A flashy first for Esquire magazine

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“The 21st Century Begins Now,” proclaims the October issue of Esquire. To make its point, the magazine will come with a battery-powered digital cover that flashes the tag line.

This animated brush with science fiction uses admittedly simple technology, but packages it in a way that no publisher has yet pulled off. The cover comes embedded with an E Ink display, the same setup used by the Amazon Kindle book reader. But rather than settle for the Kindle’s boxy frame, Esquire commissioned itty-bitty batteries that will tuck into its paper-thin front page.

The men’s fashion magazine has tinkered with this idea since 2000, and editor David Granger told The New York Times it’s finally gotten it right.

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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.

Ford Motor has sponsored the expensive endeavor, paying for an ad on the issue’s E Ink inside cover.

But this flashy revision of a 150-year-old magazine industry is still only a first draft. The special batteries will drain after 90 days, and this initial 100,000-copy run will only hit magazine racks. Subscribers are out of luck.

Still, Mr. Granger says the issue, due out in September, is both a push for new subscribers and chance to inspire innovation in other magazines.

“I have been frustrated with the lack of forward movement in the magazine industry,” he says. “The possibilities of print have just begun. In two years, I hope this looks like cellphones did in 1982, or car phones.”

I'm excited to see the cover in action, but we'll see if his prediction is right, or if after two years, E Ink becomes the new hologram cover – cool and flashy, then simply tacky.

[Via NYTimes]

[Editor's Note: As a commenter pointed out, this special edition will hit newsstands in September, but is technically the October issue.]

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