Kindle users are complaining that airport x-ray machines zap their electronic ink displays
Some users of Amazon’s Kindle eBook reader have complained that their device has been ruined by baggage checking equipment at airports.
Users suspect that the radiation emitted from airport scanners has permanently affected the Kindle’s electronic ink display, although other culprits might include a static electricity charge.
Zapping electronic ink
Electronic ink displays use thousands of pixels which display white when positively charged and black when negatively charged to display text. These are controlled by a small voltage and stay in place until the next time a voltage is applied.
This not only allows the Kindle to boast a far superior battery life compared with tablets such as Apple’s iPad, but according to Amazon, also results in a better reading experience as the screen can be read outside in direct sunlight and does not interfere with sleeping patterns if read in bed.
X-rays in the airport scanners are an obvious suspect, but a leading expert on electronic ink thinks there may be another culprit.
“I don’t think the radiation used in an airport scanner would ever be strong enough to damage an electronic ink display,” said Professor Daping Chu, chairman of the University of Cambridge centre for Advanced Photonics . “But you can get a build up of static inside these [airport scanner] machines, caused by the rubber belt rubbing. If that charge were to pass through a Kindle, it’s conceivable that it could damage the screen.”
Amazon has also refuted the claims, saying that many Kindle users have travelled through airports without suffering any problems.
Kindle – Christmas bestseller?
Any suggestion that security checks at airports are affecting Kindles will alarm many users of the popular eBook reader.
The Wi-Fi and 3G versions of the Kindle were Amazon’s best-selling item worldwide last Christmas and downloadable e-books are selling well. In January, the company revealed that it now sold more eBooks than paperbacks, with sales already passing those of hardbacks.
The success of the Kindle has caused Amazon to announce a new, cheaper, ad-supported Kindle in an effort to extend the product’s reach even further and has encouraged it to launch its competitively priced Android tablet, the Kindle Fire.
The Kindle Fire is seen as a potential challenger to the iPad with reports suggesting that Amazon could sell as many as four million units this Christmas, a number which would justify its rumoured expansion into the smartphone market.