E-squire? Magazine woos readers with electronic ink

United States magazine Esquire has sought to brush aside the gloom pervading the print industry by unveiling a genuine first: a cover partly of electronic ink.

Using the technology that Amazon employed for its Kindle e-book reader, the magazine includes a panel flashing the message ”The 21st Century Begins Now” on the cover of its October issue, which marks the magazine’s 75th birthday.

The slogan and images blink on and off, thanks to a panel containing micro-capsules of ink controlled by an electric charge from a battery developed in China.

The innovation has excited a magazine world fighting declining circulation and falling advertising revenues as readers migrate to the internet. David Granger, the editor-in-chief of the men’s magazine, said advertisers had packed out the issue. ”This is an indication of what will become more prevalent,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Not everyone is happy. Tech magazine Wired said on its website: ”What is presented as the future of digital/print convergence is little more than ink mashed with some under-utilised circuitry.”

The magazine is selling only 100 000 copies of its 725 000 print run with the electronic cover and asking readers to pay a $2 premium price of $5.99. Subscribers will not be sent the electronic panel.

Each e-ink panel is said to cost $8 and the exercise would have been impossible without a sponsor. Enter Ford, which is plugging its new Ford Flex Crossover car in a two-page spread, with another e-ink panel showing the car driving at night.

While there is the whiff of a stunt to the Esquire birthday cover it could be a forerunner of things to come. Granger believes that magazines will one day include e-ink displays linked to a radio frequency that updates stories after the magazine has passed into the hands of its readers. – guardian.co.uk

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John Pilger
John Pilger is an award-winning journalist, filmmaker, and author.

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