Thursday, October 8, 2009

eReaders To Come: Fujitsu's FLEPia

Fujitsu's FLEPia is said here to be the first eBook reader with color. It looks like this:

It can come with a black frame instead of white. Its 8-inch (measured diagonally) screen uses a new technology called "color e-paper" to produce images. It displays 260,000 colors, not just black, white, and shades of gray ... and it's said to do so "in high-definition." Like its rival technology, colorless E Ink, color e-paper does not require power for continuous display of a static image, consuming power only when it draws a new screen image.

Though FLEPia is of course rigid, the e-paper inside its frame can actually be flexed. Here's a YouTube video about it:

This page about FLEPia indicates, disappointingly, that redrawing the FLEPia screen takes fully 1.8 seconds, and that's when only 64 colors are in use. With all 260,000 colors, you'll ... have ... to ... wait ... an ... interminable ... 8 ... seconds. Apparently there's no way to force it into monochrome mode for faster page turns.

FLEPia's screen responds to pressure from its accompanying stylus. But it's not clear whether it also responds to fingers — assorted physical function buttons suggest that it doesn't. (The capacitive touchscreen on an iPhone is designed for finger manipulation; the FLEPia's touchscreen seems to be resistive instead.)

FLEPia incorporates wireless connectivity via WiFi (802.11b or g, but not the faster 802.11n) or Bluetooth (but what about cellphone networks). It wires to a computer via its mini-USB port. Its 4 GB of storage resides on a swappable SD card. That's enough space for 5,000 eBooks on a card you could (theoretically — don't try this at home) swallow!

Not just for reading eBooks, FLEPia comes with a Japanese version of the Windows CE 5.0 operating system on board. Here, a U.S. version will probably need to be supplied.

The battery life is nominally 40 hours, giving about 2,400 page turns between charges.

The weight of the FLEPia is only 385 grams, or under 14 ounces.

Embedded stereo speakers and a headphone jack allow audio playback of eBooks, suggesting a text-to-speech capability in FLEPia.

This press release about FLEPia's introduction for sale outside Japan says it supports two eBook formats that frankly won't fly in America: “BunkoViewer” (XMDF format; “bunko” refers to “library” in Japanese) and “T-Time” (.book format). So, clearly, FLEPia in the will have to add at least one of the established eBook formats here.

FLEPia is already being sold in Japan for (gasp!) about $1,000.

Learn more about FLEPia in this preview, which includes a video showing the FLEPia (slowly) turning pages.

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