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E-books open new chapter for LCD makers
Tue Mar 31, 2009 8:57pm EDT
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By Baker Li
TAIPEI (Reuters) - Ask C.T. Liu about future growth engines for his company, LCD maker AU Optronics, and he whips out his Kindle e-book in lieu of an answer.
Strong reception for the Kindle, the brainchild of Web retailer Amazon, is attracting a growing number of developers looking to tap interest in devices that let consumers read newspapers, magazines and books in a digital form that updates wirelessly and saves paper.
Sony Corp has joined the paperless wave with its own e-readers, partnering with Google to offer public domain books that are no longer protected by copyright.
Other believers in the dawn of a paperless age include Taiwan's Netronix, which is making similar models with touchscreens, and Dutch Polymer Vision, set to soon introduce a pocket e-reader with rollable displays.
"We see it as a new industry," said Liu, a senior vice president at AU, the world's No.3 LCD maker whose panels are part of Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Apple PCs, as well as Sony LCD TVs.
"It replaces paper, printing, publishing, text books, and so on," said Liu, in charge of AU's consumer display business.
The growing number of models could help to bring down prices and boost sales, making these portable readers the next breed of must-have gadgets.
Weighing less than a typical paperback, e-books use a new generation of light, flexible and interactive display, or e-paper. Once the power is off, its images remain unchanged on the screen as it needs no added light source to read.
Because they require no backlighting like traditional LCDs, e-books consume far less power and are also much lighter. A typical Kindle can be read for days without recharging.
The bright future of e-books is particularly attractive to major LCD makers in Asia, including AU and hometown rival Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp, at a time when they are struggling with sluggish sales of PCs and flat-screen TVs.
AU, which booked a record loss in the October-December quarter, is branching out to the new display sector by buying a 21 percent stake in e-paper specialist SiPix Imaging Inc.
THE END OF PAPER?
Amazon.com Inc's Kindles have proved a hit since their launch in 2007. Citigroup estimated the U.S. online retailer sold a half-million Kindles in 2008, about one-third more than the number of iPods sold by Apple in its first year.
Some critics argue that e-books could become the victim of their own success if cell phone makers take notice and start to incorporate the newer LCD technology into their own models and include similar reading applications.
Other kinds of devices could also try to incorporate e-book-like applications. Continued...
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