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Electronic ink means a real revolution in the world of printed materials

by Spiros Tzelepis

Professor Jacobson explains what this invention is about

It is widely believed by many people that Professor Joseph Jacobson's discovery of electronic ink will bring enormous changes in the traditional concept of books. Perhaps electronic ink will make books available to all people. Perhaps we will be able to include a whole library in one volume. Perhaps we will be able to press a button at the bottom of the page and the content of the book will be restructured; this way the reader will be able to pass from the Bible to an encyclopedia in a few seconds or to consult a huge number of articles about a certain issue. Either connected directly to a computer or automatically due to a memory card installed in the cover of the book, only one book could include about 20,000 different works. Additionally the possibilities for the press will be enormous.

Professor Jacobson of the MIT Media Lab was interviewed about this "endless book":

1) Could you please tell us a bit about your invention?

E Ink is a new material which can be printed onto a surface, including paper, to transform that surface into an electronically addressable display. It is a way to make very inexpensive as well as low energy and thin electronic information displays.

2) How did the idea occur to you?

I have been interested in the idea of electronic information displays and being able to access lots of information anywhere and by anyone for a very long time. I worked on my first electronic displays the summer after I finished high school in a laboratory at MIT called the innovation lab.

3) What changes do you believe it will bring in the world?

My hope is that some day this may be a way to make billions of electronic information displays, enough to give one to each kid on the planet.

4) We understand that your invention is a real revolution. Could it be used in the developing countries where there are no libraries giving a new dimension to education?

I very much hope so.

5) When do you believe that it will be completed?

Some of the first applications are starting to be seen now. There are a whole range of different applications, and I think that we should see these start to role out over the next 3-5 years.

6) Will the price be reasonable for the common people?

I hope that it will be very inexpensive.

P.S. About two months ago (2000) two of Prof. Jacobson's graduate students established a new company named E Ink. It seems that the first steps towards applications of this invention have been made. We, the ordinary people, wish to see the first results in our everyday life as soon as possible.

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