My Sentiments Exactly!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012
"Hi and Lois" courtesy of King Features Syndicate

It's not often that a comic strip attracts undue attention from me but yesterday's edition of Hi and Lois appeared to take a page directly out of my day-to-day life.  In the two panels above, we see a short but succinct representation of the current transition of the newspaper industry from a paper-based paradigm to one with an online domain.  'Thirsty' Thurston, on the left with his impartially branded laptop computer, represents the future of information distribution to consumers.  Hiram "Hi" Flagston, on the right with an equally impartial newspaper, is a fan of the more traditional medium.

While not a total 'Luddite' (he did say that he tried to use the new way), Hi prefers the aesthetic appeal of holding a broadsheet in his hands and getting its ink onto his fingers.  This appeal and long-term relationship is something that I have mentioned on many occasions at online locations and to my friends and acquaintances in person.  There is just something special about reading someone's words off of a piece of paper that humanizes the process.  This applies to newspapers, books, magazines and even personal letters which have all been the targets of modernization efforts (computers, e-readers, email).

Like the fictional Flagston, I do have a preference if given a choice, but I am not shunning the inevitable.  I currently subscribe to two carrier-delivered newspapers but I do use my various 'toys' (laptop, tablet, smartphone, internet-capable entertainment devices) to read items from sources I cannot purchase locally.  With an existing collection of over 200 books and an unknown number of saved magazines, I am coming to grips with the issue of storing them in a house that has a finite amount of space.  Since I bought my tablet late last year, I've almost doubled that total and that addition only required a little over 37 cubic inches of space that device takes up.  I have several email accounts for work and personal use and I cannot remember the last time I sat down to actually 'write' a letter to anyone (and my current undecipherable penmanship is a ready testament to that).

Last October, the Pew Research Center released a study (.pdf) concerning the computer tablet's impact upon the future of news.  Written primarily in the wake the rising popularity of Apple's iPad device, the report stated that 53 percent of over 1,150 surveyed tablet users are daily consumers of news with their readers.  I prefaced that last statement because those of us who do not own an iPad feel a little left out by the lack of attention by application developers to us non-Apple owners.  For example, I've tried Nook subscriptions to both the New York Times and the Columbus Dispatch and came away very disappointed with the way those papers were formatted for that device.  A single edition might consist of nearly 1,000 pages and the navigation between sections--and even stories in the same section--was arduous at best.

For someone who was raised on columns and page numbers, this was a 'no-go' for me; however, there is a technology on the horizon that may fit the bill:

Being a child during the 1960s, I used to watch a lot of television, especially cartoons.  Within a one-hour period, I could see things as they currently were (and supposedly used by fictional cavemen during their heyday) and how we would see them one day in an imaginative future setting.  Nearly 50 years later, we are only beginning to see just one of those promised changes take hold in our overall society.  One can only wonder just how long it will take until we see flying cars and domestic robots.

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