DIGITAL AGE

July 28, 2012


 I subscribe to a great magazine called “The Engineer”.  It has been published in the UK for over 150 years –all in print form.  The first edition was published in 1856 for the sole purpose of keeping the engineering community in the Crown informed relative to developments in engineering fields and related technology.   The following statement was recently made by Jon Excell, editor-in-chief of the magazine:

“The pressures on print publications are well known.  Increasing distribution and production costs, and the impact of an ongoing economic crisis on advertising revenues, have conspired to create a challenging environment for all magazine publications.  At the same time, rise of the internet with its global reach, low publication costs, and unfulfilled communication potential presents some truly exciting opportunities.” 

The announcement continued to state that as of July 16, 2012, the last print version of the “Engineer” would be available.  From that date, only digital versions of the magazine would be published.  It is a matter of survival.   I think what we are seeing with the “Engineer” is the direction we are headed with publication in general.  I’m not saying books will disappear from shelves but we are seeing with devices such as the NOOK, Kindle, i-PAD and the new HP tablet the probable direction mass publications will take.  All you have to do is examine the monthly or annual costs of digital vs. print and you can see where the future lies.   Several newspapers and magazine publication in the United States have made this transition already.

 I have a great friend and neighbor who teaches at the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee.    This is a private boys’ school; sixth grade through twelfth grade.  We were doing some “front-yard” talking this past week relative to the start of the 2012-2013 school year.   Eric (my neighbor) indicated that McCallie would be initiating a pilot program to evaluate e-readers instead of hard-bound text books.  The estimated savings was phenomenal.  I mean thousands of dollars when you consider damage, obsolesce, lost books, etc etc.  The students would be furnished e-readers for this purpose with the text and related subject matter downloaded for specific classes.    This will be a two year program in which student, parent and teacher reaction will be evaluated.  The consensus of opinion is a gradual, i.e. three year, movement to e-readers. 

Another fascinating “event” talking place at my youngest grandson’s school is the removal of all chalk blackboards.  These blackboards will be replaced with “digital blackboards” that will access the internet so that educational “streaming” can occur, including video taken and produced by the school itself.  The blackboards work on the very same principal we see when viewing the nightly news or local weather.  The ability of the teacher or student to “write on the board” will be available and provide excitement to the student in addition to  educational possibilities.   That naughty child slated to erase the board as punishment will vanish forever—at least at The Bright School.   Very exciting indeed.

As you can see, we are moving ever-so-quickly to embrace existing digital technology.  I think this is a marvelous direction and I champion the change although in a way, it’s really sad to see books and related publications disappear.  I can’t really imagine my Kindle laying on a coffee table with directions on how to download an e-book purchased from our recent visit to Canada or Italy.

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