doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts

Digital media

One of life’s little joys around here is in the afternoon when I get an email blast from Stephen Downes. He does a lot of heavy-duty reading and sharing so that I don’t have to. In addition to sharing a number of resources, he provides his own commentary on things.

Yesterday, he shared his thoughts about this article Digital Books wear out faster than Physical Books. I thought that it might be a bit of digital fluff until I read the articles and then Stephen’s take on it.

As luck would have it, I made reference to a Mathematics book on my bookshelf and included an image.

Yes, it’s hardcover and has real pages made for turning as I enjoy it.

For yucks, I wondered about getting a copy of it today. As it turns out, a simple search reveals that it’s available for purchase at Amazon, among other places. And, a free PDF version of it is available here.

So, paper and PDF are pretty good at standing the test of time.

As Stephen notes, we, as consumers, have endured changing media over the years. The first formal eBooks might be a challenge to read these days. Specifically, he did mention buying Beatles albums in a number of formats. I had to smile a bit since I do have a number of Beatles albums on LP down in the rec room and CD-ROM copies in a binder. I wanted them because the music is enduring and quite frankly, I enjoy it. Well, the music might be available but the format may not be usable. This, my latest computer, doesn’t have a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive. My car does but I fear that the next vehicle probably won’t. My wife’s Jeep certainly doesn’t. It’s turned our listening there back, way back, to over-the-air radio and commercials and a playlist that’s at the beck and call of someone else.

Earlier this summer, I had a need to look up a name in a database that I used to keep registrations for the Western RCAC Symposium. Back then, thanks to my superintendent who was a fanatic about it, we kept everything in a Filemaker Pro document. Of course, I didn’t have it installed on this computer but I think I have an original on CD-ROM but then how to open it?

I was ultimately able to open the document in a text editor and go trolling for what I was looking for. It really was like banging your head against a wall because it felt so good when it was over. This should always be a last chance option.

So, what’s a person supposed to do?

I had done all the good digital stuff and the file is backed up on an external drive. That doesn’t solve any problem but I do have a backup.

It got me thinking about PDF files. We used to turn our noses up and say “PDF is where good ideas go to die”. That was before the ability to edit PDF came along.

That really doesn’t solve every problem. Sure, you can probably turn just about anything into a PDF file but you lose the original functionality of the document.

So, what I originally thought had the potential to be something fluffy has me wondering what the real answer is. A smack to the head to anyone who suggests printing the documents. The more I think about it, the more important the original post becomes.

It would be a great discussion for a Computer Science classroom…

“I have this file on this CD-ROM that I need opened … $20 to the first person that can do it”


One response to “Digital media”

Please share your thoughts here. I’d enjoy reading them.

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