Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

PlasticLogic Debuts New Flexible AMOLED Screen at Flextech 2014 – Neglects to Bring it to the Show

Posted: 08 Feb 2014 08:23 PM PST

I have tech-plastic-logic-flexible-display[1]some good news and some bad news about PlasticLogic ‘s new screen tech.

The good news is that the company is adapting their flexible screen tech and developing a new type of AMOLED screen which could be used on devices like smartphones and tablets.

The bad news is that the new screen has yet to leave the laboratory.

PlasticLogic announced their new flexible AMOLED screen tech product at FlexTech 2014 conference this week, and I was there with the hope of seeing the screen first hand. Sadly, Mike Banach, PlasticLogic’s research director, didn’t bring any demos to the conference (working or not).  I also couldn’t talk him out of any of the photos or video that he used for his presentation so I don’t have anything to show you.

I see from my notes that PlasticLogic’s current demo is a monochrome display which can display red. It can’t yet do the green and blue colors that you would expect from an LED screen, and that tells us that this is a very early prototype, something on the level having passed the smoke test (they turned it on and it didn’t catch fire). Given the raw state of the demo I would be terribly surprised to see this screen in a product before late 2015 at the earliest.

But even though it could only display red pixels, this is a good start towards a full color AMOLED screen which will look quite different from the grayscale epaper screen which PlasticLogic had originally developed for the Que, their ill-fated ereader. That device launched in 2010 after several years of development only to be killed by the iPad, which cost less and did more. PlasticLogic has since gone on and adapted the screen from the Que to a number of uses, including signage, flexible electronics, etc.

PlasticLogic’s new screen tech is being developed in partnership with NovaLED, a specialist in OLED and AMOLED technologies. They contributed the expertise to build the half of the screen which is visible to the naked eye, while PlasticLogic contributed the rear of the display, or backplane.

By working together these two companies hope to develop an OLED screen which can do this:


TBH, by the time it gets into a product it will more likely look like something like this:


There’s no news yet on who will license the tech and actually produce the screens, but I do know that PlasticLogic doesn’t plan to make these screens in their Dresden manufacturing facility. That will stay focused on producing the flexible epaper screens used in products like signage, a blueprint reader, and more.

The post PlasticLogic Debuts New Flexible AMOLED Screen at Flextech 2014 – Neglects to Bring it to the Show appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Lessons Learned From a Failed Attempt to Turn my Android Tablet into an eBook Reader

Posted: 08 Feb 2014 11:52 AM PST

Whilemobile-product-icons-pdp-android[1] it’s quite common to use an Android tablet as an ebook reader, few are designed to serve that process from the ground up. Amazon and Kobo have each tried their hand at it, and over the past few weeks I have been looking for a way to add similar features to the cheap Android tablets I like to use.

In short, I have been looking for an ebook or media library app which can replace the home screen launcher app on Android tablets. Reading apps are a dime a dozen, but apps which manage your media library and put it front and center are comparatively rare. I still haven’t quite found what I was looking for, but I did come across a few useful tricks that I wanted to share.

If you’re not sure what I am getting at, let me explain by example.

Ever since I reviewed the Kobo Arc 7 a couple weeks ago, I have been looking for a way to add a few of its better features to other Android tablets.  The home screen on that tablet devotes most of its space to a user’s Kobo ebook library, with 2 of the 3 pages of the home screen devoted to either a user’s current reading activities or their ebook library.

Kobo Arc 7 homescreen 1 Kobo Arc 7 homescreen 2 Kobo Arc 7 homescreen 3

I don’t buy most of my ebooks from Kobo, so their tablet doesn’t work for me, but I still like how that tablet focuses on ebooks first. This has inspired me to go look for  alternate home screens which might offer a similar focus.

For example, Amazon has done this to a limited degree with the Kindle Fire tablets, but no one has matched what Kobo has done with the Arc 7.

I haven’t found what I am looking for yet, but along the way I did come across 5 launchers which would make your Android tablet look like everything from an iPad to a Windows Phone, and I also found a few other possibilities that might suit someone else.


For example, a number of reading apps (Google Play Books, Aldiko, EZPDF reader, and others) offer a widget which you can add to the home screen on your Android tablet.  These widgets don’t offer the tight focus I want, but they do let you browse your ebook library from outside the related reading apps. And if you combine them with widgets for other types of reading apps (like Flipboard) you can enhance your overall reading experience.

android ebook widgets

Here is a screenshot showing a few of the ebook widgets I found. Aside from Aldiko, I don’t have enough titles in any single app to really show them in operation. But I do know that that widget lets you swipe through the ebooks you have recently read. It doesn’t work very well (it’s laggy) but it might perform better on your Android device.

Alternate Home Screen Launcher

Even though I haven’t found a launcher which works for me, I have found one possibility that comes pretty close. A Russian ebook company by the name of LitRes has released an Android launcher that focuses on your ebook and audiobook library. It doesn’t do what I want but it does come close enough that I will sigh deeply as I set it aside.

LitRes is the leading ebook retailer in Russia, but they do more than just sell ebooks. They have their own ereader, and they’ve also developed apps for ebooks and the audiobooks they sell. And they developed an launcher which focuses on ebooks and audiobooks over other types of content.

As you can see in the screenshot below, this launcher offers separate pages for ebooks, audiobooks, and apps. It’s designed to search your Android tablet and find all of the Epub and PDF ebooks on the device, and then organize them into a simple catalog. Select one, and you will be prompted to open the ebook with FBReader (audiobooks require the LitRes Listen! app).

lites launcher android ebook audiobook

While this launcher looks useful and comes very close to what i want, it doesn’t run very well. It crashed and froze on me several times, and it is set to only work with certain apps. If you have a preferred reading app (or audiobook app) you will be unable to tell the LitRes launcher to use that app. (It also doesn’t recognize Kindle ebooks, so you can’t use it as a complement to the Kindle app.)

But in spite of the issues I encountered, I am sharing it because I hope that you will have better luck. And if you don’t well, it only wasted a few minutes of your time.

You can find this launcher in Google Play along with the FBReader app, the LitRes Listen! (required for audiobooks), and other apps.

LitRes Launcher (Google Play)

The Search Continues

I’m still looking for an alternate home screen which fills my needs. If you know where I can find one, or if you have a better way to accomplish this goal, don’t hesitate to leave a comment. Thanks!

The post Lessons Learned From a Failed Attempt to Turn my Android Tablet into an eBook Reader appeared first on The Digital Reader.

New Hack Lets You Install Android on the External SD card on Kobo Aura HD, Glo, and Kobo Touch

Posted: 08 Feb 2014 09:05 AM PST

Have kobo glo-shine 2you been interested in the alternate Android and Linux tablet firmwares for Kobo’s ebook readers, but not enough to completely replace the existing firmware?  Then I have some good news for you.

There’s a new hack over on MobileRead Forums that lets users install Android on the external microSD card, saving them the effort (and risk) of cracking open the ereader and removing the internal microSD card.

I haven’t had a chance to try it myself, but I’ve been following the topic on MobileRead ever since the first proof of concept photos were posted in early November. That work was based on porting the firmware originally developed for the Tolino Shine and adapting it so it could run on kobo’s hardware, and for the past few months hackers have been working to make the alternate firmware run better and easier to install.

The Tolino Shine runs Android 2.3, so if you try this on your Kobo device you won’t exactly be getting a new version of Android. Android 2.3 Gingerbread is close to 3 years old and lacks many of the refinements of later versions of Android, but on the plus side this firmware was adapted to run on E-ink screens, so what it lacks in modern features it makes up for in screen optimization (or so it appears based on user reports on MobileRead).


This new trick has been shown to work on the Kobo Aura HD, Glo, and Touch, but not the Kobo Aura (no files have been posted for that model). That latter ereader doesn’t have an internal microSD card slot, so the earlier hack didn’t work on it either.

Directions on how to setup the dual-boot card can be found over on Angor's blog, along with the download files. He’s posted files for the Aura HD, Glo, and Touch, as well as instructions on how to set up and install the Android firmware image.

Check out MobileRead for tech support and more details.

MobileRead via my competition

The post New Hack Lets You Install Android on the External SD card on Kobo Aura HD, Glo, and Kobo Touch appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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