To celebrate the 75th anniversary of Esquire magazine, the publication’s editors plan to release 100,000 copies of its October 2008 edition with a cover made of electronic paper.
E Ink, an electronic paper developer, has taken the technology it used in devices such as the Amazon Kindle and Sony eReader to develop a version of the technology for use on the Esquire cover.
The resulting cover, hitting newsstands in September, will feature words and images that scroll across the flexible electronic page. In addition, the inside cover will offer readers their first e-paper advertisement, with automaker Ford pitching its new Flex vehicle in a double-page ad.
“The electronic display used on the Esquire magazine cover will be an electrophoretic flexible display,” Jennifer Colegrove, Ph.D., an iSuppli analyst, told TechNewsWorld. “This is very significant, since electrophoretic display has been used on e-books, such as Sony eReader, Amazon Kindle, etc. It’s also used on mobile phones, etc.,” she said, noting this will be the first time such a display has been used as a magazine cover.
Paper and Ink
The technology is based on the principle of electrophoresis. Particles dispersed in a fluid generally carry an electric surface charge. E Ink’s technology utilizes millions of microcapsules — each roughly the thickness of a human hair or thinner — containing white and black particles, explained Sriram Peruvemba, vice president of marketing at E Ink.
When an electrical voltage is transmitted across the surface of the “paper” — really a plastic film laminated to a layer of circuitry — the white or black particles suspended in a liquid “carrier medium” rise to the surface. Which color rises depends on the polarity of the voltage, he continued.
“That is the basic principle. When the black particles go to the top, you get a dark image. The white particles go on top, so you get the white,” he said.
The microcapsules in their carrier medium can be printed using existing screen printing processes onto an array of surfaces including glass, plastic, fabric and paper.
“The material used [in the microcapsules] is the exact same material used to make paper white and the black particles we used are the same thing that makes ink dark. These are not exotic but are everyday products. So, we essentially are trying to replace paper with the same materials used in paper and ink with an electronic product,” Peruvemba told TechNewsWorld.
Another Front in the Digital Revolution
Flexible electrophoretic displays used for e-books and e-paper will grow to a US$1.7 billion industry by 2013, according to iSuppli’s Colegrove.
That’s in part due to the technology’s relatively environmentally friendly nature and low cost.
“The cost for low-resolution type electronic paper is not very high, but the cost for high-resolution type uses a TFT (thin film transistor) backplane, which triggers high cost. But we do see the cost declining in the next couple of years,” she explained.
“The cost can be offset by its benefits: save papers, get fast news. Also, the light weight, thinness, ruggedness, low power consumption and sunlight readability of flexible electrophoretic displays are very suitable for electronic newspaper applications,” Colegrove added.
It will be many years before the price of e-paper is even close to that of paper made from trees, Peruvemba acknowledged, but he added that in the future, one sheet of electronic paper could contain the contents of not just one magazine, but several.
“Then the cost of the electronic display will be a small fraction of the cost of those magazines. From that perspective, it is extremely inexpensive compared to buying a lot of magazines, books and newspapers,” he said.
Compared to other display technologies with backlights and mercury-filled tubes, e-paper is a relatively green alternative, as it contains no harmful chemicals.
Connected to a power source, the paper will retain the image for up to one year, Peruvemba pointed out.
“You can update [the display] and it will have many years of life to it. In electronic newspapers, you can read the newspaper, put it down, and the image is retained. No battery power is used and when you come back it is still on the same ‘page,'” he concluded.
For Colegrove, there’s one disadvantage to this technology.
“I guess you can’t cut coupons out of an electronic paper,” she stated.