The Fragmentation of The Eink Community

The Fragmentation of The Eink Community

Hey there, I would like to write about the status quo of the eink community. Eink has been around for around 10 years and there hasn’t been too much progress /innovation been made for the past years. Color Eink just came recently and there are only a few players who managed to develop a decent refresh rate on their hardware (e.g. Dasung). Lots of projects still seem to be in “beta-mode”.

One of the factors is that most of the controllers/hardware has to be developed separatley by each company / project. That’s why even well equiped companies like Remarkable/Onyx have sometimes a very bad refresh rate. There is also very little open-source and info in general available.

In addition there are many different projects but all of them work in a very siloed approach. Many projects are lead by 1-2 developers and they have to do everything from scratch. Not even mentioning the sometimes bad support from Eink Holdings itself. Many projects end up giving up or just pausing their development indefintley.

We want to create a community around Eink enthusiasts and also other paperlike technologies (e.g. rlcd, rtft, memory lcd, etc.) to accelerate the innovation in this field. We want to connect developers/hackers/thinkerers and enthusiasts and help them to make their projects become a reality. This should be a place to share ideas, find like-minded individuals and also ultimatley help paperlike technologies succeed. We want this to become a hub of innovation where all hackers around the world come together and jam about new paperlike technologies and make them a reality.

We want also to create a place for people to post their ideas, discuss them and also eventually spin off in a team and start building them (e.g. eink os, eink hardware drivers, eink devices, eink software, etc.). The ethos of this forum should be very pragmatic. If you are convinced that eink has some technological flaws from the very beginning and believe in some alternative technology, go ahead! Explain us why you are making your point and find other community members to follow you on your journey. This is the ulitmate place to make innovation happen.

So please feel free to join our community and help us to make eink (or other paperlike tech) go mainstream. Your EI-2030 team.

Current eink or eink-like communities:

I’d like to add that color e-ink is nothing new. It was developed a decade ago but never successfully commercialized. What’s happening right now is just another marginal improvement and yet another attempt to commercialize the product. Sadly, it will probably soon go away just as this one did.

Are you sure about that? Apparently color eink is a massive revenue opportunity for Eink Holdings see here:

They are boosting record sales numbers and new color eink devices like the Hisense Phones or Onyx readers are more mature IMO.

But I agree with your slightly pessimistic point that things are moving too slow and there are only marginal improvement in the industry and no zero to one ideas as Peter Thiel would put it.

Have you seen the link I sent in my last reply?

Them claiming that they expect huge revenue growth is nothing but marketing talk and hype. I don’t see anything much different than last time.

And yes, the devices are more mature, but so are regular eInk devices. And so are mainstream display technologies. It looks like a never ending catch up game, grayscale eInk now has better contrast and refresh rate, so the competition is stronger. Also, tech like AMOLED is now mainstream so people are used to even sharper colors, higher refresh rate etc. - even harder for eInk in general to sway consumers towards it.

What eInk needs is to reach a certain point where economy of scale comes into play - and sadly, I don’t think that’s possible without a tremendous and sudden improvement to at least party catch up with mainstream tech. I know enthusiasts like you and me would move to eInk with little hesitation even if it’s nowhere close to the refresh rate and contrast of IPS or AMOLED, but that’s nowhere near enough people to jump start the industry. So until something really significant happens, it’s doomed to be an expensive luxury and products will be short-lived and scarce.

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Yes I see your point. Maybe eink is from the pretty beginning/ground up flawed. But there are other “healthy tech” alternatives such as RLCD and Transflective TFT. The overall trend in “healthy tech” is growing and there are more and more players emerging (even in eink space) like Minimalist phones or the remarkable.

I could also see other interesting market segments such as wearables/IOT/signage or even newer ones like the emerging Manga/Anime community who want to read comics as market drivers.

That being said, COVID is propelling ever more screen/online time and I see more people demanding healthier, less distractive, better for sleep/eye technology.

Maybe the answer lies in some paper-like technology but not particular eink. What are your thoughts? Which technology has the potential to achieve mass adoption if the roll-out strategy is done right?

Transflective LCD is indeed interesting and I think it’s way more promising than eInk. Let’s see where this goes now that the patents are released. The biggest advantage is that it doesn’t require an entire new production line but just swapping two layers in a regular TFT LCD. But then again, the technology has been frozen for a decade while other types of LCD/OLED panels have been improving all that time.

Overall, I think the biggest show stopper in this market segment is monopolies like eInk and that other manufacturer that was holding the transflective patents this whole time.

I haven’t looked into RLCD yet, but if it has all the same advantages as transflective LCD, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be a good candidate too. My biggest concern with those kinds of displays is whether they flicker or not. IIRC, Transflective LCDs not only allow you to completely disable the backlight, but they also have variable refresh rate, meaning the screen doesn’t have to flicker when there’s nothing to refresh.