Read All About It

19 02 2011

I am saving a lot of money these days.

Well, not because I am on some austerity kick. It’s just that I made another of those discontinuous leaps for which I am known among my friends. I seldom transition into new things gradually. Kind of like that summer day in 1993 when I decided to become a vegetarian. Yeah, I had studied the subject intensely, but I awakened knowing that yesterday was the last burger. No turning back.

I have done similarly with my exercise regime. And in the realm of technology, I have had similar life-changing events: No more CDs after April 208; no more DVDs after November 2010.

And next on tap are books, magazines and newspapers. Sure, I know I will continue to read tangible products, but I have jumped into the deep end of this pool. I’ll only come up for a whiff of fresh ink as needed.

And thanks to the twin announcements this week by Apple and Google, it appears that my swim is going to be a lot easier.

The newsstand of yesterday is about to go the way of Blockbuster and Borders. In just a few years I bet we will be hard-pressed to even find them. And I am also including the magazine and newspaper sections of major booksellers as well as airport shops.

Yes, this will take a little readjusting on my behalf. Whenever I fly, it is my custom to spend time (and money) at airport bookstores and newsstands, buying my requisite “airport book” or magazine. I cherish the time I get to spend with phone off, for it affords me a rare moment of mental relaxation. That airport book becomes my best friend for the journey.

But I see this all changing. Since I travel with a Sprint Overdrive mobile hotspot and iPad, I can now satisfy my intellectual curiosities simply. And cheaply.

Remember, I said I was saving money.

But it also means my load is lightened. My backpack is now many pounds lighter, and I no longer look like a hump-backed professor slogging through baggage claim.

Apple and Google promise to do for newspapers and magazines what Kindle started for books a few years ago. We’ve just cut out a lot of middlemen and replaced it with an electronic intermediary. Subscriptions are delivered seamlessly, untorn and never a day late.

But the best part is the interactive content. I absolutely loved the latest issue of Popular Mechanics on my tablet. Pop-out sidebar material, audio and video make for an engaging experience that no ink-on-paper product could come close to matching.

As always, there will be job displacement. Newspaper delivery personnel will eventually find her job relevance diminishing. The mailman will continue to wonder how his bag is much lighter than it once was. And the corner newsstand guy will be sent to an early, unplanned retirement.

While Apple has irked some over its 30% commission (Google only takes 10%), it will only be a matter of time before pricing and distribution matters are resolved. This is the future. It is knocking on our door.

And it is time to answer it. Anyone are to join me in the deep end?

Dr “The Water’s Warm” Gerlich


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