SunScroll Electronic Book Reading Device

The SunScroll was an electronic book reading device designed in 1990 to replace traditional, paper-and-ink books.  The original SunScroll design—extremely cumbersome by modern standards—included a monochromatic liquid crystal display; floppy disk drive (books were to be stored on floppies); a large battery; and a large, detachable solar collector for charging the unit (thus, the “sun” in “SunScroll”).  Two buttons—“up” and “down”—provided navigation from one “page” of an electronic book to the next page (thus, the “scroll” in “SunScroll”).

Sunscroll Electronic Book Reading Device
Sunscroll Electronic Book Reading Device

This project gave rise to development of an entire line of wearable and handheld computing and communication devices which would eventually become Orang-Otang, the Wearable Computing Company.


In 1990, the vision of replacing one’s “regular” books with an electronic device did not go over well, at least not with those whose feedback I sought.  The one exception was Scott Pedersen, an engineer from Stanford—and one of the most amazingly talented people I’ve ever met—, who saw the potential in this idea and went on to co-found Orang-Otang, the Wearable Computing Company.  Despite the initial negative responses, the electronic book model has been emphatically vindicated through such products as the Amazon Kindle, which has become one of the fastest-selling consumer electronics products of all time.

In 1999, the SunScroll concept was revised to include cellular phone capability so that electronic books could be bought and downloaded from almost anywhere.

In 2005, the SunScroll concept was revised again to provide a “spine monitor” that shows the title of a book in the SunScroll on the side of the device; a docking “bookshelf”; and other features.  Finally, this version (pictured above) is the one for which a long-overdue patent application was filed.