Electronic book readers such as Sony’s Digital Reader and Amazon’s Kindle have their fans, but the displays are difficult to read in sunlight and do not show colors well. A new kind of electronic paper could make the readers brighter and more colorful, which is of interest to conservationists who would like to see the devices replace paper editions.

The prototype is an “electrofluidic display” built by the University of Cincinnati’s Novel Devices Laboratory. Lead researcher Jason Heikenfeld says the display can create 1,000 colors, reflects about 55 percent of ambient light and could reach 85 percent reflectivity. Today’s commercial readers, which use a different screen technology, reflect about 40 percent of ambient light and become even dimmer when showing color images because filters must be added.

Heikenfeld and his colleagues recently formed Gamma-Dynamics, LLC, to commercialize their innovation. The goal, Heikenfeld says, is to continue to improve display quality “until it can mimic the appearance of pigment on paper.”

Note: This article was originally printed with the title, "Paperless Books: A Step Closer."