In honor of its 75th year, Esquire magazine will publish its cover using e-paper, the same technology used in the Amazon Kindle. The battery powering the cover is only supposed to last about 90 days, and they will only publish 100,000 or so.
A lot of journalists are wondering what the implications are for the use of this technology, and my answer is: nothing – yet. There are definitely uses for this technology down the road, but if people are going to pay for a readable, reusable thin screen (which obviously they are), they want something a little more substantial; something that won’t flake after 90 days.
Also, I should note that I’m such a softy for the old-fashioned paper book I always assume that this sort of technology will take decades to catch up and catch on because nobody will want to give up paper until the electronic technology surpasses paper in its benefits. Currently, not only are the screens harder to read (although the Kindle I sampled seemed fine, but I didn’t try to read a novel off of it), but there’s something about the tactile experience of holding a book, smelling it, feeling the pages, and being able to put post-its on different pages or highlight stuff you need to remember. Plus, these things have to be durable: I’m hard on books and newspapers. I throw them into my bag pretty haphazardly and leave them lying loose in my car. I know people who get so into a book they’ll throw it across the room when they get mad at the characters. You can’t do that yet with e-paper.
I also think people are timid and don’t want to buy the very first one of anything these days. If it’s taken people this long, I suspect it’ll take people awhile to latch onto this technology. But I could be wrong.