Wednesday, November 30, 2011

OK, eBooks and eMagazines Win

When Amazon came out with its Kindle a few years ago, I wondered if anyone — including myself — would truly prefer digital reading over paper reading.

I had no doubt that digital publishing would succeed. My question is whether people would choose digital over paper.

Having been using a number of digital devices over the year, most notably an Apple iPad 2, I have been converted.

Initially, I thought that reading the newspaper or a magazine digitally would not deliver the same — or as fulfilling — experience. True, reading on a digital reader is a different experience. And I prefer it.

We all know the experience of paper publishing, so I won't go into those benefits. Instead, let me tell you what I like about digital publications.

First, the experience is richer. Along with the text and photos that one normally has on paper, there are interactive bits such as video, interactive graphs, the ability to bookmark and even email a story to friends.

Second, delivery is reliable. I know that if BusinessWeek normally arrives in my driveway — yes, it's hand-delivered here in Westport — on Friday mornings, if I happen to be away or it's buried under 6 inches of snow, I can still download it.

Third, I can carry an entire library on a single device. When I used to travel more extensively, I used to take dozens of magazines with me in my carry-on luggage and then discard them when I was finished. Now, I can carry virtually unlimited amounts of reading material — and even use it on a flight when I'm not on the Internet — with no waste at all.

Fourth, it's green. There's less use of trees, printing, shipping and waste. I like that.

Fifth, we're only seeing the beginning to what digital publishing will like. I know the publishing business is a tough one. It's in the midst of a transformation. People expect information to be free, advertising revenues are down. But there are huge opportunities for a successful transformation of this industry. Multimedia is only the beginning. Interactivity and other features we haven't even considered yet will be coming.

Some of the problems with digital versus print publishing are that some companies provide you with free access to their content if you subscribe to their print magazines. Others require you to have two separate subscriptions — one to print and one digital.

I also find the interfaces to the magazines different and somewhat challenging. Where to access the reading applications, how to access the menus and issues, how to enter your subscription information and more. Each of these indicates to me a nascent technology that's striving to find a common solution.

So while I will find myself doing less and less reading of ink on paper, I can't say I'll miss it as much as I thought I would. I predict that within 10 years, our children will think of print newspapers, magazines and books are as quaint as vinyl records.

Mark Mathias, a 30-plus year veteran of information technology and a resident of Westport, Connecticut, was named by Computerworld magazine to their inaugural list of “Premier 100 IT Leaders.” This column was originally published in the Westport News on Wednesday 30 November 2011.


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