E-book readers are lightweight and use little power, but most have a distinct disadvantage to colorful tablet computers: their black-and-white displays.

A MAJOR CRITICISM of ebook readers is set to be answered with the release of colour e-paper screens.

E Ink has announced that its colour Triton screen will be shipped in Hanvon's ebook reader. The development should mean that ebook readers can be widely used for viewing magazines, comics and education materials, claimed the firm. However Scott Liu, chairman of E Ink Holdings didn't dismiss monochrome screens altogether, saying "Triton will compliment our monochrome product line to enable new markets".

The Triton display can display 16 levels of greyscale and "thousands of colours". The company claims the display is still "fully viewable" in direct sunlight, one of the major advantages that epaper screens have over LCD and OLED displays.

Aside from the immediate visual improvement, the firm's colour display delivers up to 20 per cent faster rendering. Rendering time, though not a major problem with ebooks as their readers rarely flick through pages rapidly, becomes a stumbling block when dealing with magazines and other browsable media.

Hanvon's upcoming colour ebook reader isn't the first to tip up with a colour screen. The INQUIRER was shown Pandigital's Novel with an impressive 800x600 colour screen back in September. And US bookstore Barnes and Noble recently announced a colour version of its Nook, so it seems the market is slowly moving beyond monochrome ebook devices.

As colour epaper screens mature, the pressure will be on Amazon to incorporate such a display in its Kindle. The firm has yet to announce when it will move to a colour display though it's unlikely to say anything during the lucrative Christmas holidays shopping season.

As for Hanvon's unit, the company has not mentioned when the device will tip up, but expecting it before Christmas might be a tad optimistic. µ