laatste update: 04-2021
I took a 32″ eInk display and turned it into a digital newspaper that updates every day. It’s silent, wireless and can run for months without being plugged in.
If you buy the Place & Play Display, please use my affiliate link:
I’ve published the code for this project here:
The display can show art. Images. Calendar information or anything else from the web… but most of the time I have it rotating through the front page of newspapers from around the country.
Newspapers for me and many others have largely become intangible. We get our news from mobile devices and webpages.
I wanted to be reminded of both the diversity of news and the journalism
that goes on around the clock.
The eInk technology is most commonly found in digital book products like the Kindle. The same technology is powering this display. This particular unit is the Visionect 32″ place and play display.
The unit is pricy. It retails for $2,500. It’s expensive but well
engineered. It has a brushed aluminum casing and a glass pane to prevent
scratching and hazing. The price is driven largely by the low number of devices produced and the initial applications of these as signage in airports, hotel, museums and other installations.
The unit is initially setup and added to the WiFi and charged via a USB cable but once the initial setup is complete, it can be hung-up.
While the core setup is simple, the unit is not really designed or setup for
consumers to own. Unless you’re technical I wouldn’t recommend running
out and buying one.
The software needed to run the unit is broken up into two parts. The first part is the server component that connects to the display and can push images and content. This is setup via a docker container and I was able to get it running on my home Synology NAS backup server.
The second part is the part that I wrote to fetch newspaper files from
online sources like freedomforum.org, a non-profit, that works on the first
amendment freedom of the press issues.
The newspaper portion runs as a simple web-application fetching large format PDF files and resizing them to fit the large format display.
The result is a display that is both engaging and passive. There’s no
buttons, no UI, nothing to touch or fiddle with… The newspapers cycle
every 10 minutes. In the morning there’s always a fresh front-page to skim.
The beauty of eInk is that it’s 99% more efficient than traditional displays like LCD. This means that the display can run for months and when it needs charging I can simply top-it-up.
Why did I build this? I saw something similar online a few years ago and I
couldn’t find it for sale so I decided to built it myself.
I worked on a newspaper when I was in
college and my editor in chief Mike Bossi would always tell people to read multiple newspapers. He said that the truth is never in one paper or one story. Every writer has bias by getting multiple perspectives gives you a better picture of the truth.
This digital display is a little reminder of that.
While most websites are powered by content management systems and templates. Traditional newspapers are sill designed by hand. I worked as a layout editor and there’s a lot of beauty and design in a newspaper. The
columns are easy to read, the headlines are easy to glance and the photos
compliment the story.