Saturday, September 13, 2008

Esquire Introduces E-Ink

As I type away on my computer, my copy of Esquire's 75th anniversary issue is moving and blinking at me. It is, for some reason, unnerving.

In just the past few days, this magazine has made a momentous mark on history and the world of publishing as we once knew it with the introduction of e-ink. A plastic panel on the front cover reads: "The 21st Century Begins Now." The words alternate between gray and white and take turns flashing in cycles of differentiating patterns. Inside the front cover is another plastic panel that portrays a printed picture of the new Ford Flex crossover that flashes, exuding the illusion of movement.

Without Ford's participation in the medium for their advertising, the price of this issue of Esquire would have made it un-publishable. As it is, the cost is already $2 more than usual—a whopping $5.99. But that's cheap. The technology itself costs $8 per issue.

Ford isn't the only company to take advantage of this landmark event; the magazine is jam-packed with big-name advertisers who are hoping to get more exposure. Due to their monetary contributions, the world's introduction to e-ink is made possible. However, due to the costs, Esquire printed only 100,000 copies that incorporate the electronic paper display (EPD) technology (of their almost 800,000 print run). Furthermore, the issue is being sold only at Borders, Barnes & Noble, and select stores.

As an experiment, I put my copy through a series of tests. My hypothesis was that the e-ink technology, which is attached to a battery-and-chip set stuck between sheets of thick paper that make up the front cover, could not withstand the normal, everyday abuse that a regular magazine would be subjected to.

First, I dropped it a few times on the way home from Borders. I smacked my hand down on its plastic screens and its chip set. Then, when the screens kept up their annoying flashing, I proceeded to drop, step on, spill coffee over, bend, and take apart the inner workings of the EPDs. Even when I drew on the flashing picture of the small car as I supposed a small child might do, pressing harder than necessary, nothing happened. The screen kept flashing. The ink from my pen wiped off easily. Only when I took it out from the safety of the pasted pages of the cover and bent it right in two did it show signs of my abuse. Even then, it kept right on flashing.

So the product is durable. But what does it mean in the world of publishing? E ink Corporation, the manufacturer and distributor of EPDs and related products, is coming out with a similar product that is thinner than a pad of paper that can display all sorts of downloadable documents, alike to the Kindle but more useful for business than pleasure. It is larger but much more convenient to use than a bulky computer for displaying PDFs or memos in Word.

The opportunities for this new electronic medium are endless. E-ink is bound to change the landscape of publishing and advertising forever, hence Esquire's futuristic slogan and design. The possibilities are both exciting and scary to consumers; Esquire is only the beginning.

1 comment:

  1. I saw your post and scampered off to Borders (cringe) to check it out. I can't say I am particularly impressed with the effort, but it has to start somewhere.

    I am of the opinion however that it will benefit Publishing more if Magazines, Business, Zines, Lit. Rags use a reader similar to Plastic Logic's Reader.

    They should not keep producing and wasting new e-ink pages, but a subscription service providing content to reader's like Plastic Logic's. The kindle format is too restrictive too proprietary. What we need is a Generic (High-Quality) reader with a Standardized File Format for Publishers to produce items on their own for the readers.

    The new Plastic Logic Reader allows for lots of file formats. And with a PDF format any shmo could make a Zine, which is what I like. Small Independent Publishers could be really successful with such a system in place.