By the time you read this, my medium will be gone. The human mind is evolving beyond static words on actual pages. With the release of Esquire’s “Augmented Reality” issue, the bridge between print and Internet may finally be complete. The issue asks readers to hold the magazine up to their webcams for exclusive HD video content. Is that enough to sell magazines? The answer this month is yes.
But next month will we be nearly as eager to watch a new dog perform the same month-old trick? Probably not.
However, I still sought out a copy at the campus bookstore to find that the issue was sold out. A short trip to another magazine seller and I’d found a lone copy. I held it eagerly in front of my MacBook. Did I care what the content was? Not particularly, I just wanted to see it for myself. Was it worth it? While quite sleek, it didn’t offer much.
“What we’re trying to do is create something that isn’t about showing off the technology, but actually adds value to the story,” says Benjamin Palmer, a developer of the Barbarian Group’s Augmented Reality, to Esquire magazine. That claim may have missed its mark. While a beautiful show of things to come, Augmented Reality is far from useful.
The National Post offers a similar function for smart-phone users, something that filled me with a giddy sort of glee. I’d downloaded the application to my phone and snapped a photo of the alien-looking box next to the article. To this day, I haven’t managed to make it work, but I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything.
But then I began to see those boxes showing up in more places. Until man finds a way to easily charge people for visiting websites, he’ll need to rely on these sorts of gimmicks to bridge both print and Internet.
Augmented Reality may sell copies this month, but it’s got all the makings of a clunky and archaic gadget. By next month, the novelty will have worn off and we’ll find it a hassle to hold our magazines up to webcams to see a high quality video read to us from the very magazine we are holding.
What does this say about our culture? We look for any excuse to not actually read print, and what is selling issues isn’t the content of the magazine but rather the gimmick attached.
A study by the Canadian Council of Learning in 2005 shows that adult literacy rates are in decline. Another study in Florida examines how society reads the news and finds that eye-catching visual cues paired with smaller amounts of text are most appealing. Too much text, and readers avoid it altogether.
Perhaps, this is a new transformation of the English language, one that embraces artistic flair and stimulating imagery paired with more succinct language. Or perhaps, written word is simply giving way to something much more direct. This new media is to print, what music video was to music.