Toshiba and Matsushita have opted to keep it simple in creating a mass-market electronic paper display that is both simple and effective.

Everyone knows that reading text from a screen for any length of time can be hard on the eyes, which is why so much funding has poured into developing electronic paper, such as Hitachi's Tokyo-train version , over the years. The latest to appear is a simple monochrome version from Toshiba Matsushita Display Technology (TMD).

The unnamed 5-inch reflective TFT LCD isn't flexible - it's intended for use in machines like high-end photocopiers or in electronic dictionaries - but it does have a 12:1 contrast ratio, low power consumption starting at just 4mW and doesn't require a backlight. In other words, the new display is perfectly suitable for a basic electronic book too.

The 20ms response time needed to refresh the display is also just about enough to allow for simple animations and video. TMD has already begun mass production in Japan, ensuring that the new displays are likely to be readily available at low cost soon. J. Mark Lytle