First, what exactly is electronic paper? Just what you'd think it is: A piece of paper that can not only display any text or image, but, like a computer monitor, rewrite that text or image as often and as many times as desired. Imagine a newspaper that automatically updates itself with fresh news and stock quotes and sports scores, in real time. Or a single textbook that becomes a math book in math class, a chemistry book in chemistry, and "For Whom the Bell Tolls" in English. Or a billboard that advertises a new sale every day. MORE >>
Paper has always been the ideal technology for displaying information: It's easy to read, easy to carry, easy to store and hard to break. And thin –- well, flat-panel monitors have nothing on paper. Now, realizing the lurid dreams science fiction writers have nurtured for decades, researchers are combining the best qualities of paper and the everyday computer monitor to produce electronic paper, and yesterday Xerox PARC and 3M announced an agreement to try to produce the stuff commercially. Can they make it happen?