Last week Sony released the Sony Reader, a new electronic book reader that features some ground breaking new technology. It is the first electronic reader that can be read from any angle and it can be read equally well in bright sunshine or inside just like a newspaper. But what is most revolutionary is that it only uses power when the display changes for when you are "turning the page". Displaying the page itself consumes no power at all. Sony claims you can read 7,500 pages, roughly 20 good sized novels before needing a recharge.
The size of the reader is just right. It has a 6" screen, it is 0.5" thick and weighs about 9 ounces, less than your average paperback. It can hold up to 80 average sized books at any one time, and with additional memory cards it can hold thousands more. The reviews have been mixed, with many people complaining about the software that runs the reader - but these are problems that are not difficult to fix.
So how is this relevant to the label industry? Well at first glance it may not appear to have a link. But the world is going digital, the music and movie industry have already been transformed, and technology will start impacting other industries soon. The Sony Reader may or may not be a success but one thing is certain, the technology used to create this will be used for other products. Developments are also being made with rollable electronic paper, screens that we will be able to roll up and put in our pocket. Rollable electronic paper that requires very little power - these are developments that will have a future impact on the label printing industry.
One day in the not too distant future product labels will be made from this electronic paper. Today, you could say that product labels have evolved only slightly in the past 100 years, they still contain printed text and graphics that is static. With electronic paper on products, we could have "labels" that are constantly changing. I discussed the efforts that Siemens are making in a post a few months back.
I am convinced that electronic paper is going to revolutionize the printing industry in a similar way that downloadable music has changed the music industry. We may be several years off from electronic product labels, but I for one will be keeping a close eye on all these developments.