To commemorate Esquire’s 75th anniversary issue in October, the publication will feature a flexible electronic “paper” cover that allows words and images to scroll across it—a first for magazines, according to parent company Hearst. Editor-in-chief David Granger thinks the issue marks the future of magazines.
“For the last few years it’s seemed absurd to me that magazines today look pretty much like magazines did when Esquire was launched in 1933,” Granger says. “We have an amazing medium, print, and if we can enhance the experience of it by putting new technology to use, then all the better.”
Esquire tapped E Ink, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based electronic paper display technologies firm that developed the electronic paper display [EPD] technology for Amazon’s Kindle and the Sony Reader. The result is “a very literal representation” of the theme of the October issue: ‘The 21st Century Begins Now.’” Those words will flash across the cover of 100,000 copies when it hits newsstands in September.
The electronic cover is made up of microcapsules that are thinner than a human hair and are very small in diameter, according to E Ink vice president of marketing Sriram Peruvemba. The microcapsules contain black and white pigments. When a charge is added, depending on the polarity, the pigment particles rise to the top creating the image, he says.
The device is bound in a flexible plastic to make the cover seem as much like paper as possible. It’s powered by batteries small enough to fit inside the cover of a magazine. The batteries’ life expectancy is 90 days.
Creating the industry’s first magazine with an EPD cover doesn’t come cheap. While Hearst declined to reveal the final price tag, the publisher helped offset the cost by selling the inside cover ad to Ford, which also will utilize the EPD technology. Hearst also upped the cover price for the special issue—to $5.99 from the regular $3.99.
Granger wants to collaborate again with E Ink on another iteration for the first half of 2009. “I think it [the October issue] is a hint at how print will be able to co-opt some of the technical potential of digital and use it for our own ends,” he says. “We’ve got amazing content; they’ve got versatility and immediacy.”
STRENGTHS: The willingness (and resources) to try almost anything.
WEAKNESSES: Right now, the technology is expensive. The challenge will be to refine it and find expanded applications.
OPPORTUNITIES: To “revolutionize” the print industry by creating a physical magazine product without using paper.
THREATS: The possibility that e-paper will not be a realistic alternative.
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