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Guangzhou OED’s Graphene ePaper Arrived Five Years Too Late

11925595493_026e8716ae_bGuangzhou OED got its start in developing a knockoff epaper screen tech which rivaled E-ink, but now this Chinese company says they have developed a new graphene backplane which (if the marketing materials are to be believed) promises to be lighter and stronger than E-ink’s existing glass-based screens.

Unfortunately, the tech is arriving far too late for it to show up in ereaders.

From Xinhua:

The new material has been heralded as "the world’s first graphene electronic paper," by Chen Yu, general manager of Guangzhou OED Technologies, which developed it in partnership with a company in Chongqing.

Graphene is the world’s strongest and lightest known material; a single layer of graphene is only 0.335 nanometers thick, and it can conduct heat and electricity. The material can be used to create hard or flexible graphene displays, used in electronic products such as e-readers and wearable smart devices.

Compared with traditional e-papers, graphene e-paper is more pliable and has more intensity and its high-light transmittance means optical displays will be much brighter.

In addition, graphene is derived from carbon, meaning production costs will be much lower than for traditional e-papers, which use the rare, expensive metal indium. E-papers have been produced on a commercial scale since 2014. Compared with liquid crystal displays, e-papers are thinner, bendable and energy efficient, meaning products are more portable.

You can go ahead and ignore that last paragraph about costs; it is at best only half true and is highly misleading.

And you should also discount the optimistic bubbling on Gizmodo, Teleread, and other sites about this tech showing up in ereaders; that is highly unlikely.

The simple fact is the ereader market has reach the saturation point. Everyone who wants an ereader already has one, which is why the market has declined from its peak in 2012.

The first production run is always the most expensive, and there simply aren’t enough ereader sales each year to justify the capital investment required to develop a new screen tech into a commercial ereader product. (The market is down so much that no one is putting the plastic-backed Mobius E-ink screens in 6″ ereaders, either.)

spectra_img_052113[1]Also, Amazon has driven the price of an ereader low enough that margins are too thin to support the development costs of a new screen, so if this tech does reach the market it will be a different market – signage, probably.

Remember, E-ink bought Sipix in 2012 and then used that company’s tech to develop 3-color shelf labels. That tech never made its way into ereader screens, and Guangzhou OED’s new graphene epaper will likely follow the same path.

image by UCL

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$20 e-readers ahead? Cheaper, brighter, flexible e-paper unveiled from Chinese company – TeleRead News: E-books, publishing, tech and beyond May 2, 2016 um 7:59 am

[…] Yes, the e-book reader market is saturated. But if a technology is sufficiently cheaper and better, in areas such as contrast, the market will be there regardless of opinions to the contrary. […]

Syn May 2, 2016 um 8:55 am

It’s going to take color screens to start the buying frenzy again, other wise the upgrades on the black and white screens are mediocre at best. How many years have we been stuck at 16 Shades of Grey?

Nate Hoffelder May 2, 2016 um 9:00 am

We got 16 shades with pearl, so that would make it six years.

And I agree, it would take color to spark real interest.

vicente May 2, 2016 um 8:56 am

What a pity this technology is not faster than olders. It would be a good reason to buy another ereader.

Graphene-based ePaper could be brighter, lighter than glass – Liliputing May 2, 2016 um 10:58 am

[…] as some have noted, it takes time and money to ramp up production for a new technology like this, and it’s not […]

Rasputin May 2, 2016 um 11:19 am

>> Also, Amazon has driven the price of an ereader low enough that margins are too thin to support the development costs of a new screen.

Are you suggesting Amazon is responsible for the current lack of innovation in e-reader technology?

Nate Hoffelder May 2, 2016 um 11:50 am

It’s less Amazon than the declining market, but yes Amazon is taking the lion share of the market.

Syn May 2, 2016 um 12:35 pm

By the way Nate, I tested my Kindle Fire HDX7 against Amazon Echo. The Alexa voice does the reading on echo and the tts is much better than on my tablet. I haven’t heard anyone else mention that so thought I share. Back on topic..

And Amazon has pretty much won the race. With that, they stopped innovating their e-book readers. I’m still on first Gen PW and another dpi bump and even lighting isn’t really grabbing me.

Deruy May 2, 2016 um 4:44 pm

I do not think this epaper is arriving far too late and that ereader market has reach the saturation point.

A4 epaper market is none existent. A4 is a size of a PAPER. Not these little 6 inch toys.

Eink is never gonna sell their overpriced Mobius display in large quantity.

Because this new tech comes from China I think will continue to use our analogue A4 paper and put down more trees.

Nate Hoffelder May 2, 2016 um 5:03 pm

We already have A5-sized ereaders; that is about the same size as the 9.7″ screen on the Kindle DX, etc.

And speaking as someone who has had my hands on an A5 sized ereader, it’s not nearly as useful as you think. The market for an ereader that big is far smaller than the market for 6″ ereaders because the device is too large to be used as an ereader.

An A4-sized ereader is a document display device, and not an ereader. It’s a business product, and not a consumer product. I wouldn’t pin my hopes on it if I were you.

Deruy May 2, 2016 um 6:34 pm

And that is the problem. People are still thinking about reading books in connection with epaper.

I’m sorry but A4 world is not a business product. All the screens from mobile phones, PC displays to TVs got enlarged. Look at the Apple with Ipad Pro or MS Surface etc. Thanks to consumers.

At the moment an A4 sized epaper device is "business product" because of the price and narrow thinking. And no competition.

Nate Hoffelder May 2, 2016 um 8:45 pm

Aside from reading, there isn’t much use for epaper. Tablets fill most needs quite nicely.

So how would you use it?

Syn May 3, 2016 um 2:23 am

I do think 6″ is to small. I would much rather have a 8″ model but I’m out of luck too. Kindle Dx can be had on ebay if you really need one that size but unless the price comes down it will never be mainstream. It is way to limited for the price being charged for the new ones. In that case tablets just make more sense when it comes to bang for the buck.

Frank May 3, 2016 um 10:39 am

Tablets took over the A4 sized market. Amazon will not releases an A4 sized E Ink e-reader.

beachwanderer May 3, 2016 um 9:28 am

"An A4-sized ereader is a document display device"
And that is precisely the point. And for being usable as such the whole device must be fast as hell so one can flip through large files and search quickly, jump back and forth etc. – Which, sadly, redirects us back to the tablet.

Repost: Cambridge University, PlasticLogic Produce World's First Flexible Graphene-Based Display (video) | The Digital Reader May 3, 2016 um 9:07 am

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DavidW May 3, 2016 um 12:11 pm

Optimistic bubbling??? Engadget’s article says:

"You shouldn’t count on Amazon making a graphene Kindle, unfortunately. "

I think you’ve mischaracterized your links.

Nate Hoffelder May 3, 2016 um 12:30 pm

I misread that, I am embarrassed to say.

ijh3 May 3, 2016 um 8:53 pm

This tech, if good, is not too late. We haven’t seen much in epaper tech yet. Not many flexible displays yet, not many epaper-based monitors or large-size tablets yet, and still no Earl yet, for instance. Looking at larger-size screen prices, if this new tech allows significantly cheaper production, this attractive products. The market may currently appear small, but the reason might be the unattractive prices and the rather narrow choice of products. Clearly, something as functionally limited as Sony’s 13.3 incher at a royal price point is not everyone’s cup of tea.

New color display from E Ink Holdings looks great—but will e-readers ever use it? – TeleRead News: E-books, publishing, tech and beyond May 24, 2016 um 7:06 pm

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