Front-lit Kindle sighted in wild
E-ink’s appeal is in its paper-like legibility, but that quality doesn’t do it any favors when the sun goes down. Unlike tablets, which are backlit and have no problem piercing darkness, e-ink-based devices like Amazon’s Kindle are dependent on outside light sources in dim conditions. But those days could soon be over, according to Devin Coldewey of TechCrunch, who glimpsed a prototype Kindle in the wild near Amazon’s Seattle offices and its skunkworks Lab 126.
The Kindle Coldewey spotted was front-lit, meaning an integrated light shined on the device’s surface, rather than from behind its screen.
In the dark, it was plainly noticeable as a glow, and in uneven light – say, shade or a shuttered room – the slight illumination made the screen much more readable. At full blast it was definitely projecting some light (technically speaking it was reflecting it), but it was still a soft glow and not the harsh flashlight of a backlit LCD.
The technology, which is sure to crop up on production Kindles in the near future, is most likely traceable to Amazon’s 2010 acquisition of light-guide specialists Oy Modilis.