Readers who can only imagine what it would look like if a centerfold jumped right off the page are getting new specs to help them see into Hef's world.
The magazine's June edition hits newsstands on Friday equipped with 3-D glasses. Now the toy that has kids dodging dragons, meatballs and tall blue aliens at the movies will help adults focus on what is, at first glance, a very blurry Playmate of the Year.
"What would people most like to see in 3-D?" asked Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. "Probably a naked lady."
Hefner makes no secret of hoping to capitalize on the popularity of 3-D movies such as Avatar and How to Train Your Dragon, even as he makes no secret of not quite getting what all the fuss is about.
"I'm not a huge enthusiast of 3-D," he said in a telephone interview. "I leave real life to go to the movies and 2-D is fine with me."
If the thought of grown men sitting back in their recliners with a pair of 3-D glasses doesn't quite say Playboy, it should be noted that a few months ago the magazine put Marge Simpson – yes, the blue-haired animated mother of Bart – on the cover and in a two-page centerfold.
"In today's print environment you have to create newsstand events," said the editorial director of the Chicago-based magazine, Jimmy Jellinek. "Marge Simpson was one of those."
Playboy certainly must do something to get more people, especially younger people, to buy a magazine that has seen circulation plummet from 3.5 million in 2006 to 1.5 million today.
Jellinek said he hopes the issue featuring centerfold Hope Dworaczyk in 3-D also reminds people that for all the infatuation with the Internet, there is nothing quite like having a magazine in your hands.
"People want things that last and have meaning," he said. The thought hadn't occurred to Hefner. But, now that you mention it:
"This particular picture is one example of how books and magazines are different (than computer images)," he said. "You can hold it in your hands, save them, and as Dad used to, put them under the mattress."
Hefner notes there also are plenty of good old-fashioned 2-D pictures of Dworaczyk - the 51st Playmate of the Year, for those counting at home.
3-D may be all the rage, but Hefner said he first thought of using it when he launched his magazine in the 1950s.
"I actually signed a photographer to shoot two nude women in 3-D in Chicago," he said. But he scrapped the idea when he discovered how expensive it would be to include the glasses.
This time around, HBO is helping out. HBO wanted a creative way to promote its show True Blood, and having Playboy include 3-D glasses with the show's name on them seemed a good way to do it, said Playboy spokeswoman Theresa Hennessey.
So, do the glasses work? Well, it does kind of look like Dworaczyk is handing you the wine glass she's holding. And she says the photograph makes everything a little, well, bigger.
"It's kind of like it says on the rearview mirror," Dworaczyk joked. "Things may appear larger."