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Budget e-book stretches battery power

Matsushita is developing a stripped-down electronic book that can last up to six months on two AA batteries, according to a report.

Japanese company Matsushita Electric Industrial will sell a low-cost electronic book in China that can last up to six months on two AA-size batteries, according to a report.

Normal liquid-crystal displays flicker or refresh the screen about 60 times a second, with each refresh requiring power.

Matsushita's LCD screen needs only one refresh, when the page is "turned." Thereafter, the image is locked and no more power is required, Japanese Web site Nikkei Electronics Asia reported.

The LCD panel is something of a mystery, according to Nikkei. Apparently, it comes from neither electronics maker Matsushita nor its affiliate, Toshiba Matsushita Display Technology.

It does have limitations, however. It can't really do gray scale, and instead displays blue text and images against a white background, according to the report.

When the magazine-size device--called Sigma e-book--is opened, two 1024-by-768-pixel displays, measuring 7.2 inches each, are seen side by side. It weighs about one pound.

The storage media is a Secure Digital card, and the unit is expected to cost $250 when launched later this year. China is expected to be a target market, Nikkei reported.

Matsushita, which sells consumer products under the National and Panasonic brand names, intends to make content a revenue-earner--the SD card will be encrypted with a digital rights management key that controls user access, according to the report. At first, only comics and fiction will be available on the launch of the e-book.

Worldwide, e-books have yet to make significant inroads, hampered by poor battery life and fragile, heavy hardware.

CNETAsia staff reported from Singapore.