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Researchers Demo Flippable-Page E-book Reader 101

Posted by timothy
from the penny-gadget-would-like-royalties dept.
holy_calamity writes "E-readers are getting better but still limit users to keyboard-style interaction. Researchers at Berkeley and Maryland Universities have changed that with a reader that has two 'pages.' The two displays can be moved like a real book's pages to leaf through a document, or detached to compare and share virtual pages. If they are folded back to create a tablet with displays on each side, you can turn it over to flip pages. A video shows it in action." You may be reminded of the promised second-generation OLPC device, which looks somewhat similar.
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Researchers Demo Flippable-Page E-book Reader

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  • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by electricbern (1222632) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @05:22PM (#23941139)
    Mimicking real paper takes away focus that could be spent in developing novel ways of using the available technology.
    There are so many more interesting things you can try to develop.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Sabz5150 (1230938)

      Mimicking real paper takes away focus that could be spent in developing novel ways of using the available technology. There are so many more interesting things you can try to develop.
      This IS a novel way of using the technology. You're making it into something we all know how to use... a good old fashioned book. This makes it much more appealing to a broader (read: older) audience who don't want to "learn something new".
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by electricbern (1222632)

        This IS a novel way of using the technology. You're making it into something we all know how to use... a good old fashioned book. This makes it much more appealing to a broader (read: older) audience who don't want to "learn something new".

        Sure, but then again if someone really does not want to learn something new then probably he will stick with the book and the development is pointless anyway. It is a nice functionality but then again the resource could have been put into eye-tracking, voice-recognition...

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by shadwstalkr (111149)

          Research is not a commodity resource that can just be doled out to the most important projects. People initiate and work on projects that interest them and that match the skills in which they have the most expertise. Besides, this looks like a student project, maybe even for a class. There is probably nothing these people could have done in sixteen weeks to advance the state of user interfaces which have been active research topics for decades yet remain esoteric.

      • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @05:42PM (#23941407) Homepage Journal

        I disagree. One of the key reasons why I like reading eBooks is that I DON'T have to flip pages. I can use a scroll wheel or a button to flip, instead. I've found that it's many times more comfortable than holding a paperback in the center, then having to move my thumb and other arm to manage a page flip.

        The reason why paper has defeated eBooks to date is because you don't have to invest in a $$$ reader ahead of time and the paper is of a much higher resolution than an eBook reader. (1200dpi prints put eBook readers to shame.) Not in a million years would I have thought that the lack of "page flipping" was a significant barrier to eBook adoption. In fact, adding page flipping would probably become an ADDITIONAL barrier to eBooks as users would be unfamiliar with how to operate the electronic device.

        • by nuzak (959558)

          One of the key reasons why I like reading eBooks is that I DON'T have to flip pages. I can use a scroll wheel or a button to flip, instead.

          You must mean eBooks on an LCD. No way you're going to like using a scroll wheel on an e-Ink display. The Sony Reader is beautiful, but it takes a full second to refresh.

          • by DancesWithBlowTorch (809750) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @06:53PM (#23942365)
            Am I the only person who prefers to read pdfs on a screen rather than a printed sheet of paper, let alone an e-reader?

            For me, it's all about the size of displayed text. The larger the better. I've got good eyesight, but it's simply easier on the eyes to have text in a large font that I can read from a distance. I also like to be able to zoom into images (think academic papers, with complex plots that are often printed way to small to save space).

            Now, I can see the advantage of having a mobile device. But while I'm at my desk, I'll take the display over a printed sheet any time.
            • Not the only one (Score:3, Insightful)

              by DesScorp (410532)

              "Am I the only person who prefers to read pdfs on a screen rather than a printed sheet of paper, let alone an e-reader? "

              You're not the only one, but I'd bet most book lovers are just that... book lovers. They don't just love stories and histories and information; they love the books themselves. I dearly love the tactile feel of a book, the binding, the pages, even the smell of older books. I'm a nut for old textbooks from the pre-50's era. I collect them, and actually read them (and you'd be surprised at h

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by j_snare (220372)

            One of the nice touches on the Kindle device was the addition of a LCD bar on the side that you could use a scroll wheel with. Since it's not part of the page, it doesn't have to refresh. I take that as a nod that you don't have to limit yourself to a single e-ink display, and that you can use other options for navigation.

      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Joebert (946227) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @06:00PM (#23941643) Homepage

        This makes it much more appealing to a broader (read: older) audience who don't want to "learn something new".

        If they don't want to learn something new, my first piece of advice would have to be quit reading books.
        • What, ya think most books are high intellectual stuff? They're nothing but mindless entertainment.
      • by Tetsujin (103070)

        It's not just about catering to the inflexible IMO - by making the device respond to how it's physically held and manipulated, the device becomes a more natural part of the surroundings in which it's used. I don't think the stuff in the video was all that impressive for the most part (page flipping? Ho hum) but the general idea of making the device respond to physical interactions is a good one. I think the screen rotation on the iPhone is maybe a better example, though.

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Yay, physical interactions!
          I really look forward to randomly jump through my book because the train accelerated too fast/the pilot got a hickup/the car hit a pothole.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Exactly; meanwhile they still cost too much and how do they compare for readability to a printed page again? Let me know when they come down below $100 and are as readable as a printed book, otherwise you can add all kinds of great features that add no value for me (and probably 99% of the potential ebook users out there).
      • by Danse (1026)

        Exactly; meanwhile they still cost too much and how do they compare for readability to a printed page again?
        The newest ones are very readable. High contrast text makes them pretty easy to read in most lighting conditions. I'd say they're as good or better than a paper book in that respect. The main concerns I have now are the DRM issues, storage/transfer capabilities, and intuitive search capabilities.
    • Did you watch the video? A good deal of the functionality came from things like being able to separate the screens and use one in landscape mode and the other in portrait. I can assure you that anybody who goes through a lot of technical documents will gain from this by, as they showed, being able to have a landscape chart on one side and portrait text on the other.

      I'm not going to reiterate all of the, I dunno, eight or nine UI innovations they accomplish by having this dual, separable, interrelated scree

  • Seems like the logical thing to do would be to simply allow multiple readers to cooperate in document display, so when you snap together (say) 4 readers, you get a 4-page view, split them apart you get 2 2-page views of different documents. You would use proximity sensors to define which pages were "together", and simple mechanical clips to hold them together when not laying flat. You could then hand one side of the page you were looking at to a co-worker, then pull a blank sheet out of your drawer to restore your own reading area, while he walks off with the other page.

    This is becoming more like an extension of the Xerox PAD and TAB.

    The documents mightn't be stored on the device, rather they would be accessed via the office wifi network.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Seems like size is the limiting factor, did you see the thickness of the 2 together? Imagine 4.

      • by argent (18001)

        You wouldn't put them together like that. I'm not talking about books, I'm talking about workspaces.

  • hmmm. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @05:27PM (#23941203)
    whats up with the video? seemed more like a slide show to me.

    Anyhow. I like the concept - I have long been advocating this kind of thing.

    But why stop with a eReader? Make a standard tile module with a touch sensitive tactile screen and the skys the limit. four make a monitor, 64 make a tv, 128 make a wall screen. two make a laptop. one makes an eReader. 40 make a beowolf cluster for number crunching.

    make options like a keyboard only to lower cost. or a processing one with extra ram and more grunt and no screen. maybe a half size one for a pda.

    use a common API, common interface and I guarantee that lots of smart people will think of many amazing uses for them.

    is a lack of foresight making people think small, or are people listening too much to busiess concerns?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)

      "
      use a common API, common interface and I guarantee that lots of smart people will think of many amazing uses for them."

      true, but will the do anything that sells?

    • by steelfood (895457)

      And three gives you the centerfold easter egg...

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by blckclbrtn (963354)

      But why stop with a eReader? Make a standard tile module with a touch sensitive tactile screen and the skys the limit. four make a monitor, 64 make a tv, 128 make a wall screen. two make a laptop. one makes an eReader. 40 make a beowolf cluster for number crunching.
      And 512 make that awesome computer thing from "Minority Report" - yeah, I see where your mind is going...
    • whats up with the video? seemed more like a slide show to me.
      Maybe it was indented to be watched on an e-book.
    • by nickeyc (1314629)
      Youtube really messed up the video conversion. The original (much smoother) video in QT format can be found on the project site: http://www.cs.umd.edu/~nchen/reader/ [umd.edu]
  • Interesting concept... I don't think it looks very user friendly though. If the idea is to create a book like feel with an electronic device, the mark was missed by a long shot. IMHO the user needs to be able to flip pages just like a regular book. Now... when someone finally makes a book with e-paper... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeaT62OMi8M [youtube.com] Then I'll be interested. Until that day comes... I'll stick with my laptop.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      "Next" and "Back" buttons were too confusing for people who can't read, so they made this feature to help them out.
      • "Next" and "Back" buttons were too confusing for people who can't read, so they made this feature to help them out.
        Duh... I can read Beowulf, but I can't read the words "next" and "back"... Sounds like it's back to reading the weekly reader for this guy...
    • by Jurily (900488)

      IMHO the user needs to be able to flip pages just like a regular book.
      Why?

      If we're talking about a jump-to-page or jump-to-chapter feature, that's a good idea. But please don't ruin my continuous reading by making me flip pages.

  • Interesting but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SputnikPanic (927985) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @05:37PM (#23941313)

    The video shows some interesting features but I think that attempts to create an electronic device that emulates a physical book is misguided. The "page-flipping" feature doesn't grab me at all. What I'm more interested in seeing in a next gen e-book reader is a nice balance between portability and adequate screen size, a screen resolution sufficient for displaying maps and other graphics, a variety of fonts, unicode support, and search capability that allows me to search either the current book, particular titles from my library, or my library in toto.

    • Add to your wishlist: support for LOTS of file types. I have ebooks in html, doc, rtf, pdf, palm, mobi and I don't even know what all else.

      Who in their right mind wants to do conversion on every book they already have?

      This is a neat gadget, but it's got to be e-ink for me or the battery life will just be pathetic. Additionally, I don't see the new ergonomic features they're touting as being worth the added cost of two eink displays versus one.

    • by nuzak (959558) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @05:56PM (#23941599) Journal

      Actually the best potential feature of a two-page reader is that the alternate screen could refresh while I'm reading the current one. eBook readers do a nasty all-black flicker before refresh.

      Of course the whole point of an eBook reader is to have a nice form factor, which is really defeated by doubling the size and weight for a screen you'll only pay attention to half the time. I suspect the research will simply go into e-Ink displays with better refresh times.

      • by peragrin (659227)

        As another poster pointed out if you could hook the screens up on the fly(usb/IR/bluetooth) So they could work together in tandem, when next to each other or on different documents when separated it would be really useful.

        you could carry a small book with the notes on it, but two or three people could join up on a larger project. Potentially with different sized screens too.

    • by Robotech_Master (14247) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @06:42PM (#23942205) Homepage Journal

      I was more interested in the ways in which it didn't emulate a physical book. The ability to turn it into the equivalent of a double-sided sheet of paper, or to split it apart to view separate documents. That's a bit more than past two-page readers, that only used the two "pages" for cosmetic purposes, can claim.

      • by Kattspya (994189)
        I've had a Sony PRS-500 for about six month and have read 60+ books on it. The invert-then-refresh isn't really noticable after a while. It's been a while since i read anything other than the lit format (thank you caliber) but I seem to remember that RTF's took a long while to change sizes every time and had a somewhat slower page refresh.

        The refresh rate on the PRS with a proper .lit file is faster than flipping pages in a book but images and PDF's take uncomfortably long.
  • by peter1 (796360) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @05:39PM (#23941341)

    I've been interested in eBooks for quite a while now, but the problems I have with all of them are not the small controls, or the lack of natural page flip options (though the idea here is rather cool).

    My biggest problems with all current eBook readers is the very limited (and usually highly proprietary) formats that they support, and when they do support other formats the lack of efficiency in way they deal with it. For example the Sony eBook reader will read PDF's, but the further you go into a PDF the slower the page flips get. The same problem is not evident, of course!, when using the Sony default (and highly DRM'ed) format. Also the eInk technology is still rather slow in the page updates... Have not used a Kindle yet, so cannot comment on how it behaves or the efficiency of their alternate format supports.

    So far the best reader I have found are the Fujitsu P1510/1610/1620 series of small form factor tablets. Using a standard OS on it, I can load any eBook reader software I want, and still be able to use it as a travelling computer when I need it. Of course the weight is much heavier then the "real" eBook readers, but at least I'm not restricted to their formats.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Try Hanlin's stuff http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlin_eReader - it runs on linux and views pretty much everything. The iRex iLiad http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ILiad is the same, though a lot more expensive.

    • by gwynevans (751695)
      None of the 6" readers handle 'standard' PDF well, but that's down to the nature of PDF and it's reproduction of a page. The native formats are reflowable, so don't assume a particular page size. As for the 'proprietary' formats, Sony's include TXT & RTF! In addition there are a number of free/open apps to create & convert from other formats such as HTML, or MS Reader's LIT format - http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/PRS505#Supported_Formats [mobileread.com].
  • Crap (Score:4, Informative)

    by BlackCreek (1004083) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @05:39PM (#23941353)
    My *cough* humble *cough* opinion is that the video is crap.

    This guy can't stop talking about how people doing "research-like" work won't be please by a e-reader. They demonstrate that by showing this guy reading a double-column mini-letter size paper.

    Pretty obvious, if you ask me. E-readers are handy, but not for reading tasks that very fast require navigation. Specially of double column pdf files (that would be the equivalent of what the guy was handling). For stuff like that a large LCD monitor on vertical stand does the job much better. Or simply print the dawn thing.

    Their proposed solution is to have 2(!) small screens, which are even harder to flip pages than hitting a large round button like in most e-readers (mine is a el cheapo Hanlin v3 [jinke.com.cn])

    You wanna a glimpse to the future of (affordable) e-books just look at these images: http://www.jinke.com.cn/Compagesql/embedpro/futurepro.asp [jinke.com.cn]

    • I was going to post that the video was crap because I couldn't stand watching the thing in timelapse. They would have impressed me more if there was fluid motion.

      • I was thinking the same thing. Seriously, they couldn't pick up a free web cam from Fry's? I see those things free with M.I.R. all the time. I've got one myself. Haven't used it much... but who cares - it was free!
    • print the dawn thing.
      Wow, I've seen people fat-finger loads of things before, but how did you miss badly enough to flip a letter upside down?! ;)
      • :-)

        I don't like this terminology but it appears that the scientific community technical term for it is brain fart.

        No, I am not proud but I have to assume doing it.

  • I like it when the model after real desktop work flows.
    Just like this Proof-of-concept desktop environment [youtube.com] (ok, might be a little offtopic)

  • I've looked over the shoulders of a few people with Kindles on the subway and the screen is just too small for me. I'd rather take the pixels from a dual display and cram them all on a single, continuously-scrollable one.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geekoid (135745)

      So a paperback it too small for you?

      That's fine, but it seems odd to me.

      • by wsanders (114993)

        The Kindle is 600x800 at 167 ppi, that's less than a fax, and you have no control over the font pitch as far as I can tell, so its effective resolution seems much less. I'd guess even a badly printed paperback is at least 300 dpi.

        I'm not griping too much, the technology will be available soon. I'm more disinclined to buy a Kindle because of the DRM instead of the display quality.

        • by isaac (2852)

          There's a dedicated button on the Kindle to change the font size. It's definitely supported.

          And I don't get the DRM argument about the Kindle - you're free to load whatever unprotected content you can lay your hands on onto the Kindle. Do you not own an iPod on the grounds that it supports encrypted music from iTunes in addition to unencrypted media formats?

          -Isaac

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by gwynevans (751695)
        Even better, with my Sony Reader I can just press a button to see the text in a larger font if needed...
  • When they show it on youtube and its crappy resolution!

    Try http://vreel.net/ [vreel.net] or something.

  • Will it do porn? (Score:2, Interesting)

    Seriously, I'm not trying to troll. I've heard that one way to determine if a new technology will take off is to see if pornographers are early adopters. With that in mind, I predict that this will be an expensive flop.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I've heard that too and I think it's busted now. From what I recall, the porn industry went to HD DVD over Blu-ray due to the Blu-ray Disc Association (or, more likely, Sony) not being very receptive to the idea of Blu-ray being used for porn. Didn't seem to make much of a difference though, HD DVD still bombed.

    • Myth (Score:5, Interesting)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya ... m minus math_god> on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @06:00PM (#23941639) Homepage Journal

      That is a myth, based on confirmation bias.
      Pornographers try EVERY media. So naturally it's on all existing and successful media, but it is also on every form of failed media.
      Assuming it failed after entering the market.

    • They adopt a technology when there is sufficient usage to spin a buck.

      Gutenberg press: 1440, first mass printed porn 1950 or so.

      The www started in 1990, but the porners only really got going in 2000+ when there were a lot of people with broadband to their homes.

      Still, the major usage model for ebook readers seems to be to take a book on the subway. Until society gets a bit less uptight about public porn reading and public masturbation there will be very little call for pebook porn.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by geekoid (135745)

        "first mass printed porn 1950 or so.

        Incorrect. The obvious counter example is the 'Kama Sutra'

        I was able to download porn in the 80's, and in 1990 I could download naked Samantha Fox pictures from the 'internet'.

        • Kama Sutra is not porn. It is a manual. Calling the Kama Sutra porn is like calling Dr Ruth a hooker!

          usenet porn was not mainstream and was posted by readership rather than people trying to make a living out of porn (ie. not pornographers).

          • by pbhj (607776)

            Kama Sutra is not porn. It is a manual. Calling the Kama Sutra porn is like calling Dr Ruth a hooker!
            Just because something was created with one intention, doesn't mean it can't be used with another. If it's used as pornography, then it is.

            Personally I'd imagine that the Kama Sutra[of Vatsyayana] was written both to titillate and inform.

      • The www started in 1990, but the porners only really got going in 2000+
        Were you on the internet in the 90s? I can assure you the porn was well established by 95. By 1998 it was already a big enough problem that the COPA [wikipedia.org] was passed.
      • by ConanG (699649)
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_erotic_depictions#Printing [wikipedia.org] Porn has been in print since the late 15th century.
    • by sootman (158191)

      This won't fly. Any device that requires two hands to use is ill-suited for porn. :-)

  • Great science books!

    But at least you'll be able to peruse the pages of Entertainment Weekly...
  • by speedtux (1307149) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @06:09PM (#23941759)

    Amazing research! With two screens, you can display two facing pages, or two different documents, and you can even rotate pages.

    What amazing innovations will they think of next?

  • It seems like the most you'll accomplish is doubling the cost and size.
  • eh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bigdavex (155746) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @06:45PM (#23942235)

    This is like a car that you can whip to make it go faster.

  • On my blog [wirewd.com], I wrote about when HP thought they'd "solved" e-books the last time.

    The only cool motion-based user interface I've found so far is MacSaber. But I do use two displays at the same time every day at work.

  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @09:23PM (#23943897) Homepage
    One thing I've noticed about my Kindle, compared to a book, is that having a one-page view, as opposed to a two-page view, makes it a lot easier to light. With a book at night with a book light, you've got the problem if needing to illuminate pages at two different positions. I've not been happy with any book light I've seen for that. A one-page approach does not suffer from this problem.
    • by tehcyder (746570)

      One thing I've noticed about my Kindle, compared to a book, is that having a one-page view, as opposed to a two-page view, makes it a lot easier to light. With a book at night with a book light, you've got the problem if needing to illuminate pages at two different positions. I've not been happy with any book light I've seen for that. A one-page approach does not suffer from this problem.

      Maybe I'm thick, but why would a battery powered electronic device need an external reading light?

      • Because the display is not back lit. The technology it uses is called e-ink. Here's how Wikipedia describes the technology:

        The principal components of electronic ink are millions of tiny microcapsules, about the diameter of a human hair. In one incarnation, each microcapsule contains positively charged white particles and negatively charged black particles suspended in a clear fluid. When a negative electric field is applied, the white particles move to the top of the microcapsule to become visible to the

  • Sorry, but I cannot recognize anything on the video that even remotely resembles flipping pages of a real book. Perhaps that's because real books tend to have more than two pages.
  • No new technology here - move along.....

    They have been doing this for a couple years now with "online catalogs". Heck Cabela's has them on their site.

  • Up until the early Christian era, most books were written on scrolls. They were a bit tedious to use. However these are easy to emulate in computers. Some classic books such as synagoge torahs still use this ancient interface.
  • I use my HTC to read sometimes, and although my reader software is proprietary, it does have some nice features. I can read one handed (stop it at the back !) and "turn" pages with my thumb on the touch screen. Sometimes a small screen is better, if it was any wider, my thumb wouldn't reach both sides.
    More paperback reading than weighty tomes, but even those can be accomplished over time. Project Gutenburg already has some money from me and there will be more shortly. There is a VAST library of material the

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