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LG's solar-powered e-book may leave Washington and Alaska readers in the dark

October 13, 2009 |  9:49 pm
Lg-solar
It's always sunny is Seoul. Credit: LG.

Pleasing vacation readers everywhere, South Korea's LG Display Co. on Tuesday announced a new e-book reader that comes complete with a 10" solar cell, so that you never again need run out of batteries while reading on the beach in Hawaii. 

Unless, that is, you're in Hilo. That's the gorgeous coastal town on the Big Island that, counterintuitively, is one of the cloudiest cities in the United States. It joins Juneau, Alaska, and Quillayute, Wash., on NOAA's short list of places where the sun shines as little as 30% of the year. 

When you consider cities like Yuma, Ariz., (90% sunlight), Redding, Calif., (88%) and even Los Angeles (73%), it's only fair to wonder if linking the availability of sunlight to literacy might be unfair to those relegated to less sunny climes.   

A cool four to five hours of direct sunlight would improve the device's run-time by about a day, meaning you could go a whole week without plugging it in if all you did on your tropical vacation was sit outside and read.

Sadly, the solar e-book won't be available until at least 2012.  That's because LG considers the 9.6% solar energy conversion rate inadequate and is holding out for something higher, like 14%.

As seen in the photo above, the cell is actually a completely separate panel from the screen -- a configuration that leaves the reader to stare at a rather unexciting black square at all times. But the point here is the potential:  E-books consume so little energy in the first place that a well-placed, efficient solar cell could make a reading device completely self-powered. 

You're on notice, print books:  Soon the only people that will read you will live in Alaska, Hawaii and outside of Seattle.

-- David Sarno

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