One of the down sides of traditional E Ink, used in devices such as Amazon Kindle e-readers, is the inability to read in the dark without some kind of accessory. As an owner of an official Kindle Lighted Leather Cover — which sells for a whopping $50 — I can attest to the fact that even this isn’t a perfect solution, given its uneven illumination of the screen, from the upper-right corner of the device.
We’re unlikely to see Amazon do a back-lit screen on one of its traditional e-readers, given Jeff Bezos’ past remarks comparing the experience to shining flashlights in your eyes when you’re reading.
But maybe Amazon has come up with a solution. Devin Coldewey, a TechCrunch contributor who lives in Seattle, writes that he spotted a device that appeared to be a prototype next-generation Kindle with a built-in front-lit screen in the wild.
The device I saw was crudely camouflaged in a sort of cardboard enclosure, but the screen was clearly visible. With a tap, a slider popped up on the screen, and as it was dragged to the right, the screen lit up evenly with a rather cool light. In the dark, it was plainly noticeable as a glow, and in uneven light — say, shade or a shuttered room — the slight illumination made the screen much more readable. At full blast it was definitely projecting some light (technically speaking it was reflecting it), but it was still a soft glow and not the harsh flashlight of a backlit LCD.
There’s no way to confirm the authenticity of what he saw, but on behalf of nighttime readers everywhere, here’s hoping it’s true.