eInk vs LCD screen technology


I firmly believe that for most books, a book is a book is a book, at heart, and ultimately, the technology should distract neither the author nor the reader if it’s working right, but it’s worth talking about tech from time to time.

One thing that I think is important to understand about eBook readers is the screen technology, because there is a big difference between eInk and LCD: eInk is a lot easier on the eyes, and the readers tend to be single-purpose devices, without email and apps and notifications and all the other stuff that a “tablet” (like an iPad or Google’s Nexus 7) has.

In other words, eInk devices like Amazon’s Kindle are better for really losing yourself in a book, and forgetting about what you happen to be reading it on. LCD screens are great for general purpose use because they are in color, and besides text can also display videos because they have a quick refresh rate.  eInk screens are comparatively slow to refresh, so don’t display video at all, and have a slight “ghosting” effect.  eInk is very different from LCD in that it’s like paper you read it with ambient light – including bright sunlight – rather than having a glowing screen.  That said, Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite also has a built in light for reading in the dark which is pretty handy, but it’s basically just illuminating what is already on the screen, rather than shining light out at you like an LCD does.

Something that’s important to point out is that despite sharing the “Kindle” brand, Amazon’s Kindle Fire is a tablet with an LCD screen, rather than an eInk device.  This means it’s great for watching movies and TV, but I don’t really care to use it for reading: I spend all day in front of computers, so to relax I much prefer something without a bright screen like the one my laptop has.

Here are some devices and the screen technology they use:

Apple iPad – LCD screen

Kindle Fire – LCD screen

Kindle Paperwhite – eInk screen

As an author, it’s handy to be able to check out your book on more than one platform, like we do here at LiberWriter.  My personal favorites right now are the Google Nexus 7 as a tablet, using the Amazon for Kindle app, and the Kindle Paperwhite as an eReader.  The Kindle Fire is nice, but Google’s system has more apps, and gets updated more frequently with software improvements and fixes.  On the other hand, Amazon is the place to go for “content” – books, of course, but also movies if you like to watch those on a computer or tablet.  If you’re selling your book on Amazon’s KPD, for most people, that’s where 80% of their eBook sales are going to come from, so it’s well worth your time to get at least a basic Kindle (they can be had for under 100$) to familiarize yourself with the experience.

And for the sake of completeness, here are some Wikipedia links explaining the details of the two systems:



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