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Non-European countries: Joseph M. Jacobson, Barrett Comiskey

Joseph M. Jacobson

Electronic ink: The industry standard for digital books



Joseph M. Jacobson, Barrett Comiskey


With their light weight and minimal power consumption, electronic ink displays allow consumers to carry thousands of e-books to be enjoyed anytime, anywhere.

Patent number



Research institution

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)


Audio-visual technology

The invention in a nutshell

Before the invention of electronic ink displays, electronic readers were bulky, and their backlit screens consumed a lot of power. With their e-ink displays, American inventors Joseph M. Jacobson and Barrett Comiskey created a lightweight alternative that has become the industry standard for electronic reader devices.

E-ink technology works via small particles that change colour when exposed to electronic charges. As a result, these displays only consume power when readers "flip" the page, while using ambient light in the environment instead of power-draining backlighting. With weeks of continued battery life - not to mention the capacity for storing thousands of books at a time - portable electronic readers are transforming the publishing industry while speeding up the spread of knowledge around the world.   

Societal benefit

As the industry standard in millions of electronic readers around the world, electronic ink gives readers access to an unprecedented amount of knowledge. Students can download and carry thousands of books - many available free of charge as public domain titles - while the low power consumption of e-readers and drastically reduced reliance on paper in the publishing industry are great benefits to the environment

Economic benefit

The digital publishing revolution has been written in electronic ink. Consumers around the globe purchased 14.7 million e-readers in 2011, while today's market for digital books is estimated at 3 billion units per year, and counting. Meanwhile, the digital distribution of books reduces the environmental footprint of the publishing industry and has created a much lower average price for electronic books than for printed versions.