Regarding price, the majority of the product costs come from three things, the screen, the mechanical keyboard and the ‘computer’ required to run the screen. The rest of it is small stuff that all adds up. Yes, we make money on the Freewrite but no the margins that are required to sell in retail, which is why we sell direct. Then there is the whole cost of development that needs to be amortized and I can tell you that we are still far from recouping our entire investment in the development. And we ran a very lean approach.
By using E Ink, we were basically forced into a microscopic ecosystem of components that are able to drive it. Hence the cost. The chip we use is the same that is used in the Kindle Paperwhite which is more expensive than the entire compute module at cost. And we aren’t buying at Amazon quantities either. It’s a tough one. Should we have dropped E Ink which would have given us a lot more options? Maybe but I really do love E Ink for this application!
Instead of pulling the Freewrite in a completely new direction, I would very much like to create a new product that responds to what you all want. Whether it is a Bluetooth mechanical keyboard with some additional writing features or a new dedicated writing tool, it’s still unclear what would have the most interest. Either of those things could be done. We have actually been working on some stuff internally around both of those areas but they are very much works in progress.
So not only is eink itself expensive but apparently, the components to allow driving of eink displays seem to be expensive (as of the design phase of the freewrite.) I’m not a fan of the freewrite’s design aesthetics but they are openly communicating so I’m trying to find ways to help as best I can, which lead me to posting on the pi subreddit asking if the pi zero or compute module could serve as the platform for a successor device. It’s a niche that is very not mainstream, but deserves to be filled.