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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dual-display e-book reader lets you flip pages naturally

E-book readers like the Kindle may be getting better, but still fall short of the usability of paper books. You can't turn or flip through pages, or compare different documents as you would with paper. A new prototype with two displays can do all that - as the video below shows.

The two leaves can be opened and closed to simulate turning pages, or even separated to pass round or compare documents. When the two leaves are folded back, the device shows one display on each side. Simply turning it over reveals a new page.

If you can't see the video, click here.

It was developed by researchers at Maryland and Berkeley Universities, both US. It's very early days but they report that initial user reactions were positive. One downside mentioned by the testers was that the flipping and handling of the device would be better if it were lighter. That sounds reasonable; hopefully they'll put together a slimmer version next.

A paper on the prototype was presented at the CHI08 conference, and can be read here (pdf).

Tom Simonite, online technology editor

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Let paper be paper.
By Anonymous Anonymous on June 26, 2008 1:25 AM  
So basically, you use twice as much power and have to re-charge twice as often?
Am I the only one who thinks this is a backwards step?
The whole point of an electronic book reader is that it is not an actual book.
I think most people will be able to get their head around the fact that it is not a book and therefore the flipping of pages is redundant.
Come on people. There is no need for this whatsoever.

Ah - obviously I'm too crusty!

I find the flow of ideas in a book (other than pulp fiction) is such that I like to be able to flip forwards and backwards and keep my current reading point in view...

I like idea of both side-by-side and flip-over page presentation.

I've looked at e-readers such as Kindle and they're not enough like a real book for me - in the sense that they don't offer the same readability described above - so I have passed until now.

I think this is precisely what is needed, and as soon as they do it with e-paper to keep power consumption down, shrink the gutter and make it light I shall be buying.
Nice presentation. The 2-screen idea is very good, being much more like a 'real' book. Power consumption will be the big problem, after that, convincing people that reading off of screens is as acceptable as traditional paper.

Some UI thoughts:

Some color (amber, perhaps) on black. This alone will greatly decrease power consumption, but of course will make it visually unlike an actual paper book. The user should be able to choose their color scheme. This could also be complicated by color documents, so a traditional white background would need to be available as well, trading legibility for increased power usage.

Gestures instead of buttons (doesn't look like the screens are touch-enabled). For example, instead of fanning the device, fan the screen, like you would when turning a page.

A movable PIP-style nav screen which would overlay on top of the page. Could display the thumbnails as shown in the presentation. Could be toggled on & off with a particular gesture.

Voice control for those who would have problems with buttons / gestures.

Other thoughts:
Embedded solar panels around the edge and/or on the back to augment internal power and allow charging when the device is idle.

WIFI for printing & retrieval of content, as well as lojack capability in the event of loss or theft.

Combined with WIFI, the ability to link several screens for even larger documents.

Good luck with continued development!
This isn't a new idea.

Estari has marketed a dual screen device for several years now. It is a well polished and very usable device.

Some of their biggest clients are the US Military:


I believe they also hold all the relevant patents on this approach.

Kind regards,
E. David Zotter
It looks nice, but why make an ebook reader imitate a book. You are trying to make something better, not a poor imitation of paper.
I have used a Windows Mobile device for as long as they have been available using different software as it became available.
Currently I'm using Mobipocket reader on an Axim x51v and I have both an unabridged dictionary and thesaurus installed that allow me to highlight a word and get its meaning, add a drawing, make an annotation, or copy and paste to a Word document. All of this for about $175 for the Axim, Mobipocket Reader is free at Mobipocket.com. Books for free are available at Baenbooks.com, Manybooks.net, and mobipocket.com among others only a Google away. Take that Kindle.
If this had the light weight of the Kindle and the "paper" readability of the Kindle, + color display + keyboard you might have something groundbreaking in the works!
It's "University of California, Berkeley" or "UC Berkeley," NOT "Berkeley University!"
The reason books are the way they are is because a paper page has two sides. In a digital version of a book there's no reason to copy that paradigm. It just adds cost, adds power consumption, and actually makes reading harder.

I'm a big fan of ebooks and my Rocket eBook, that I purchased 1999, still works and I've read 300+ books on it.
My Axim Pocket PC works great, doesn't use electronic paper and I have read over 1500 books from the Fictionwise.com site alone since 1995.
How about placing the left display at the right edge and the right display at the left edge so that the two are close as possible to each other. This would allow both displays to beter act as one when needed. This would improve viewing of two page diagrams or photos.
By Anonymous Rich Petersen on June 27, 2008 6:54 AM  
I really liked the XO laptop ebook reader demo, on the same site. For only $188, you get a bigger screen than the Kindle, with higher resolution. Plus you get a whole laptop. I wonder why the Kindle costs $400. Maybe the Kindle's "free" internet isn't so free?
If they had a screen which was thin enough it could be flexible. Simply turning the screen over would make the reverse side usable to display text or information on as well. If these screens were thin enough they could be stacked in layers. And instead of a storage device, the images (text or pictures) could be permanently displayed on these layers even with the power off, so that a document hundreds of pages long could be stored on the display screens themselves, and portable enough to carry around, no bigger than a small laptop computer. These stackable, permanent-storage screens could be called "paper."
By Anonymous Anonymous on June 30, 2008 7:34 PM  
are these e-book readers specialized devices only able to read e-books? can they be used like normal tablet-pcs?
By Anonymous Joeyabc on July 02, 2008 11:39 AM  
Can it read pdf files or it is still only for Amazon format books.
I must say that enabling pdf on this will attract many buyers since most books are on pdf and the device looks small enough to wear it around the city. The only thing is that it also should be cheap enough, because I can have it with me if it's enough expensive to be stolen. That unneeded risk.
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