Wednesday, April 1, 2009

E-Ink in the Courts

We have heard rumors here at NCSC headquarters in Williamsburg that there are judges who have started to use E-Ink technology based devices such as the Amazon Kindle to read and work with their electronic documents.  I remember reading about E-Ink technology in the early 1990’s during its initial development by Xerox PARC the Palo Alto Research Center lab.  E-Ink is a display screen technology that uses:
"millions of tiny microcapsules, about the diameter of a human hair. In one incarnation, each microcapsule contains positively charged white particles and negatively charged black particles suspended in a clear fluid. When a negative electric field is applied, the white particles move to the top of the microcapsule where they become visible to the user.  "
For a picture of what this looks like and the rest of this explanatory article, click here.

So what is so great about this technology?  The answer is… persistence.  Once the screen image is updated by the tiny computer inside the device, it holds the image.  In other words, the image is persistent and doesn’t change.  This also means that the reader device uses very little power since it is not continually renewing the display; and thus it can be used for literally days if not weeks before a battery charge is required.  Reports are that the devices are both very lightweight, under 1 pound, and are easier on the eyes to read.

Now judges just don’t read documents, they interact with them.  The Amazon Kindle 2 has a keyboard and a note taking and bookmark capability.  A competitor company, iRex Technologies offers a larger screen device, the Digital Reader 1000S that allows handwritten notes to be added to the documents.  In addition, the devices can be linked via WiFi and the Internet to electronic book and newspapers services to download the latest novel or edition.

For one user’s experience using the Kindle click here.

For a good matrix of the available E-Ink readers in the USA click here.

Finally, please let us know your experience with these E-Ink devices and we’ll pass them along on the CTB.  Happy E-Reading!