Next-gen Kindle suffering screen-light setbacks tip insiders

Amazon's next-gen Kindle faces manufacturing delays because of its new e-paper illumination system, insiders in the production process are whispering, potentially pushing availability back into September. At fault is the front light system Amazon is reportedly implementing to improve low-light ebook readability, DigiTimes' sources claim, as the company takes on Barnes & Noble's NOOK Simple Touch with GlowLight.

Previously, Amazon had been expected to bring the new Kindle to market at the beginning of Q3 2012, pegging retail availability as early as this month. However, supply chain sources say the retailer has frozen shipments of select Kindle components, indicating a shut-down as the fault is worked through, with that process potentially taking July and August to complete.

Ereaders like the Kindle and NOOK using e-paper displays from manufacturers like E Ink differ from traditional LCD screens in that they lack a backlight. Instead, they reflect ambient light back out through the display, meaning they are easier on the eyes and can be use even in direct sunlight – in fact, the screen only gets clearer the stronger the light directed upon it.

However, that also means that in low-light situations, the e-paper displays can be tricky to use, especially given such panels generally have worse contrast levels than LCD or OLED. One solution is front-lighting, where an LED light source on top of the e-paper screen creates artificial ambient lighting.

Amazon is yet to confirm the new Kindle, though the company is also believed to be working on a smartphone and a larger Kindle Fire tablet as it challenges Google's Nexus 7 among other devices.