Canon has developed a prototype paper-thin digital-display – and expects the technology to reach market by the end of next year.

Canon plans for its A4-sized "electric paper" solution to become a major component of future electronic books and newspapers, the contents of which can be downloaded, page by page, to the Canon display.

The display uses toner compressed between two sheets of plastic film, making it less brittle than current glass-LCD displays.

It works by using electrostatic absorption and repulsion to form images and text. These remain on the display even when switched off – meaning power is required only when content is being drawn.

The company says the prototype is in the early stages of development and is likely to be low resolution and monochrome. However, Canon engineers are working on 200dpi colour versions that the company hopes will ship by 2007.

Flexible display technology is being pursued by several companies. Recently, Pioneer unveiled a prototype organic electroluminescence (EL) display based on a film substrate, giving it flexibility.