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Marketing ploy of the year: 'Esquire's' digital E-Ink cover

'Esquire' officially unveiled the first digital cover in paper magazine history in New York.

In case you hadn't heard already, this morning Esquire officially unveiled the first "digital" E-Ink cover in paper magazine history at an event in a Borders store in Manhattan. The special cover, which helps promote/commemorate Esquire's 75th anniversary edition, is only incorporated into 100,000 copies, all of which are available only at newsstands for $5.99 a pop--that's $2 more than the usual price. Sorry, subscribers, you get a ho-hum nondigital version.

The whole venture is sponsored by Ford and its campaign for its new "crossover" vehicle, the Flex. The cover is actually pretty cool in a gee-look-what-we-can-do sort of way; it's basically an electronic billboard that flashes on and off in different sequences, highlighting words and images. E-ink is monochrome but there's a plastic overlay that has some color images printed on it, so from a distance, the ink appears to be in color in spots--but it's not. On the inside of the cover, there's also a bit of e-ink flashing on the background of a Ford Flex ad that kind of makes the car look like it's moving (OK, not really, but I'm trying to be generous).

Neither Esquire, Ford, nor E-Ink would say how much it cost to produce the special cover, but we imagine it wasn't cheap. As for the built in battery that powers the 2.0 by 4.75-inch electronic paper display (EPD), Esquire Editor in Chief David Granger said they initially expected it to last 90 days but it appears it will last significantly longer--upwards of 250 days. Once the battery dies (it's not replaceable) a static image will be left on the EPD. In other words, part of the display will remain "on" with the ghosted remnants of the E-Ink, much like what Amazon's Kindle does with its screensaver images.

All in all, we're not sure what the point of the whole exercise is because Esquire is a paper magazine and wants to stay that way. But as a marketing stunt, it's fantastic for all the parties involved. Esquire gets to appear cutting edge, as does Ford. And E-ink? Well, plenty of people have heard of the Kindle and maybe Sony's Reader, but not that many people know what kind of technology is at their core. With potential competitors like Plastic Logic and its superslim electronic reader popping up, E-Ink needs to try to stay ahead of the curve.

What do you guys think?

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