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.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Digital Shoebox Redux: iMemories

As the unofficial "family historian" — or at least the person who takes the most pictures and videos in our family — keeping track of all of the photos and videos we have is a nightmare.

Note that my wife is far better at saving the tangible memories from our family, such as children's artwork, report cards, school projects, trip memorabilia and more.

When photographs used to result in prints, slides, negatives, reels of film and more, it was relatively simple to put them into a shoebox — or collection of shoeboxes — to review whenever desired. With the advent of digital technology, the idea of a shoebox is less relevant and far more complicated.

In recent years, I've talked in this column about the "digital shoebox" and how it's evolving. The real problem is storing all sorts of media, whether it be prints, slides, film and/or video. There hasn't really been a way to put it all together.

I've recently come across a website that seems to do it all quite well. It's called iMemories.com.

There are a number of items I like about iMemories.

First, it handles all types of media, including analog — film, for example — and digital. Second, in the conversion process, they can do things like color correct, especially important for film and prints that may have faded over time. Third, they store it online for you forever. Fourth, you can create online methods and physical ways, such as DVDs, to present the materials.

As far as handling all types of media, you can send them just about any type of media you have, whether it be prints, negatives or slides, and they can convert it for you.

If you have movies or video, they can convert just about any format of film of videotape you have.

Once the items are in the iMemories system, you can use their website to sort through what you want to keep, edit them down to what people might actually want to see and then create online videos, slide shows, DVDs or other items which can be made available to yourself, your family, your friends, or anyone willing to watch.

Note that iMemories knows how valuable your media is and so offers more than just a normal package tracking system. They also offer a GPS tracking tool so that if the package is truly missing, it can be located using GPS, not simply "out for delivery".

iMemories also returns your media to you once it's been digitized. This way you always have your original source items.

iMemories stores your media online for $4.95 per month for unlimited storage. Where they make their money is in the conversion of media and producing products. For example, converting a videotape costs $9.99, scanning a photo is $0.49, creating a DVD is $9.99.

These costs aren't too high on an individual basis, but I have probably 100 videotapes of my family. Converting them would cost close to $1,000, not to mention all of the still photos I have.

Luckily, iMemories offers the ability to upload video to its site for free. This is good, especially if you have a fast Internet connection — note that typical Internet access is far faster downloading than uploading — so upload times can take days, if not weeks, if you have lots of media to upload.

But if you are looking for a good place to store your digital assets, I encourage you to give iMemories a try. They appear to have put all of the proper pieces in place to provide a needed service.

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 16 November 2011.