Esquire Magazine Takes a Stab at the Future of Publishing

July 23, 2008 by Thad McIlroy

A glowing article in last Monday’s New York Times alerted readers that Esquire magazine, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, has figured out a trick to gain admittance to the future of publishing party.

The cover of its September issue, or rather the cover of the newsstand version of the September issue, will be “printed” with E-ink technology. It’s not 100% clear exactly what kind of razzle-dazzle Esquire will be providing newsstand browsers as a result. It could be fun…we’ll soon enough see. Esquire went to some considerable pains to make this technology leap. The article provides the details, including “first Esquire had to make a six-figure investment to hire an engineer in China to develop a battery small enough to be inserted in the magazine cover. The batteries and the display case are manufactured and put together in China. They are shipped to Texas and on to Mexico, where the device is inserted by hand into each magazine. The issues will then be shipped via trucks, which will be refrigerated to preserve the batteries, to the magazine’s distributor in Glazer, Ky.” The article notes that unfortunately the battery will lose power in 90 days, although any unsold copies will no doubt be in the recycling machines by then. It may however be a disappointment to the folks who are hoping for an eBay bonanza as a collector’s item.

The blogosphere has been underwhelmed by the announcement. Brian Lam at Gizmodo comments “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.” Later in his piece he even uses the “f” word!

In the comments section of Paul Constant’s brief entry on SLOG, we’re treated to Fnarf’s snarky comment: “When you open it, will it play a tinkly electronic version of a popular Christmas carol, like those godawful greeting cards that came out 20+ years ago?” Jubilation T. Cornball chimes in with a quote from the article in the NYT and then adds a comment: “‘I fully expect that in 25 to 30 years, this cover will be in a museum,’” is noted in the original article.

Mr. Cornball adds: “I fully expect ALL magazines will be in a museum by then.”

Oh well. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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