Esquire – e-Ink Stained Wretch

Esquire magazine cover

Esquire magazine cover

The commercialization of any new technology requires a champion.  Electronic ink has its champion In the book world; Amazon with the Kindle.  In the magazine world, it is Esquire magazine. 

Esquire has announced a deal with E-Ink to provide an electronic cover, complete with moving images and text for the cover of it s 75th anniversary issue this October.  The planned run is 100,000 of a total 720,000 copies. This will be the first instance of a magazine using the technology.  E-ink supplies screens for the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader.  Ford will feature a flashy electronic advertisement of its new Flex Crossover vehicle in a double page spread.  The tiny battery that powers the cover will run approximately 90 days and and was underwritten in part by Ford’s participation. 

The technology of electronic ink has been around for awhile, but is now beginning to find its way into publishing and other commercial applications.  Good discussions of how this technology works can be found at HowStuffWorks and Folio

According to Wired, Esquire had the idea 8 years ago, but the technology was not mature enough to work in a magazine.  As it is, Esquire had to make a six figure investment to design a battery small enough to be incorporated into a magazine.  The batteries and covers are sourced in China and ultimately assembled in Mexico – no doubt to keep the costs down.

Not everyone is enamored with the idea.  For example, in a post entitled “On Esquire’s Stupid E-Ink Coverthe,” the folks at Gizmodo characterized the whole thing as a misguided idea: 

Maybe you should like, invest in putting premium content on your website, or in E-books sold on Amazon instead of spending six figures to design a battery small enough to fit into an magazine cover that will only last 90 days, without any major refreshing of content. They might as well have used one of those hologram stickers found in 25-cent vending machines in the 80’s.

This is really slick in some ways—as far as attention goes—but the bigger thing it shows is the terrible lack of understanding that most magazine editors have in dealing with the digital future of their publications. I mean, for Christ’s sake, their website has categorized their first two links as “women” and THEN features. This is Esquire!

electronic newspaper

electronic newspaper

 E-Ink has speculated about the potential for the technology to become more widely used by magazine and newspapers beginning in 2009.  These rosy predictions could change based on what happens with Esquire’s experiment.  While Esquire gets the bragging rights for making history, ultimately the technology has to become cost effective and enhance the consumer’s experience in order to stick.  The pioneering steps being taken by Esquire will, at the very least, help educate the publishing industry. 

 We wish them good luck.

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