Tag: digital media

The Perfect E-Reader according to me

The new Skiff Reader debuted at CES last week.

E-readers were all the rage at the Consumer Electronics Show last week. There were so many new e-readers introduced that one techno-wag actually whined about the number, scope, features, and size of so many devices. I looked at all the e-readers, glanced at most of their capabilities, but I’m not buying one yet.  Here’s my wish list for what I want an e-reader to do:

1. Do more than display digital books. Apple may (I hope) surprise everyone with an mega-iPhone device that will be a computer, video camera, media player, e-reader, gaming device, internet communicator, and perhaps even a phone, but at a hefty price. HP had some tablets on display when Steve Ballmer of Microsoft spoke, but no specs, delivery dates, or other info. Dell showed a 5″ tablet that has promise, and of course the Nexus One Google phone might fit the bill in most of the things I’m looking for. But I don’t want to buy a dedicated device.

2. Use an open reading platform. Apparently PDF and EPUB are the most ubiquitous, with Amazon’s Kindle using a completely proprietary system. Blio, a new digital publishing platform was also introduced at CES, but apparently it’s proprietary as well.  I want to be able to access my books over multiple devices, and I’ll tell you why in a minute.

3.  Books available in the cloud from multiple devices. I like Kobo, the former ShortCovers mobile phone ebook reader and service.  Kobo has a very good interface for my Blackberry, plus I can login on my macbook as well.  I can download books, and access them from the cloud, and Kobo remembers where I was when I quit reading.

4.  Wireless purchase and accessibility. Kindle created this feature and others are following close behind.  It’s really so 20th century to have to download books to your computer, then sync to your mobile device.  This will be an assumed feature in the very short future.

5.  Notation, bookmarking, and other ways to personalize text. Most of the higher end e-readers already have this, and a new Samsung device lets you write with a stylus (but do we want a stylus?), just like writing a regular book.  But, is that what we really want to do, or do we want to link our notations to specific paragraphs?  Anyway, at a minimum the ability to interface with the text of the book itself.

6.  Ability to search across my entire digital library. I have about 2,000 printed books.  Wouldn’t it be great to be able to search through each volume because invariably I think a reference is in one book, when really it’s in another.  Google Books is getting close with this, and if they ever settle their lawsuit with publishers, authors, and others Google Books may really be a handy reference tool.  But, back to e-readers — search is another basic feature that will have to be included in all e-readers.

7.  Cut-and-paste text from the e-reader to my writing device. I don’t see an alternative to heavy duty writing other than an ergonomic keyboard device like a desktop or laptop anytime soon.  Of course, voice recognition could turn writing into dictating, but writers will still need the ability to do research, clip a quote, footnote the source, and paste all of that into their main writing device.

8.  Video, audio, and color graphics capability. Black-and-white readers will be gone by next Christmas.  Too many color devices will be introduced in 2010 for anyone to settle for e-ink only technology.  One device manufacturer (I forget which one) demo-ed a reader that can switch between b&w e-ink and full color display.  Why not all color, all the time?  Digital books will take on a new form eventually, and will incorporate text, video, photos, graphics, and user interactive features.

9.  Designed for digital books, not print books. Currently digital books run way behind print books in sales, so ebooks are the digital versions of their printed-on-paper big brothers.  But that is changing quickly.  Within five years (maybe less) the curves will cross and digital will pass print as the media of choice.  Students will see it with textbooks and bring their new reading habits into the real world when they graduate.  One tech guru predicts that students will be using tablet computers instead of laptops in the near future.

10.  Foster communities for producing, sharing, and consuming media. Imagine a small group able to share notes, insights, video, audio, and photos around the book or periodical they are using as a study guide.  Of course, everyone would need access to a device, but prices will come down quickly.

That’s what I’m looking for in my stocking next Christmas.  What would you add to this set of specs, or how to you see the whole e-reader and other devices developing, especially as it relates to church?

Dying newspapers, dying churches

images-1Newspapers must either change or die in this new media age, and churches could learn something from them.

My friend, Jim Stovall, teaches journalism at the University of Tennessee, and sees the death of newspapers as a positive development for journalism.  Does that sound strange?  Jim sees it this way:

We who contemplate the importance of journalism look at the future with trepidation.

What happens to journalism, we ask, when newspapers continue on their inevitable decline? The question assumes that journalism itself will be diminished.

I am coming to a different conclusion: 

Journalism will improve once newspapers die or decline to a minor medium.

Jim and I have had several conversations about newspapers and churches.  We both grew up in church, and Jim is a regular United Methodist Church member.  I share Jim’s conviction about newspapers, and have a conviction of my own about churches.

Newspapers need to realize they are in the news business, not the paper business. The high cost of printing, delivery, labor, and organization is bankrupting newspapers.  News organizations that embrace new media are on the rise.  Where do you read your news — a printed paper or online?  And that’s my point.

Churches have a similar problem.  We are trying to hold on to the form of church (our version of the “paper”), forgetting that the message (“news”) is most important.  Almost all denominations are in decline now, including my own Southern Baptist Convention.  In response to that, denominational leaders try to appeal to young people.  LifeWay conducts lots of very good research on how Baptists can reach the under-30 crowd.  We kid ourselves to think, “If we could only add young people to our churches, everything would be fine.”

What we really should be doing is repackaging the message in ways that would carry it better.  For example:  Pick the worst hour of the week to try to get young people to an event and you won’t find one worse than 11 AM on Sunday morning, unless it’s 10 AM on Sunday morning.  Yet we persist in meeting at that time, which started when the farm chores had to be done, the wagon hitched up, and Sunday lunch packed for dinner-on-the-grounds before the family could leave for church.

I could go on and on here about our concern for the “form” of church more than its substance, but I’ll let you fill in your own ideas.  My point, as was Jim’s about newspapers, is that the sooner some of the outmoded forms of church fail or diminish, the sooner we’ll get on with finding new forms for the message.   Of course, that might mean some of the churches we currently pastor go out of business, which would hurt.  But if we remember that the form of church we have now is not that different than it was in the 1920s, then we realize we’re overdue for a makeover. Not much else from the 1920s survives today, and churches and newspapers are about to get added to that list.

What do you think? If you’d like to read the rest of what my friend says about newspapers and the future he sees for journalism, go here. Then think about what a similar outcome might mean for churches.  Let me know what you discover.