Friday, July 17, 2009

Clambering Across the Digital Divide

I've said in other posts (and I'm not alone in this sentiment), enough already with the sensory draw of books––the feel, the smell, the weight. Next we'll be reminiscing over that little scab of, shall we call it "sneeze residue," that makes its appearance now and then on the pages of library books, reminding us why the librarians of old compulsively placed those "Wash hands before reading" stickers on inside covers. Or, more apropos, "Wash hands after reading."

For me it's all a matter of convenience, since the aesthetic appeal of books died with the advent of paperbacks, and so far I haven't found a reading device that meets my requirements. My friend Kim of Kim's Craft Blog finds her Kindle best for blogs, newspapers, and magazines. My problem is the most convenient time I find for reading the magazines and journals I subscribe to is when working out at the gym. I only recently acquired the knack of reading print while bobbing up and down on an elliptical, and since I do the arm thing, hands-free is a definite must.

The Kindle requires a lot more hand than flipping a page now and then, or so it appeared when my friend demonstrated the Kindle he received for Christmas. That and the price and the fear that it will shortly be rendered obsolete by something even more user friendly from Apple––who else–– (I remain gun shy after the Betamax VCR thing), keeps me from purchasing one just yet.

I have, however, begun to read my newspapers online. I subscribed to two. I did the traditional Sunday thing reading my thick Inquirer while eating bacon and eggs and sipping coffee. Weekday mornings I read my local county paper that now, as the biggies have dwindled, covers much more national and international news, but I turn to it as the only place for news about school taxes, our local lawmakers, etc. I gave up the paper version of The Inquirer a couple years ago due to an erratic delivery schedule on cold winter mornings when I'd risk life and limb on our icy private lane only to find my paper hadn't yet arrived. The online version of The Inquirer I read is free. I gave up the print version of the local paper just a few weeks ago when they practically begged me to purchase a less expensive electronic version delivered in PDF format. Considering newspapers take up the majority of my recycle bin, it seemed like something I needed to do both to keep my paper solvent and save some trees.

However, reading on my laptop has its definite drawbacks. First, it's awkward playing with my mouse while trying to eat breakfast and keep my hot coffee at a safe distance from my keyboard. (We received a desperate call from our daughter a while back regarding a situation that began with a cup held suspended over a laptop by someone only half awake.) In the summer I liked to take my paper and coffee out on the patio, but the laptop is a little awkward there too, and difficult to see in bright sunlight.

Today, though, showed me the true limitations of getting my paper online. For some reason the Internet was slow, and I spent my entire breakfast waiting for my morning paper to load. That got me thinking. What would happen in the case of a power outage? We usually have one every summer that lasts at least 48 hours. About the only thing we can do, since all our phones now require electricity or recharging, is read. So what would I do in a world where all my reading material was digital? I read that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina the Time-Picayune of New Orleans, with the presses down, continued to publish in electronic format. High praise for the staffers who hunkered down and braved the storm to get the news out, but while the main value was to bring the disaster to the world, how many people in New Orleans had access to the Internet?

In my home we need electricity to cook and even to use the water, since we have a well and an electric pump. It's scary to think even reading might one day depend on electric power.

Ah well, you can't stop progress, or whatever you call it.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails