between the doomed Motorola Razr, Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, and Google’s foldable Pixel device that’s supposedly in the works, tech companies have latched onto the latest craze and run with it.
Now that trend is coming to the e-reader market. A foldable prototype developed by the E Ink Corporation, the company behind the vast majority of the world’s e-paper technology, pushes e-reader tech past its current limits and into the new decade.
E Ink has produced similar prototypes in the past, but its latest effort is looking like an actual product we could see ourselves buying in the next few years. E-reader technology has, for the most part, stagnated in the last few years; innovation is limited mainly to increased battery capacity and waterproofing. A foldable device could be just the stimulation the e-reader market needs right now.
Like a real book but also not — Your traditional e-reader — like those made popular by books retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble — doesn’t feel at all like a book. In fact, the devices tend toward a minimalist, lightweight experience that does nothing to mirror the experience of reading a book, save for the text itself.
E Ink’s latest prototype might be the closest we’ve seen to an e-reader that looks and feels like an actual book. Unlike with a smartphone, where a foldable screen can easily come off as gimmicky, a folding e-reader makes functional sense: it allows the device to open and close like a physical book.
Note-taking for the future — E-readers have long had limited note-taking abilities, such as highlighting text and adding typed notes. But most e-paper screens don’t have the hardware complexity needed for a full-fledged note-taking experience, especially if you, like me, have always had some difficulty typing on an e-ink keyboard.
E Ink’s new prototype brings stylus capabilities by utilizing integrated Wacom technology. You can highlight passages, take hand-written notes, and generally scribble all over your book to your heart’s content, without the pesky pen bleedthrough to worry about.
Not ready for consumers just yet — The prototype has caught our attention — but it’s not exactly ready for market yet. In order to support that folding hinge, the prototype has huge plastic bezels and supports. To put it bluntly, the prototype is kind of ugly. It’s not ready to fit in with the sleek e-reader market just yet.
Still, though, the prototype is promising, with a smooth folding mechanism and less screen latency than your average e-reader. It still needs some work before it’s ready for market adoption — but it’s exciting nonetheless and, perhaps, a look at where e-readers can go from here.