The Market / To Nature

Review of Improv Electronics' Boogie Board

Question: What is a social problem you relate with, and how can your CSR lifestyle address such?

For me, one of those is the excessive usage – and wastage – of paper. Now, we all know paper revolutionized the world since being invented in China millennia ago, but we seem to have a tendency to go extravagant on our inventions/discoveries such until the climate (in all senses of the term) dictates the need for otherwise (look how the Boeing 747 revolutionized air travel, but is such a gas guzzler Boeing is having difficulty selling the latest 747-8, airlines being much more in favor of more fuel-efficient, similarly-capacitive aircraft such as the Boeing 777-300ER).

About 25-40% of annual wood harvest (according to this and this) goes to paper production and similar. The former article also says that we lose 8 million hectares of forest a year (13 million, in actuality, but 5 million are grown back thanks to¬†afforestation). This means that approximately¬†3 to 5 million hectares of forest go to paper production alone.¬†Furthermore, much of our paper eventually ends up as trash. In 2012, the United states ended up with 71.6 million tons of paper thrown away, accounting for about 40% of its trash output (the single biggest item on the graph). We also know that deforestation is responsible for more catastrophic effects of natural disasters, such as increased flooding in lowland areas once there are no more trees uphill to absorb all the rainwater. So there’s got to be something we can do about it.

One company has taken this initiative and turned it into a sustainable, socially responsible, and innovative product that when I first laid my eyes on I simply had to get one as soon as I could. I briefly showed this thing in a previous cooking post: the Boogie Board. No, it’s not a surfboard: it’s an eWriter.


I first laid my eyes on it when my¬†dihia came home from Hong Kong having bought the Jot 4.5 model, a pocket-sized version and their smallest offering to date. When he and my¬†ahia, who alongside my cousins regularly have¬†balikbayan boxes shipped here from the US, asked me if I wanted one, I immediately replied yes, upon which my¬†ahia¬†said I should get the 8.5 inches version, as a larger screen suited me. Unfortunately, due to miscommunications, my¬†dihia never placed “my order” with the¬†balikbayan box that my aunt from San Francisco brought home two weeks later when she and my¬†diyi¬†(šļĆŚß®) visited last June, so included it on the next box out – which arrived just yesterday. So he gave me his own Jot 8.5 from that box, since he had a Jot 4.5 anyway, and I’ve continued to use it since, especially for BCYF work, groceries, or taking down orders for delivery. Amazing, eh?

As I previously wrote, the Boogie Board is a dream come true for someone who likes writing by hand but is also an environmentalist – such as myself. This holds true especially for scratch paper use, typically used only once then thrown away within the day. (Hence, my very strict usage with myself to never use scratch paper, even if it means making things more difficult for myself by typing wordy things on my phone.) But I also use it as a virtual, temporary notebook for my less important things to note down that don’t need documenting right away, whether on Microsoft Word or my “commonplace book” for BCYF and CSR Bookshelf.

This is why: it’s an eWriter that comes with a built-in and very cost-effective erase button and what’s called a Reflex LCD. This is¬†the proposition of Kent Displays, a joint venture between Kent State University in Ohio and Manning Ventures that researches, develops,¬†and manufactures the aforementioned. Made on flexible plastic substrates that reflect ambient light to produce images, Reflex LCDs allow for powerless image retention – the technology that drives the Boogie Board. In fact, the battery¬†provided is only to erase the board’s image, and the power consumption is so small that the battery still worked¬†after 50,000 erases in tests on the Jot 8.5 (which uses a 3V watch battery). The Boogie Board is produced by Improv Electronics, Kent Displays’ consumer arm.

It¬†comes in different models, six of which are on the market today: the Original 8.5 and 10.5 (currently the largest model yet, and unintentionally the model that arrived in my¬†dihia‘s box), the supposedly more ergonomic Jot 4.5 and 8.5, and two very interesting models: the Rip 9.5 (not on the official site, although¬†support for such is there) and Sync 9.7. After analysis of the offerings on the site, I concluded that the only differences the Jot provides are that the 4.5 has a built-in cover (the only model with such), and that both models have a provision to use the accompanying stylus (all models have one) as a stand, as shown below.


Another amusing thing about the Jot 8.5 is that it has a built-in magnet at the back, which allows you to put it on your refrigerator door, among others. On the original, this is adhesive-backed. Only these two models come with such a feature.

What I¬†did find annoying was that erasing only part of the image is impossible. The erase button erases the entire screen, sparing nothing. The good thing is that all but the Jot 4.5 model come with an “erase lock”, which if in the lock position will render the erase button useless, meaning you don’t have to worry about accidentally deleting something important.

Furthermore, the technology of the screen is a double-edged sword. The stylus is actually redundant, because you can use almost anything hard to write on the screen – including your fingernail. The only danger is in using something that’s harder than the screen, which would result in scratches – anything with a lesser hardness, such as the stylus, is perfectly fine. Practically, this is a little bit of a nuisance, especially when you accidentally scratch the screen and what look like chicken scratches appear on it – but this can be avoided by writing with the proper posture, as if you were in school.

I previously said that the Sync and Rip models are very interesting. Their names say it all: Sync and RIP (Record Image. Preserve). Unlike other Boogie Boards, these models allow you to¬†save what you’ve been writing, and run on rechargeable batteries instead of replaceable ones – I really want this, too, for different purposes from my Jot 8.5.¬†They thus act as digital writing notebooks, which then reduces the need for paper notebooks.


Boogie Board Rip 9.5.


Boogie Board Sync 9.7.

Both models save the images as high-res vector PDF files, though the file sizes are typically less than 100 KB, and as black lines on a white background (like pen and paper). While Rip comes with a microUSB cable that lets you organize and transfer images to your computer, Sync does this wirelessly through Bluetooth, and is compatible with iOS/Mac, Android, Windows, and Evernote. As with smartphones, an Airplane Mode is provided to prevent unwanted interference, such as on board aircraft.

I’ve gotten myself used to writing on my Boogie Board, and I haven’t touched my BCYF commonplace book in a while – though strictly speaking, I¬†should fill it up too¬†– so as not to waste the unused leaves, as well as¬†for documentation¬†–¬†then stop using a paper notebook.¬†Using a Boogie Board is a creative innovation in lifestyle precisely because of how it’s used – it could be used at home as a grocery list, in the office to write notes on when taking calls, or as a daily tasks-to-do list on your desk. The Sync and Rip models can take the place of school or work notebooks, for taking down notes in class, writing down your organizer, or creating drafts of, say, concept papers.

Learning and getting used to use it anywhere applicable will help a lot in saving lots of paper even for just one board. These calculations by Improv Electronics estimate that one Original 8.5 Boogie Board can save 50 reams of US Letter-sized paper already. Furthermore, if a K-12 student used this everyday, and used 20 erases a day, assuming one Board has 50,000 erasures, the Board will last more than 13 years. Now, multiply the¬†average number of notepads used by a student each year by the number of students per year, then by 13, then by the number of sheets per pad, and that’s a very big figure of how many sheets of paper can be saved each year. And that’s just for preparatory school students.

It also results in cost benefits whose economies of scale will only show even more beautifully in larger organizations. Assuming that one Board has 50,000 erasures and thus 50,000 “sheets”, the SRP of USD 40.00 means that each “sheet” costs just USD 0.0008.

It really is beautiful, isn’t it?

Now¬†that’s CSR that you can start living out on your personal level. Give it a try.

To find a Boogie Board retailer, click here.

One thought on “Review of Improv Electronics' Boogie Board

  1. Pingback: Saying goodbye to paper | CSR Life

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