Sony to launch super-thin, flexible e-reader for universities

The new grayscale reader, which takes touch-screen input, is less than 7mm thick and provides up to 21 hours of continuous use

Sony will soon launch a flexible e-reader device that is less than 7mm thick and weighs 358 grams, targeted for use in university classrooms.

The company's grayscale "Digital Paper" device has a 13.3-inch touch capable screen, which it says is the size of an A4 document without margins. It has a Wi-Fi connection, 4GB of internal memory, and a microSD memory card slot.

Sony said the bare-bones device is meant to mimic real paper and so will have a feature set far smaller than existing tablets or e-readers. It can handle only the PDF format, although it supports file creation as well as adding highlights and notes to existing documents.

The firm said it will market the device to universities. Sony quoted from a recent meeting of the Central Council for Education, a government agency under Japan's education ministry, that called for more participation by students during classroom lectures.

"Through actions such as replacing paper texts and materials used in universities with 'Digital Paper,' we aim to make classes more efficient and increase the learning effectiveness," the company said in a Japanese press release.

Sony said it aims to begin selling the device by March 2014. During the same stretch of time it will begin field tests at several major Japanese universities, including Waseda University in Tokyo. The company said it will market the device as a "solution" rather than a consumer product, meaning it will likely be sold in bulk and along with cloud hosting and other support.

The device, which measures 233mm x 310mm, will come with a pen-shaped stylus that clips onto its side. The screen will have electromagnetic technology for detecting scribbles and touches using the pen, as well as optical technology for detecting other taps and presses.

The flexible screen will be manufactured by E Ink, based in the U.S. It has a resolution of 1,200 x 1,600 pixels and can display 16 shades of gray.

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Jay Alabaster

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