electronic paper -- 3/31/21

Today's selection -- from Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik. The development of electronic paper:

"Electronic paper is a type of flat screen that displays text using real ink and is designed to be read with reflective light bouncing off it in the same way as a phys­ical book. The difference is that electronic paper can be controlled digitally to display any text required almost instantly. When inte­grated with a computer chip it can store and display millions of books.

"The technology relies on the ink being made into a form of the so-called Janus particle. Each particle of ink is dyed so that it is dark on one side and white on the other. The two sides are given opposite electric charges, and so each pixel on the electronic pa­per can be made dark or white by applying the appropriate elec­tric charge. They are named Janus particles after the Roman god of transitions, who is depicted as having two faces and is often asso­ciated with doors and gates. Because the Janus particles are physi­cal ink and need to physically rotate when the text is changed, they cannot be switched as rapidly as the liquid crystal display of an iPad or smartphone, and so at the moment they are unable to show movies and other snazzy stuff. They have a pleasing retro quality, which perhaps suits the written word.

"The Janus particle has made reading e-books much more like the experience of reading a physical book, at least in terms of the appearance of the words on the page. It could yet be the future of the written word. However, it is unlikely that electronic paper will completely supplant books while it lacks paper's distinctive smell, feel, and sound, since it is this multisensual physicality of reading that is one of its great attractions. People love books, more perhaps than they love the written word. They use them as a way to de­fine who they are and to provide physical evidence of their values. Books on shelves and on tables are a kind of internal marketing exercise, reminding us who we are and who we want to be. We are physical beings so it perhaps makes sense for us to identify and ex­press our values using physical objects, which we like to touch and smell as well as read."


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author:

Mark Miodownik

title:

Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World

publisher:

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

date:

Copyright 2013 by Mark Miodownik

pages:

44-45
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