Going Paperless 4 – Alternative Methods

I’m not sure how many people are interested in the topic of going paperless since it gets few hits on the stats page – but I’m enjoying exploring the idea.  And I did get an email from Adam Kadleck suggesting I try out Zinio, an online magazine service.  Since he works for the company he also provided me with a sample subscription to Saveur Magazine, a colorful periodical about cuisine.

A huge shortcoming of the Kindle is its lack of ability to show photographs and color graphics.  I remember reading an early complaint about the Kindle from a Slashdot kid who whined the Kindle couldn’t handle comics and porn -reading material that Zinio can handle. 

A magazine is not very magazine-like on the Kindle.  Zinio sells magazines and has a custom software reader so magazine pages look exactly like they do in their paper form.  It even fakes page turning with graphics and sound.  Zinio is paperless but with more of the natural features of paper.  Saveur Magazine would not work on the Kindle.  Without the appetizing photos of the food it would lose much of its appeal.

The Zinio software reader works very well on my 19″ wide-screen LCD monitor showing two full page at a time.  However, I need to zoom in to read the content.  Zinio makes this a breeze, but I wonder if I had a 22″ monitor if I could read without zooming.  The height of my 19″ monitor is about an inch less than the height of a standard magazine after you take into account the Zinio menu.  The screen view on 22″ monitor could well be the same height as a paper magazine.

Right now Zinio has a decent selection of magazines, but far from the selection of a good bookstore.  And like ebooks, the issue of the pricing of e-magazines is still questionable.  Why pay the same subscription price for a paperless magazine when the publisher isn’t covering the overhead for paper, printing and postage?  It’s not uncommon to see $5.99 and $6.99 mags at the bookstore – I would think going paperless and using Zinio they should sell for $1.99 at most.  PC World is $19.97 a year on Zinio.  I’ve gotten better offers than that in the mail.  Science is $99.00 – and that seems way too much for electrons.

The photographs on Zinio look pretty good but nowhere near the quality of a slick paper print.  Strangely enough the quality reminds me of the new paper used in Sky & Telescope, a big step down from their old paper.  You can magnify Zinio photographs but they break up.  It would be great if the Zinio photographs offered quality features over print magazines, like larger hi-rez popup views.

The feature I would want the most from Zinio is full text indexing.  I have several years of Sky & Telescope on my shelves, but finding an article means lots of flipping pages.  It would be great if I had a library of Zinio magazines that I could quickly query for instant data.

There is an online company Press Display that offers reading newspapers online in the same way Zinio works for magazines, but their reader is browser based.  Even though many of these newspapers offer free online editions, the ability to read a newspaper that looks like the printed edition does have value, maybe even value worth paying.  The New York Times offers the Times Reader for $14.95 a month.  It’s not a system for seeing the paper as printed, but a online viewer to making newspaper reading better than reading through a web browser, so its yet another alternative to paper.

The problem with these solutions is being tied to your monitor for reading.  Now I don’t mind reading off a monitor – screen resolution is now better than newsprint and fonts can be enlarged to beat tiny magazine typefaces.  What I’d like is to read in my La-Z-Boy, but to do that will require waiting for an ebook reader with a hi-rez color screen the size of a standard magazine page.  I expect such a Star Trek like tablet in the next few years.

I don’t think it will be long before we’ll stop murdering millions of trees just to let people read a couple headlines and do the daily crossword.  Going paperless means changing habits but I think there will be technology to help us to keep our old addictive reading behaviors while adding new features that help us process knowledge.

Going Paperless 5

Jim

Going Paperless 3 – Do I Have A Word Addiction?

I’m learning a lot about myself through this simple experiment of trying to go paperless.  I buy probably 100 times as many words as I actually read – and that guess might even need to go as high as a 1,000 times.  After buying my Kindle I decided to only purchase Kindle reading in a just-in-time-to-read fashion – no stocking up.  I’ve known for years my eyes are bigger than my reading habit stomach when it comes to buying books and magazines. 

I could have immediately filled up my Kindle with hundreds of free classic books by going to the elegant web site Feedbooks.  I could have jammed it with blogs, magazines and newspaper subscriptions.  Instead I bought two books, subscribed to Time Magazine, bought a few issues of my favorite SF&F magazines, and download a couple dozen sample chapters of books I was considering buying.

It quickly became apparent that even this light load was too much.  I read one of the books, started the second, read some of stories in the magazines, and a couple sample chapters.  I’m struggling to keep up with the magazine reading because I’ve already gotten six issues of Time. [By the way, for some reason I’m getting way more out of Time by reading on the Kindle than I ever did out of the paper copy.  I think photos and ads must be distracting.]  Because I have such a backlog of paper books and magazines on my bookshelves to read, I don’t read on my Kindle full time yet.  I wished all my reading material was on my Kindle because it’s easier to read E-ink over most of the paper formatted pages I have stacking my shelves.  Also, I could monitor my reading flow better.

People compare finding data on the Internet to drinking from a fire hose.  I think that metaphor is outdated.  I think it’s like lighting a cigarette from the exhaust of the Saturn V booster.  Trying to keep up my daily data input is like being the little robot, Number 5 from the movie Short Circuit.  I keep telling myself, “More data, more data,” but I can’t handle it.  I’m addicted to words and I need to get control.

So weeks ago I decided to go paperless as a start.  I’m tossing all my magazine renewals as I get them.  I’m cleaning out the stacks of back issues.  And I’ve begun to study the online editions of my favorite magazines to see how much I can practically read online.  (See my new Magazines section.) 

I’ve quickly learned that I actually don’t read as much as I want to, or think I do.  I’m like a squirrel that hides a thousand nuts for each one I eat.  I could save myself a lot of time and energy by breaking this compulsive habit.  This experiment to get rid of paper magazines and newspapers is teaching me I need to change my personality.  Reading is good, but wanting to read everything is bad.  Being God and knowing about every sparrow must be an awful stressful profession.

I need to find my reading Walden and channel Henry David Thoreau for awhile.  I have no intention of giving up on words altogether, but I need to go on a diet.  My first impulse is try to read only one short story or essay a day.  The idea was to daily meditate on one inspiring work.  Even this might be too much, because I’d like to read a really good story and then contemplate it by writing a blog post.  That would take several hours of work, and I don’t have that much time every day to spare.

If I can ever get down to such a contemplative reading habit I might find I can only handle one good work every three or four days.  Is it better to nibble on a lot of reading potato chips or to just have one good cerebral meal?

I actually get 40-50 books read each year by listening to audio books while doing other things, so I’m not worried about full length books and novels.  See “How Audible.com Changed My Life.”  I’m concerned with magazines, newspapers, blogs, RSS feeds, web sites, emails, and all the other sources of short lengths of words I gorged myself on daily while storing up even more thinking tomorrow I’ll be reading even faster than I do today. 

It’s like I’ve got my own rat race of digital consumption going.  Since pledging to go paperless I’ve been cleaning out my email inbox and unsubscribing to lots of newsletters, lists, announcements and web sites.  I started visiting LifeHacker but not subscribing.

Reading was much easier when I was a poor kid and I got all my books from the library.  I didn’t own books then, just had a stack of four or five sitting on my bedside table.  Then I grew up and got a job that financed buying all the books I wanted.  After that came the Internet with googles of free words, and I’ve reached a stage in my life where I’m drowning in reading.  Damn, I’ve got to find a way to manage that Saturn V exhaust of data addiction.

Going Paperless 4

Jim

 

 

 

 

Going Paperless

When my Time magazine renewal came in recently I decided not to renew.  I had been paying about $29 a year and now it was $49, and I thought that too much.  Then on Saturday I saw the new issue at my favorite bookstore and wanted to read it, but I passed on it thinking I’d need to learn to do without.  Later that evening I had a V-8 moment where I imagined hitting my head.  Hell, I have a Kindle and I can get Time from the Kindle store, I thought.  It turns out subscribing to the Kindle version of Time is only $1.49 a month or about $18 a year.

Flipping on my Kindle I zoomed over to their store and subscribed and instantly saw a download completed message.  A couple clicks later I was reading the article I saw at the bookstore about George Clooney being the last Hollywood star. 

Then it occurred to me that I should check Time’s web site, and I’ll be damn if the whole article wasn’t there for free.  Not only was the read for free it also included a video segment of George Clooney going into the writer’s crawl space looking for source of an alarm that had gone off unexpectedly.  Seeing the video of a fancy movie star at the writer’s modest house for dinner doing ordinary things really did accent the piece.  I could have had all of this for free.

The trouble is reading Time online isn’t exactly pleasurable, and reading the Kindle is, so I’m happy to pay for my Kindle copy.  However, this experience reminded me of an article in the latest issue of Wired (hard copy $12 a year) called “Free! Why $0.00 is the Future of Business” – which I now link so you can read for free.  Once again I wished I had this article on my Kindle.  The Kindle is actually as near perfect for my eyes as I can imagine anything formatted for reading.  Among all the little buttons at the bottom of online reading material I now wish there was a “Send to Kindle” button.  It would be worth the dime Amazon charges for receiving such stuff.

We are really very close to having a paperless society that pundits have talked about every since I can remember.  People always exclaim they hate reading off the computer screen even though they spend hours a day doing so.  Now the Kindle offers a better way to read, even better than paper, and that starts to suggest going paperless is possible.

By the way, I kid you not when I say I prefer to read the Kindle over paper.  If my paper material was formatted like the Kindle, paper would be fine, but modern layout artists format magazines for people with 20-15 vision.  The typeface on the Kindle is sharp, large and the scan line is just a few inches across – very easy on the eyes.

I subscribe to a lot of magazines, most of which I only read a tiny fraction of each issue.  All those trees cut down and processed with tons of water, power and dangerous chemicals so I can just flip through and read a few tidbits here and there.  Now that’s wasteful.  I’ve been feeling guilty for years, but with global warming I really feel terrible about such waste.  I’ve decided it’s time to go paperless.  Besides that I’m tired of carrying so much paper out to the curb for recycling.

I canceled the paper over the protest of my wife – we finally compromised and get just the Sunday edition, but I’m aiming to eliminate that too eventually.  I hate to see newspapers lose business and carriers lose jobs, but we recycle pounds of newspaper after only reading ounces of pages.  That’s just too wasteful.  Now I’m on to finding new ways to read my magazines.

Most magazines do not have Kindle editions, but they usually have a web edition.  However, many of those do not have full text online.  I got the latest Scientific American today and checking online I find two articles available as full-text, including the cover story “The End of Cosmology,” the one I wanted to read the most.  The others articles are available for money online and SciAm also offers a digital subscription for $39.95 a year that includes 12 new issues and access to 180 old issues.  That seems steep because my paper copies cost just $24.95, and that includes shipping and the slaughter of the pulp trees.  Seems like bits of electrons would cost less.

What I’d really like is a service like Netflix that for a single fee provided me with full access to a range of magazines and their back issues.  I still don’t believe Wired hippie pie in the sky about everything being free.  And if everything free is going to be plastered with ads like a race car then I don’t want free.

Going paperless will be tough.  I don’t think the online Popular Photography will be as nice to read online as flipping through the paper version.  They do a pretty good job and sometimes the photos look better online.  And it’s much easier to maintain back issue information online.  It would be great if they truly showcased every photo with a 1920 x 1200 pixel version.  Now that would be worth subscribing too.  This would be especially great if I could add them to my Desktop Art Gallery.

I currently subscribe to two paper editions of science fiction magazines, Fantasy & Science Fiction and Asimov’s Science Fiction.  Recently I bought an issue of Analog which had the #2 part of a serial so I zipped over the Fictionwise and bought the past issue and as it turned out the third issue was already on sale too.  Fictionwise then sends me my magazines to my Kindle for reading.  So I read a Kindle issue, then read a paper issue and then finished up with a Kindle issue.  That really convinced me I preferred reading SF by Kindle.

The SF mags are slowly losing subscribers so I’m wondering if e-book subscribers are helping or hurting their business.  It costs the same to sub with either edition and once again I feel like I’m getting more for my money with paper but I actually read more stories when I get the Kindle edition.

It will take a year or two for all my paper subscriptions to lapse.  During the time maybe more magazines will come out on Kindle, or I’ll just start reading them online.  I hope the Kindle does become a success and the “Send to Kindle” button starts appearing on web pages.

Going paperless is a lot like going CD-less.  I assume DVDs will be next.  Can magazines and newspapers survive and thrive off of online and e-book editions?  That’s the real question.  If Wired is right then they can, but I don’t know.  So far the tide is against online subscriptions – people expect everything on the web for free and I don’t know if that’s possible in a paperless world.  Right now publishers make the bulk of their income off of paper editions.  Can they even survive in a paperless world without charging?  I don’t know.  I do know I gave up reading my local paper years ago when I discovered I could read the NY Times for free online.

Maybe they could combine free web versions but have a fee based button for sending to the Kindle.  I’d gladly pay 10-25 cents an article for such a fee.

With global warming, oil and water shortages, paper is an expensive luxury if you have a digital world.

Going Paperless 2

Jim

Fantasy & Science Fiction

My favorite SF/F magazine, Fantasy & Science Fiction is getting a lot of attention this week because of their new blog.  I’ve been reading this magazine since the mid 1960s and I eventually collected most of the issues back to the early 1950s.  Sad to say I had to sell my collection during lean college years.

A great way to get a feel for this wonderful mag is to look at their cover history.  If you scan these covers you’ll discover that a lot of famous SF&F short stories and novels first appeared in this little digest magazine, including my all-time favorite novel, Have Space Suit-Will Travel

HSSWT

You’ll also see the evolution of their cover art, and that makes this page a very neat art gallery.  You can click on the thumbnails to see a larger image and it’s well worth spending some time doing that.  Be sure and read the titles and authors listed on each cover.  [By the way, if you love covers from old pulp magazines be sure to jump over to Cover Browser and look at the Astounding Stories.  What a gas it is to compare the Astounding cover art from the 1930s and 1940s to the F&SF art of the 1950s, 1960s and later.]

I’ve even collected a few rejection slips from F&SF over the years.  One of my personal wake-up-in-the-middle-of-night trying to get back to sleep fantasies is to sell a story to F&SF.  A good way to deal with insomnia downtime is to imagine a short story plot.

A lot of readers don’t like short stories but I think they are a very special art form that is going the way of the poem.  I hope the web brings F&SF more readers so it can keep publishing for the rest of my life.  I wish there was some way to help people get into short stories and discover their potential for great entertainment.  I consider the best SF&F short stories far more sense of wonder filled than any of the big SF blockbuster movies.  Films are so conservative when it comes to fantastic fiction.

Back in 2003 Audible.com ran five bi-monthly audio editions of F&SF and a Best of 2002 issue that I think showcase just how good this magazine is and how entertaining short stories can be.  It’s a crying shame this audio edition didn’t catch on, but you can still find those six audio collections on Audible.com and at iTunes.  I wish all these stories were on MP3 and sold like songs.  Maybe that’s the new meme for short fiction – sold one at a time for your iPod pleasure.

If you can’t find F&SF at your newsstand take a gamble and subscribe, or even hyperlink over to Fictionwise.com and buy an ebook edition to read on your computer, PDA and even Kindle.

Jim

Information Overload

    I often think about that movie Short Circuit with the little robot named Number Five who kept shouting, “More input, more input.” That’s how I feel about life. I wish I could process information as fast as Number Five.

    This morning I cleaned off several chaotic stacks of mail from my desk. I have hundreds of unread magazines – and for some insane reason I responded positively to several ads to subscribe to even more magazines. I also have hundreds of unread books waiting patiently on my bookshelves to get my undivided attention, as well as dozens of audio books in my iTunes library waiting to be heard.

    Each magazine represents at least a couple hours of good reading, each book wants from six to sixty hours of my time. My DVR is 94% full with many hours of great high definition video waiting for me to watch. My NetFlix DVDs just sit around, and my CDs and LPs wait quietly for years at a time to get played. In other words, I’m backlogged by thousands of hours, maybe even tens of thousands of hours. If I could only read like Number Five – as fast as pages could flip.

    So what should I do? Obviously, to stop buying books and magazines is one good solution I keep telling myself. That’s easier said than done. I’m like a squirrel hiding nuts for the winter. Whenever I see a great looking book, I buy it thinking I’ll get to it someday during my dwindling days on Earth. (I just tried to go and tear up three subscription renewal letters sitting in front of me, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.)

    What I would like, assuming I could achieve some theoretically self-control that’s never surfaced in my fifty-years of living, would be to own only one book at a time. I’d go down to the bookstore every time I finished a book and enjoy shopping for my next read. It would be fun to carefully select just the right volume to purchase; one I’d dedicate myself to for the next week or so. Ditto for magazines – instead of stacks of them around the house, I’d only have one that I’d cart from room to room until I finished. Then it would be kosher to buy another. For movies and music I’d use Netflix and Rhapsody. My house certainly would be less cluttered.

    I can really picture this. It would be “just in time information” like industries that use just in time parts for manufacturing – no warehousing of information. What I need to make this fancy daydream come true is the ultimate Ebook reader. To go with the device I’d need a service like Netflix for books and magazines. The key is to be able to get any book or magazine I wanted when I want it. Since books go out of print, and magazines are as ephemeral as whims, the impulse is to buy them to save for when I’m in just the right mood.

    The web is a great metaphor for what I need. When I want to know something I go to Google and type in a query. I don’t need to store up answers. I just need to ask when I have a question. With an Ebook I could call up a book to read when I’m in a mood for that particular book. That’s how Rhapsody music service works. I think of a song I want to hear and type in the name and play it. If I had such a company that would provide my reading material, my life would be so much more organized.

    Ignoring the theoretical future of online possibilities, is there a practical solution? Could I do all my reading on the web and replace my magazine habit? Many magazines offer all or part of their content online. I almost bought an issue of Astronomy Magazine last night because I wanted to read the article, “How Large Will Telescopes Get?” I just checked. It’s not online. I also thought about buying the latest New Yorker for the short story, “1966.” It’s not online either. However, “Gone: Mass Extinction and the Hazards of Earth’s Vanishing Biodiversity,” in the latest issue of Mother Jones that I was eyeing is online. I have two envelopes with offers near my keyboard. Both Newsweek and PC Magazine promise me a year of their product for $20 – good buys since they are weekly and twice-monthly publications. However, both of these mags provide a lot of content online.

    I could easily make a web page linking all my favorite magazines to a quick-to-scan system that would allow me to regularly browse their content. A distinct advantage of reading magazine articles on the web is I can send emails to my friends pointing out great reads. I should give this idea a try.

    Another idea is to just go to the library and read magazines there. Let professionals manage the stacks and subscriptions. I used to work in a periodicals department at a library and we had lots of regular readers. I volunteered for Friday nights and got to know a regular crowd. However, reading on the throne in the smallest room at home is kind of important to me. Reading Discover magazine first thing in the morning is devotional, in its own way.

    Now all of these solutions ignore actual content. Another way to manage information overload is to pick subjects I want to study and then ignore all the rest. Take the Iraq War. There must be millions of people worrying over that topic. I’m sure they don’t need me. I am fascinated by the One Laptop Per Child concept and how greedy industrial giants are spoiling Nicholas Negroponte’s dream machine for poor kids of the world. Going on an information diet, I could make a web site that tracked all the subjects I was really interested in and felt I had time to track. I have noticed that the people who get the most done in life are those who focus narrowly on their goals.

    A radical solution to information overload is to become a Zen monk, you know, be here now, one with the moment kind of guy, and all that rot. It does have its appeals. But I’m afraid I’ll end up like by tabby cat – content but ill informed. I could apply that Zen focus to a goal, like writing a book. Then when I stick my head into the maelstrom of data I’d only stare at the bits that would be useful to my writing project. I have to admire writers that pick a big topic, like the life of Einstein or the Jamestown colony and focus on it for years, finally producing a summation of that study.

    Well, I have several ideas to think about. I can become systematic at gathering more information, or I can become focused and narrow the selection of information I try to handle. I have come to this conclusion before. I have written this essay to myself many times in the last forty years, always coming to the same conclusion – I always decide my life should be project based and focused. However, once I clear my thoughts with writing this essay I always go back to hummingbird mode and flit from fact to fact, mindlessly gorging on information.

Magazines v. Web v. Newspapers v. Television

    Yesterday I sat down and read through the latest issue of Time Magazine. I am an information junky, but I don’t read magazines as much as I used too, not since the web. Reading the web is an exciting way to take in data – I can start with Slashdot and follow a link to MSN to an article entitled “Sci-Fi from Page to Screen,” read it, and from there start googling the concept for more information. It could lead to an hour of diversion and maybe even a couple hours of blog writing. The casual way to read a magazine is to start with the cover, flip and read until you reach the back cover. With magazines and newspapers you read by picking and choosing what you like, but they are self contained because they don’t have hyperlinks. Television is a horse of a different color altogether. If you discount channel surfing, picking a show and watching it from start to finish, means being a captive audience. If you count channel surfing, then television is more like web surfing, but not quite the same because a couple hundred channels is nothing to the billions of web pages.

    What surprised me yesterday while reading Time was the quality of the experience. I seldom sit and read a whole magazine anymore. I read the letters to the editor, the small and large pieces. Towards the end I started skimming more, but I tried to take in the magazine as a whole. It felt like I got a small snapshot of what was going on in the world this week. If the web didn’t exist magazines would be my web. The world through a magazine eye felt distinctly different than the world I see from surfing the web or watching the television news or reading The New York Times.

    The cover story intrigued me, “Why We Should Teach the Bible in Public School” by David Van Biema. So did another story that was the cover story in the Europe, Asia and South Pacific editions, “The Truth About Talibanistan” by Aryn Baker. I’m an atheist but I find the study of the Bible fascinating. I’ve often wondered why it isn’t taught in school. Of course the way I would teach it by linking it to anthropology, history, language, psychology, sociology, grammar, etc., is very different from the way it is being taught. While reading the article I was itchy to click and research. Then reading the article about the Taliban I was reminded of seeing a documentary on Frontline about the same topic, “The Return of the Taliban.” They didn’t tell the same story, but that’s not the issue I want to get into.

    Seeing the Frontline story on HDTV had far greater impact than reading the article in Time, but the magazine article had more to think about. This brings back the old issue of television journalism versus print journalism. Right after reading that issue of Time, I went and watched “Arctic Passage” on NOVA on HDTV about the mysterious and tragic Franklin expedition to find the Northwest Passage in 1845. While watching that show I was struct by how much richer the experience of learning was through the 56-inch HDTV than reading and seeing photos in a magazine or book.

    The magazine was about ideas in my head. I read many exciting bits of information that made me think and want to write and research. The show about Franklin was rich and educational in the best way and I was satisfied with the subject when it finished. I have read about the Franklin expedition before, and the NOVA site has more reading material, but the show left a sense of completeness. Given its fifty plus minutes, the documentary makers summed up the issue in a very satisfying way. I then selected from my PVR, “Monster of the Milky Way,” another NOVA documentary.

    The impact was fantastic. I read a lot of astronomy magazines and websites, but the 56″ astronomical photos and videos they showed were stunning. The animations were gorgeous and awe inspiring and totally filled me with a sense of wonder. The trouble is NOVA only comes on once a week with maybe 20-25 new shows a year. What if every topic I wanted to study had a 55 minute NOVA quality documentary to present the information – would that be the best way I should take in information? I don’t know. Maybe? It certainly feels more real than reading.

    Newspapers, magazines and the web are great for taking in mass quantities of informational tidbits. The web excels at ready access to information, but I’ve got to wonder if NOVA made a documentary about “Sci-Fi from Page to Screen” it would blow away the reading experience of the MSN.com piece. What if the web was surfing a vast library of high definition videos and our computers had 24-inch 1980×1200 high definition screens? What value does the written word have over the spoken word with visuals?

    I buy courses from The Teaching Company and I always agonize over whether to get the DVD option, the audio edition and whether or not I need the print supplement. Their DVDs aren’t hi-def, and just contain photos to supplement the lectures, but often those photos have great impact.

    Do I prefer the NOVA shows because hi-definition television is as close to reality as any media can get? When I attend lectures I hate PowerPoint presentations and videos. I want the speaker to say something interesting and be engaging. I just finished a very rewarding book, Mark Twain: A Life by Ron Powers. I have to admit that if that book were presented as a long mini-series on PBS it would probably be my favorite way to study Twain. Photos and videos just have too much impact to ignore. Maybe that’s why YouTube is so successful on the web. But would I learn as much about Mark Twain, or remember as much?

    Where does that leave me as a writer? Should I add photos to my blog? Should I go into video blogging? Should we all become documentary makers? Blogs tend to be of lower quality writing than professional magazine writing, and video blogging is a far cry from PBS documentaries. However, what if communication between people becomes more visual in nature? Cell phones with cameras are getting popular. People email me digital photos all the time. How soon will it be before I start getting personal videos? I already get joke videos. What if the video we got were high definition?

    The question I started to write about today is: What’s the best media or method for getting a feel for what’s going on in the world each day? Television is like having extra eyes that rove the planet. Blogs are like getting to read people’s diaries. Newspapers and magazines are like getting letters from well traveled friends who are great writers. Communication speeds are so fast now that news delays range from hours to weeks. In the nineteenth century it took weeks or months and sometimes years to hear about things going on around the world. Of course reading non-fiction books is like getting the news centuries late, and with cosmology the news is a billion years old.

    Slowly high definition televsion is coming to news programs. Watching The Today Show or The Tonight Show in high-def on a large screen has a very real immediate feel. The disadvantage of television over magazines is details. For me, seeing details in print are more memorable than hearing them. I can study them and reread easily. It’s much easier to quote a magazine than to quote a television show. And I tend to think print is more philosophical than the visual media. But most of my book reading is through audio books, mainly because I have more time for them that way, and the fact that I think I experience novels better though audio than though my eyes. That’s because I listen to books at a conversational speed, but speed read them with my eyes, often skimming words. But to study them for a test I’d need to see the printed page.

    What I’d really like is to combine high-definition television with computers and the Internet. The PBS sites are doing something like what I’m thinking about. You can get a transcript of their shows for study and quoting, you can link to videos to show friends, it stays on the web for reference and it has hyperlinks for more surfing, but I need to see the videos in high definition on my computer screen. When will that happen?

    Imagine a Wikipedia entry for every topic no matter how tiny, and each entry had links to all the media related to that topic. So for the Franklin expedition there would be links to all the documentaries, the primary research, secondary research, articles, essays, photos, diaries, etc. Also imagine this Wikipedia’s front page with news streaming in about what’s going on in the world in current time. I picture a map of the world with a visual interface that helps spot new and interesting events. Other tools could track with keywords and photos. Let’s say the idea of teaching the Bible in school becomes newsworthy in this interface and catches my eye. Wouldn’t it be fun to follow a link that takes you to cameras in the classroom? What if one teacher calls up a documentary about translating the Bible in different times and places, and I could fall out of real time to watch it?

    A lot could happen in our future when it comes to information.