Another startup takes on the strange world of the digital paper tablet

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The death of the devoted e-reader has been foretold time and time again. But while there’s been an unquestionable thinning of the herd, the devoted few still continue to move devices. That’s due in no small part to the benefits offered by E Ink. When it comes to battery life and daylight reading, full color can’t compete, so Amazon keeps selling a lot of Kindles – and even manages to refresh the space every so often.

For years the technology has been floated as way to solve the tactile issues that come with drawing on a tablet, and certainly it can better mimic the feel of pencil on paper than a glossy display. Several companies have offered up E Ink drawing/writing tablets. Sony has one. You can buy it right now for a cool $800.

But anyone who’s spent any time with a Kindle or a Kobo knows the limitations of the tech. It’s really slow. Sure it’s improved markedly over the past decade, but if you’ve ever tried to resize a PDF on one of those devices, it’s pretty easy to see how writing and drawing would be less than ideal.

The unsubtly named reMarkable is the latest product to give it a go, launching with what the company calls a “no latency” digital paper. Certainly sounds good. And it looks pretty decent in the video. “No latency” seems like an overstatement. From the looks of it, it’s not quite as instant as drawing on, say, an iPad, but it does quick – particularly when compared with past devices using older tech. How it actually plays out in real world use is another question entirely. There also still appears to be the full-page refresh that you get on devices like a Kindle.

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And while it’s priced well below Sony’s offering, the cost is probably destined to further the device’s fate as a niche product. The 10.3-inch slate starts at a pre-order price of $379 for a bundle. It will jump significantly at full retail to $529 – a price that doesn’t include the pen or cover ($79 a piece).

The product is set to start shipping next summer. Good on the company for taking on a space where others have tried and failed. If the startup can actually make a dent, that would be remarkable indeed.