LG Display and iriver to Form E-Book Reader Joint Venture: L&I Electronics Technology Limited

According to DIGITIMES, LG Display (LGD) announced plans to establish a joint venture with iriver to form L&I Electronic Technology Limited, which will be located in Dongguan, Guangdong Province in China. L&I will take LGD’s electronic paper display (EPD) technology and manufacturing capabilities and work with iriver’s product development knowhow to produce one million e-book readers annually by 2011. The joint venture will make use of iriver’s existing e-book reader plant located conveniently in the same city, Dongguan, and commence operations in September 2010 subject to approval by the board of directors. LGD will make a 51% equity investment and iriver the rest. It seems L&I will also provide ODM/OEM services.

LGD’s Eddie Yeo, VP and Head of the Mobile & OLED Business Unit:

LGD decided to establish a joint venture with iriver to supply customers with more competitive products as part of our upstream-downstream business transformation strategy. LGD will utilize its advanced EPD technologies to achieve early commercial production of color and flexible EPD and reach the global number one position by 2012.

Color and flexible EPDs sound fantastic. I assume flexible to simply mean durable as I’m not sure how useful a flexible display would be unless I could fold it like a newspaper or a magazine. Recent prototypes of color EPDs are a step forward but there is a lot of work to be done to not only in the area of overall color improvement but the speed at which pages transition; it is currently too slow and distracts from the reading experience. I’m interested in finding out how all of this will turn out since LGD is also the primary (only?) supplier of the fantastic 9.7-inch IPS TFT LCD panel that is used in Apple’s iPad, which is considered to be the competitor to EPD-based e-book readers. There is also the Amazon Kindle and Prime View International (PVI) combo that, I assume, is currently leading the EPD e-book reader pack.

The Story e-book reader (read iRiver Story for more info) by iriver sports a 15.24-cm E-Ink display featuring a 600×800 pixel format (portrait) with eight levels of gray. Story supports PDF and EPUB formats in addition to TXT, DOC, PPT, XLS and HWP, which is the document format for a word processing program that is somewhat popular in Korea called Hangul (source: iriver).

Much like other iriver products the Story’s design is simple and clean. About the only questionable decision is the QWERTY keyboard: how often do we need to type while reading a book? I guess if you were a student in the broadest sense you’d need to jot down a lot of notes. I guess I’m old school in that I actually enjoy jotting down notes on my paper-based notepad. This personal gripe not only pertains to iriver’s Story but with Amazon’s Kindle and other e-book readers. How about getting rid of the physical one and instead using a virtual one so folks who need to use a different language can? Not only would it make the product look more elegantly simpler my guess is manufacturing costs would also go down. Which is very important: unless EPD-based e-book readers have full color, fast response times and considerably lower prices, I see only a small niche of a market for them in the future.