The day may come soon on Japanese trains when the sight of people reading on book-look-a-like electronic gadgets is just as common as seeing people read paper books today. An electronic book (e-book) reader, developed by Toshiba, NTT Data and E-Book Initiative Japan (EBI), was introduced at the Tokyo International Book Fair, which began Thursday.
The e-book prototype consists of two liquid crystal display (LCD) panels that are vertically attached to each other to make the device look like a hardcover book.
The screens in the prototype are 7.7-inch TFT LCDs with a resolution of 150ppi (pixels per inch) and were developed by Toshiba specifically for use in e-books. The screens support Microsoft's ClearType text resolution enhancement technology, and at this resolution, Toshiba says the screens approach the quality of text printed on paper.
The prototype still needs a lot of development, according to Akira Miura, specialist at Toshiba's Large Size LCD Division. Within two years, it plans to bring the e-book's weight down to 360 grams and for its battery to last at least six hours. "We are aware that it will be very difficult to achieve those technologies," Miura said.
Contents will be downloaded to the e-book using either Bluetooth wireless personal-area networks or memory cards, according to Toshiba's plans.
Yuusuke Suzuki, the president and CEO of co-developer EBI, an e-book content provider that mainly distributes Japanese comic books, said that the prototype model was made especially for reading comic books. It is essential for comic books, whether printed or digital, to have two pages when images' panoramic continuity is needed from one page to the next, he said holding the prototype in his hands.
He also said that the companies worked on the quality of the LCD screen in order to improve the richness of colours and to better show the smaller text used for Japanese comic books.
As other Asian countries, such as South Korea, have a similar comic book culture and style to Japan, the device is targeted at the entire market in Asia, according to Suzuki.
The Tokyo International Book Fair and companion Electronic Book & Multimedia Fair run until Sunday at Tokyo Big Sight.