Esquire e-ink cover a pathetic disappointment

Esquire's much-hyped e-ink cover has been spotted in the wild, and as the months and years unfurl ahead of us, merely quoting the lede of Joel's wildly idealistic July feature to him will be enough to solicit hot, briny tears... tears that will stream down his grizzled cheeks, sampled by the method of your choosing: either by collecting them in a goblet as they drip off his chin, or just by lustily licking them directly from his jowls.

In short, the reality of the Esquire e-ink cover is is a pitiful joke. When we wrote that "Esquire's 75th anniversary cover is the flashing, squawking future of magazines," we might as well have been applying the hyperbole to a flashing banner advertisement, circa 2001. The future of print journalism is the blink tag, apparently.

But you know? We'd have been okay with the blink tag, if it had been handled tastefully. It's not that we expected technological hoodoo, you understand. We're less depressed by the display of a rudimentary technology than outraged by the design's tackiness, the bereavement of imagination, the lack of class... all on display, front and center.

We didn't ask for much technologically, we just asked for a dash of class. Compare Rob's gorgeous, tasteful mock-up to the finished product. The blood boils. Asked to come up with the first e-ink paper cover, Esquire's designers responded to the challenge like a 14 year old publishing their first Geocities webpage... winking emoticon and all!

Pathetic, Esquire. This is why print journalism is dying: dragged kicking and screaming into the present, you mistake the future for ten years in the past.

Esquire October 2008 E-Ink Issue! [Dastardly Report]

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25 Responses to Esquire e-ink cover a pathetic disappointment

  1. mralistair says:

    I wonder if the buyer can hack it to make it better?

    maybe there will be a firmware update

  2. Rob Beschizza says:

    I simply can’t believe that they wasted e-ink on that empty-headed idea. “THE 21ST CENTURY BEGINS NOW :)” Really? Really?

  3. monstrinho_do_biscoito says:

    haha, what with the choice of title there, it does indeed look like it’s come from 10 years in the past.


    crappy little panel too, looks like LCD.

  4. Anonymous says:

    As someone who has worked in the P&P industry, the fact that this made it into the real world and works is a crazy accomplishment. You are dealing with some of the most conservative business folk in all of industry who would have been fighting this at every step.

    Guess I look at it much like the blink tag but with a different point of view, that it is a fantastic and huge step.

    The only thing funnier than Joels post looking back will be this one when e-paper has matured.

  5. rock711 says:

    The only thing worse than the cover is the ad inside for the Ford Flex.

    After a quarterly loss of 8.7 billion, shouldn’t they be spending their money on making a decent car instead of wasting it on an expensive parlor trick?

  6. Daniel Rutter says:

    National Geographic had a cooler cover twenty-four years ago.

  7. Vardaman says:

    That’s a shame. I was looking forward to something at least moderately cool. They could have at least had some text or something move, that doesn’t seem like too much to ask for.

  8. Reverend Loki says:

    In all my life, I have only ever seen one appropriate use of the blink tag, and that is in the sentence:

    Schrodinger’s cat is not alive.

    With the blink tags around the word “not”.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Good heavens, what’s wrong with you people? Seriously, you expected something more? Yes, now it’s just a few flashing words and graphics, but it’s the first step toward the future of print journalism. Quitcher whining.

  10. OM says:

    …Hey John, seriously…what *were* you expecting? Full-blown Flash-style animation? Some chick exposing her tits one boob at a time randomly? Touch-screen interaction? For a first-shot effort, it’s not as pathetic as one might claim.

    Or, look at it another way: at least it wasn’t blinking at a rate that would have left a pile of epiliptics in front of the magazine aisles…

  11. gonzilla says:

    Wonder if anybody can answer this question. I saw Matt Lauer interviewing the the editor about the issue. Nothing important was said. But Matt asked him how much did it cost for them to do this cover. The guy wouldn’t answer. Even after Matt asked him 3 times. The editor just said that Ford helped out on the cost. So, how much would the cost of using a blink on the cover? The editor did mention that there are at least 100,000 issues with the cover.
    IMO, the MAD magazine fold-in’s have more punch than this.

  12. se7a7n7 says:

    I agree with OM.

    While saying the 21st Century begins now is laughable, it is still revolutionary.

    So what if it’s fairly basic, this is just the beginning of something that will become increasingly more commonplace and advanced.

    The fact that they could accomplish this at such a low cost that it was paid for by relatively moderate ad buy is amazing by itself.

  13. themindfantastic says:

    This cover does seem quite the epic fail, but I too am wondering if we simply expected too much, I expected the whole cover, not just a small part… and that it would be a little more dynamic more alive… the implementation however feels flat, and gimicky, yes its cutting edge, I will admit that, but its well… snooze worthy.

  14. SamSam says:

    You know… somehow I get the feeling you could have foreseen this…

    …given that this is the e-Paper rectangle which was photographed in the article linked to when this was first blogged about!

    Did everyone think that rectangle in the photo saying “The future begins now” had nothing to do with the cover?

  15. madsci says:

    Hmm. It actually looks almost exactly like I expected. We already knew that it was going to be a segmented display, and not dot matrix. It was also pretty clear that the display area was going to be a small, discrete rectangle of the cover.

    The technology is different, but the functionality is virtually identical to old fashioned LCDs (albeit non-volatile, and much slower.) When was the last time you saw a segmented LCD that really impressed you? Remember how much those old Tiger handheld LCD games sucked? Given four or five discrete electrodes (that presumably can’t overlap) with a slow refresh rate, could anyone here design something better?

  16. Enochrewt says:

    Kind of what I expected, but I really thought that the text would change. I have some preconceptions about ePaper though, like it’s better because the text could be changed. heh.

    #12 Samsam: I really did LOL when I saw your link to the cover on that guy’s desk nearly two months before it came out.

    I think I’m going to completely reserve judgement until I see the thing in real life, maybe it has a special glisten or something that doesn’t translate well to Youtube video.

  17. Secret_Life_of_Plants says:

    I thought Muhammad Ali’s pants were going to float on and off (over his “boxers”) – like in those risque floaty ball-point pens that you turn upside down to “dress” and “undress” the Playboy bunny.

    NSFW, (if you work somewhere sucky):

  18. Lea Hernandez says:

    John, once again, I admire your Joel-tormenting hyperbole.
    You’re a funny guy.

  19. mdh says:

    I thought we all agreed to put those tags away so nobody got hurt.

  20. TedJohnson says:

    I know I’m a day late, but it occurs to me that years ago Philip Greenspun referred to Java and Shockwave as “The <BLINK> Tag Writ Large.” Meaning that we should look past the annoying gimmick and see the potential. Before the blink tag, most Web pages were as static as anything on paper.

    This effort at e-ink is about as pathetic as I would have expected. In the first place, Esquire is Cosmo for men. If they could have, they would done “Some chick exposing her tits one boob at a time randomly” (@10). But they can’t, for technical reasons, not editorial reasons.

    Years from now, we will be using e-ink (which won’t be called e-ink anymore), we won’t even recognize the lineage that connects it this cornball gimmick from Esquire’s–anymore than we connect AJAX to the blink tag.

  21. frankiez says:

    Blink tags rule!!!

    Damn great old HTML 1.5 times!!

  22. jbang says:

    The cover design is high art in comparison to that Ford ad. Four lights flashing? Consecutively?

    Good god people!

    I’m not so appalled by this – for the ‘discreet’ rectangle, what else did one expect? Really and literally? It’s not a rhetorical question.

    I look forward to looking at a time line, in a fully animated spread of Wired, with this Esquire issue as a blip on it.

  23. Anonymous says:

    What a bunch of pathetic whiners. Yes, this application of the technology was absolutely rudimentary. Crude, even. But the point is – and apparently it’s difficult to use your imaginations, but just try hard – IT WON’T ALWAYS BE.
    And while we’re talking in terms of failures here: Just what have any of you assholes done? Like, ever?

  24. Anonymous says:

    Wow! This is an incredible achievement. It shows that e-ink is here. I hope to have a magazine made of e-ink pages that I can fill with content that’s downloaded into it. No more trees will have to be cut down to make magazines, no more trucks will have to travel across the country carrying paper and magazines. The 21st century IS finally here. cheers!

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