Sunday, November 15, 2009

Esquire's #%^*ing "Augmented Reality" issue

Hmmmmm, ... so one of my loves about a good print magazine is that it is a self-contained universe, a worldview designed and written and presented between two covers (well, between four covers, if you're a magazine person). And yet ... alongcomes Esquire, with its December "augmented reality" issue, featuring a vaguely lewd pose of actor Robert Downey Jr. on the cover above a box that reveals who-knows-what under the right conditions.

Samir Husni, aka "Mr. Magazine," found the Esquire experience interesting and useless. I found it, well, completely unfulfilling, because when I finally received my copy of Esquire in the mail, I was first put off by the fact that a mailing label was covering up part of the special box that was supposed to be part of the "augmented reality" gimmick of the issue. I'd heard that you hold up the image to a web camera and something is revealed.

Not quite. Luckily, the idiotic mailing label (which can be placed elsewhere on the cover, you know; it doesn't have to be over the one vision-critical portion of the entire magazine cover) came off without ripping or disfiguring the paper beneath it. But then I was instructed to turn to page 21 of the magazine, where I learned I had to go to a web page and download a zipped file, and then view the cover of the magazine in front of the webcam.

No. I refuse. That's stupid. I mean, bravo, hooray, all that nonsense for a magazine that
is trying new (albeit useless) gimmicks to get attention. But I have to go download some software that I will never use again just to watch what apparently is an ad for the magazine I already hold in my hands?

I give up. How is this better than a normal magazine?

BTW, I have sitting on my desk next to me the June 1940 issue of Esquire (no, I'm not that old; I bought it on eBay, thank you very much). It features absolutely no such gimmicks, but it does feature articles by F. Scott Fitzgerald, examinations of Japanese life, a look at the people around Jack London, and a ton of satire, fashion, comics, and commentary. And much, much more. I hope Esquire -- and all the other magazine editors out there who think they have to trick people into reading their publications -- can come back to earth at some point and realize that people spend time with your magazine if you give them something worthwhile to read.

And you don't have to hold it up to some stupid web camera.

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