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New e-paper begins chapter for color e-readers

E Ink debuts its color e-paper, known as E Ink Triton, with Chinese manufacturer Hanvon set to release its first color e-book reader next March.

E-book readers that use e-ink are getting a splash of color, courtesy of a new e-paper technology.

Hanvon's upcoming color e-reader will use new display technology from E Ink.
Hanvon's upcoming color e-reader will use new display technology from E Ink. E Ink

Display maker E Ink announced today the release of its new color e-paper, called E Ink Triton, which will offer e-book makers a way to add color to their e-ink devices. The new technology will make its debut with a color e-book reader set to be released in China next March by Chinese e-reader vendor Hanvon, an E Ink representative told CNET.

"E Ink Triton marks a major milestone in the e-book revolution," Hanvon's Chairman Liu Yingjian said in a statement. "E Ink has the right technology, manufacturing capability, and know-how to transition Hanvon's product vision into reality. With E Ink Triton technology, Hanvon is enabled to release the world's first [e-ink-reliant] color e-book reader today."

The new e-paper is being geared to show off a variety of applications and content, including charts, graphs, maps, photos, comics and, of course, advertisements. Screens using the new Triton e-ink can display thousands of colors, as well as 16 levels of gray scale, according to E Ink. The text and color graphics are also designed to be fully viewable in direct sunlight and are maintained on the screen, even when the device power is turned off.

E Ink is touting the speed of its new electronic paper, claiming that displays made with Triton can perform up to 20 percent faster than ones made with older e-ink technology.

"E Ink Triton is a response to market need for a color ePaper display that mimics the printed paper experience," E Ink Chairman Scott Liu said in a statment. "Triton will compliment our monochrome product line to enable new markets."

Offering Wi-Fi and 3G connections, the Hanvon color e-reader will sell in China for a starting price of around $440, according to The New York Times. Liu said that selling the device in the U.S. was a possibility as well.

Other e-reader vendors have been splashing into the color market. In August, Pandigital launched its 7-inch color e-reader, the Pandigital Novel, sporting a price tag of $170 to $180. But the Novel has been hit by a number of negative reviews, many citing its poor screen quality.

Barnes & Noble also recently unveiled a color version of its Nook e-reader. But unlike its black-and-white counterpart, the color Nook uses an LCD display, which some people find less friendly on the eyes than an e-ink display. Liquid crystal display technology, also used by the Apple iPad, typically chews up more battery life and is harder to read in direct sunlight.

The new color E Ink display has some limitations of its own, according to the Times. The colors tend to be more muted, almost like those of a faded color photo. And although E Ink touted the speed of its new technology, the display can't handle full-motion video, the Times said.