Tuesday, July 29, 2008

BoSacks Speaks Out: Why Esquire Mag is your Future?

BoSacks Speaks Out: Why Esquire Mag is your Future?

BoSacks Speaks Out: Please, let's not all get crazy at the same time. So many people are over-reacting to the announcement that Esquire is using e-ink on their cover that I almost don't know where to begin. But almost isn't don't know.

First and foremost, this is a clever magazine cover gimmick for a 75th anniversary cover. Period, end of story, except for all the brouhaha. They deserve to do something special. And e-ink is going to be something special. In this case it is underutilizing the power and the possibilities of e-ink, but what the heck? You have to start somewhere. And this year our industry starts here on the cover of Esquire with a flexible, magazine-bindable production of e-ink.

We as an industry have been inserting and on-serting for generations. Believe me I know, as I was partly responsible for the AOL onslaught of on-serting and inserting first fragile plastic diskettes and then CD's into magazines. The computer and music sectors have been doing this for years. The women's service groups have inserted hundreds of items including such nutty ideas as shampoo samples which in the course of palatalizing squished and squeezed the samples all over the printer's bindery floor. So ease off on the condemnation that gimmicks are something new or distasteful.

And the same thing is true for the carbon footprint. Why is Esquire being singled out?
I'm the first to admit that we have been reckless as an industry when it comes to carbon foot-printing and inefficiencies, but to single out a single publisher . . . . pure and absolute rubbish. Anyone who is starting to condemn a single gimmick in a single magazine doesn't know the industry, the history, nor the true story of magazine sales and magazine production.

E-ink or e-paper is special, in fact it is very special, and it is an integral part of the future of the magazine business. If we are going to have a big future at all, it is going to be digital. We will combine the ease of use of digital editions of magazines with the portability of brilliantly colored WiFi connected epaper, with a drastically lower carbon footprint than today and dramatically reduced manufacturing costs. What's not to like? What part don't we understand?
Publishers sell words and thoughts, not paper and printing? For those who need to hear me say it again, printing ink on paper is not going to go away; it is also not going to be the dominant distribution vehicle of information.

Esquire's Granger: Magazine Medium 'So Compelling We All Should Do More with It'
Editor responds to news of flashing anniversary cover.
Jason Fell

Since the report last week about Esquire's flashy e-paper October anniversary cover-and our follow-up on the technology behind it-I've been hearing/reading a lot of negative opinions about it.

One Web site called it obnoxious. Rex Hammock said it was "the worst use of technology by a magazine." Fast Company, in a blog post, estimated that the manufacturing process increases the issue's carbon footprint by 16 percent over other typical print publications. But, if you ask Esquire editor-in-chief David Granger, the technology could help revolutionize the way we read magazines, beyond the printed page and online.

"When I talk to groups I sometimes speak about the days I had when I'd get the new issue of Esquire and go through it and think to myself, 'Fuck, it's still a magazine,'" Granger said in a recent interview with FOLIO:. "What I mean is that the medium is so compelling that I and we should all be able to do more with it. The magazine experience is one of the last remaining opportunities to enter a hermetically-sealed world, an edited experience of our culture created by someone else. And, more importantly, it's an experience that encourages you to stay in it rather than constantly bounce in and out of it.

"We have an amazing medium, print, and if we can enhance the experience of it by putting new technology to use, then all the better," he said.

Bob Sacks, an industry consultant and frequent proponent of technology, says that Esquire's flashy cover may be a small step overall but offers a glimpse of what's to come in the next few years.

"It's not a representation of what e-paper was designed for, but doing the cover is the right thing to do," Sacks says. "It will be a demonstration of what it can be used for. In the near future we all will have flexible e-paper readers in our pocket and will be able to access all the magazine and books you want."

Right now, the technology is expensive and, if you believe Fast Company, not very green. Granger says that, with time, he hopes the technology will become cheaper. Maybe, after some refining, the application will become more realistic and environmentally-friendly, too.


The Real Cost of E-Ink
posted by Anya Kamenetz

An article in the New York Times earlier this week described an effort by the legendary print magazine Esquire to make "a nod to the digital age" by using something called E Ink on its cover. That's pretty much what it sounds like: electronic ink, so the cover can blink like a Times Square billboard, as opposed to a staid old highway billboard.

One problem: Did anyone stop to consider the environmental implications? Check out this description of the process, from the Times article:

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.
Editor David Granger described it as "a 21st-century technology" combined with "a 19th-century manufacturing process." Can't argue with the second part, at least. The article goes on to note that this process is expensive, and hence requires sponsorship from a Ford SUV (not exactly a 21st-century technology itself). But what about the other cost . . . the carbon one? Some back-of-the-envelope calculations show it's not small, and Ford's not picking up the tab.

Let's start at the beginning. According to the article, "The batteries and the display case are manufactured and put together in China." The manufacturing phase is the biggest question mark in the life cycle of any product. According to life cycle analysis by Nokia, the manufacturing phase, alone, of another battery-powered electronic device, their 3G phones, is responsible for 12.3 KG of CO2 equivalent per unit. Granted, the E Ink display is a lot simpler and uses much less material than a cell phone, so let's say the carbon footprint is one-tenth as much-1.2 KG per user. That would be 135 tons of CO2 for the entire run of 100,000 devices.
Next, the devices will be shipped to Texas. According to E-Ink, a comparable prototype device weighs about 150 grams (5.3 ounces). According to the calculator on ShipGreen.net, shipping 100,000 of those overseas from Shanghai to Houston is worth another 2.6 tons -189 tons if they for some reason chose air freight.

From there, the little magic doohickeys will make their way to a Mexican maquiladora (where the work conditions are certain to be just lovely-ditto the Chinese factory) to be inserted by hand into the magazine covers (1.28 tons from Houston to Monterrey, Mexico), and from there, the completed issues, about one-third heavier than normal, will travel about 1,400 miles to the magazine's distribution center in Kentucky (11 more tons). Oh, and because of the delicacy of the electronics, they'll have to travel in refrigerated trucks. Certain kinds of refrigeration units can consume a half gallon of fuel per operating hour - that's an additional 10 gallons for that 20 hour trip-per truck. So for 5 trucks (let's say), the refrigeration adds about another half a ton. Then the blinking magazines go to their final destinations.

So . . . the total outlay in greenhouse gas emissions for this little experiment-again, this is based on loose estimates-comes to 150 tons of CO2 equivalent, similar to the output of 15 Hummers or 20 average Americans for an entire year, and a 16% increase over the carbon footprint of a typical print publication (based on calculations by Discover Magazine, Time, and In Style). The potential environmental impact of the E Ink covers increases even more when you consider that the units are designed to be disposable after one use and they'll make it more difficult or impossible to recycle the paper portion of the magazines.
Maybe Esquire should go back to the drawing board for a truly forward-looking concept of the possibilities of print. Fast Company would be glad to advise them on where to go to get printed on 100% recycled paper

1 comment:

Rex Hammock said...

The announcement by Esquire was in the New York Times and has been picked up -- with little or no mention of Hearst's vested interest in promoting the business of eInk -- by nearly every paper in the U.S.

So I'm not understanding how a few people saying, wait, there's another side to this is over-reacting.

I agree with you that eInk, ePaper, eBooks, digital-anything offer great new opportunities. I'll be happy to join with you in evangelizing that.

However, where we disagree is this: When you use "new" media, it's something new. Magazines are not going to be changed by technology (although technology related to printing and distribution can greatly change how they are produced). Technology allows those who publish magazines to create entirely new products, new forms of express and creativity.

The future is already here.

At a time when all of the technology and distribution channels are in place to have people lining up to purchase iPhones, what Esquire is doing is about as silly as, say, a carriage company putting a motor on a carriage and calling it the Car of the Future.

And if you think this is over-reacting, you've never seen me get really wound up.