Regular Hackaday readers may recall the Inkplate family of devices: open source all-in-one development boards that combine the power and versatility of the ESP32 with electronic paper displays salvaged from commercial e-readers. By taking the sharp, high-speed, displays intended for readers such as Amazon’s Kindle and bundling it together with all the hardware and software you need to make it work, the Inkplate provided a turn-key platform for anyone looking to get serious with e-paper.
Given the fact that their screens were pulled from recycled readers, it’s no surprise the previous Inkplate entries came in familiar 6 and 10 inch variants. There was even an upgraded 6 inch model that benefited from newer reader technology by adopting a touch-sensitive backlit panel, which we took a close look at last year. Their large displays make them excellent for wall mounted applications, such as a household notification center or constantly-changing art display. Plus, as you might expect, the Inkplate is an ideal choice for anyone looking to roll their own custom e-reader.
But of course, not every application needs so much screen real estate. In fact, for some tasks, such a large display could be considered a liability. Seeing a void in their existing product lineup, the folks at Soldered Electronics (previously e-radionica) have recently unveiled the diminutive Inkplate 2. This new miniature Inkplate uses the same software library as its larger predecessors, but thanks to its 2.13 inch three-color display, lends itself to a wider array of potential projects. Plus it’s considerably cheaper than the larger Inkplate models, at just $35 USD.
Considering the crowd sourced funding campaign for the Inkplate 2 blew past its goal in just 72 hours, it seems clear there’s plenty of interest in this new smaller model. But if you’re still not sure if it’s the e-paper solution you’ve been waiting for, maybe we can help — the folks at Soldered sent along a pre-production version of the Inkplate 2 for us to play around with, so let’s take it for a test drive and see what all the fuss is about.
Continue reading “Review: Inkplate 2 Shrinks Down, Adds Color”
In the early days of e-readers, most devices had physical buttons to turn pages and otherwise navigate the device. [bwkrayb] longed for these halcyon days before touchscreen e-readers and improved on the concept by adding mechanical keyswitches.
By using an Adafruit NeoKey 1×4 as the keyboard interface, the e-reader has four hot-swappable keyboard sockets with built-in LEDs. [bwkrayb] is hoping to use these LEDs to implement a front lighting system in a future revision of the hardware.
The 3.7″ screen displays pages after running an EPUB through ebooklib and Beautiful Soup to generate files that can be used by the Waveshare drivers. Refresh time is reportedly slow, although [bwkrayb] suspects this might be due more to the limited power of the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 more than the display itself.
If you want to see some other open e-reader projects we’ve covered, check out the EPub-Inkplate or the Open Book Project.
Regular readers will likely remember the Inkplate, an open hardware electronic paper development board that combines an ESP32 with a recycled Kindle screen. With meticulous documentation and full-featured support libraries for both the Arduino IDE and MicroPython, the Inkplate makes it exceptionally easy for hackers and makers to write their own code for the high-quality epaper display.
Now, thanks to the efforts of [Guy Turcotte], the Inkplate family of devices can now boast a feature-rich and fully open source ereader firmware. The project started in October of last year, and since then, the codebase has been steadily updated and refined. Nearing its 1.3 release, EPub-InkPlate has most of the functions you’d expect from a modern ereader, and several that might take you by surprise.
For one thing, [Guy] has taken full advantage of the ESP32 microcontroller at the heart of the Inkplate and implemented a web server that lets you manage the reader’s library from your browser. This allows books in EPUB v2 and v3 formats to be uploaded and saved on the Inkplate’s SD card without any special software. There’s currently support for JPG, PNG, BMP, and GIF images, as well as embedded TTF and OTF fonts.
As of this writing EPub-InkPlate supports both the six and ten inch Inkplate variants, and uses the touch pads on the side of the screen for navigation. While it’s on the wishlist for the final 1.3 release, the project currently doesn’t support the Inkplate 6PLUS; which uses the backlit and touch compatible displays pulled from Kindle Paperwhites. With shipments the new 6PLUS model reportedly going out in November, hopefully it won’t be long before its enhanced features are supported.
With the rising popularity of ebooks, it’s more important than ever that we have open hardware and software readers that work on our terms. While they may never compete with the Kindle in terms of units sold, we’re eager to see projects like EPub-InkPlate and the Open Book from [Joey Castillo] mature to the point that they’re a valid option for mainstream users who don’t want to live under Amazon’s thumb.
Continue reading “Inkplate Comes Full Circle, Becomes True Open Reader”
Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of hackers repurpose their Kindle or similar e-reader to reap the benefits of its electronic paper display. Usually this takes the form of some software running on the reader itself, since cracking the firmware is a lot easier than pulling out the panel and figuring out how to operate it independently. But what if somebody had already done that hard work for you?
Enter the Inkplate. By pairing a recycled Kindle display with an ESP32, Croatian electronics company e-radionica says they’ve not only created an open hardware e-paper display that’s easy for hackers and makers to use, but keeps electronic waste out of the landfill. Last year the $99 USD 6 inch version of the Inkplate ended its CrowdSupply campaign at over 920% of its original goal. The new 9.7 inch model is priced at $129, and so far managed to blow past its own funding goal just hours after the campaign went live. Clearly, the demand is there.
The new model’s e-paper display isn’t just larger, it also features a higher 1200 x 825 resolution and reduced refresh time. Outside of the screen improvements, you’ll also find more GPIO pins, an RTC module to keep more accurate time, and a USB Type-C port for both programming and power. You also get a choice of languages to use, with both Arduino and MicroPython libraries available for interfacing with the display. Interestingly, the Inkplate also features a so-called “Peripheral Mode” that allows you to draw graphics primitives on the screen using commands sent over UART.
While we’ve recently seen some very promising efforts to repurpose old e-paper displays, the turn-key solution offered by the Inkplate is admittedly very compelling. If you’re looking for an easy way to jump on the electronic paper bandwagon that works out of the box, this might be your chance.
[Thanks to Krunoslav for the tip.]