E-ink reading revolution here

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Later this week will bring the culmination of the worst period of my year – iPhone season.

Apple is expected on Wednesday to announce the launch of the keenly awaited, much-hyped, much-over-speculated-on iPhone 5.

We’ve been through weeks of breathless speculation about the supposedly larger screen, the new 19-pin dock, the whatever.

Apple, which invented the art of the magical revelation of new products, recently became the most valuable listed company ever when it hit $623-billion (R5-trillion).

Its shares are certain to go even more stratospheric when the “new iPhone” is unveiled – that’s about the only thing I’ll put my money on: that it will take the same absurd nomenclature as the “new iPad” (read iPad 3).

As is always the case, the other manufacturers have rushed to launch their products before the tsunami of iPhone coverage washes away all else.

Nokia and Microsoft showed off their Windows Phone8 smartphones.

Google’s new handset division, Motorola Mobility, launched its latest Razr phones with HD screens and more improvements.

Amazon, which revolutionised Android-powered devices with the brilliant cheap Kindle Fire, launched two new Fire models last week. It also launched something I am really excited about, more so than about the new iPhone: the latest Kindle, the Paperwhite model.

This takes the electronic ink display to the next level. E-ink is a thing of wonder and I am most pleased that the world discovered this remarkable technology – it is much more important than the LED-powered back-lit displays of tablets because it is legible in bright sunlight and uses negligible power. The Kindle battery can last for months.

The next generation of our education system will surely include tablet-based teaching, utilising video instead of teachers.

Imagine learning geography from David Attenborough instead of Mr Smith, or seeing footage of the Curiosity rover landing on Mars and other brilliant multimedia-like animated explanations.

But these iPad-like tablets remain too expensive for the vast majority of the world. Sure, there are great companies trying to make their products as cheap as possible (Google’s Nexus7 with a Fire-matching price of $200 and the same 7i/17.7cm screen size), South African company Future Mobile Technology makes the NetSurfer tablet for even less.

No matter how education advances, and teaching techniques become more visual or more portable, people still need to read. And nothing is better for reading than a Kindle.

Now Kindle’s Paperwhite takes reading to a new level: it is lit not from the back but the front using clever technology.

I love my Kindle. I use it every day. I read more because of it. I read on my Kindle in bed every night.

Not only is it a joy to urban insomniacs like me, it also means kids in rural schools will be able to read at night, solving an enormous problem in a world in which 1.5 billion people do not have access to electricity, according to the UN.

That means kids can study at night.

The $100 Paperwhite Kindle is still too expensive but a damn fine start. Just wait until the Chinese manufacturers start churning out this new generation of e-ink and the economy of scale kicks in.

E-ink is just marvellous. Soon, it will get even better and we will see colour e-ink.

When the new iPad was unveiled in March, I was forced to formulate Shapshak’s First Rule of Cellphone Upgrades: they are always faster, thinner and have a better camera.

That rule now needs an update, especially after the Samsung Galaxy S3 launch.

Hence, Shapshak’s Second Rule of Cellphone Upgrades: they are always faster, thinner, have a better camera and an even bigger screen.

*This column originally appears on Times Live on 10 September 2012

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