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COMMUNET  April 1993, Week 5

COMMUNET April 1993, Week 5

Subject:

2nd File

From:

"David H. Rothman" <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

27 Apr 93 21:07:59 EDT

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (679 lines)

(Continued)
 
******************************************************************
 
                          STAMPING OUT CURIOSITY:
                      THE TROUBLE WITH "PAY-PER-READ
                          AND "KNOWLEDGE STAMPS"
        Via computer, you've just dialed up Shakespeare, a biology text or
maybe a manual telling you how to fix a diesel engine. You log on the
network for the next series of books. And then a rude message flashes
across your screen: "User hereby agrees to transfer $20 for the designated
material. Type Y or N."
        Get used to such hassles if we go in the direction of pay-per-read.
One of the worst proposals comes from a Washington consultant who has
suggested that Americans receive "Micro-vouchers" to pay for courses and
instructional material and tools. Couldn't these knowledge stamps help
replace "government-run and -controlled institutions" with "free
enterprise"?
        Excuse me. What about the Stalinist institutions known as public
libraries? When thousands of books go online and many are not even
available on paper, a national public library should store copies of
everything for ordinary Americans to dial up. Otherwise, we may have to
dart back and forth between, say, a Time Warner computer network and a
McGraw-Hill equivalent to retrieve all books on topic X.
        Even more important, our government should not limit our free reading
to stamp-style allotments (why have stamps if allotments or pay-per-read
schemes won't exist?). A traditional public library encourages curiosity
and browsing. We must not let the pay-per-read gang discourage them. If
pay-per-read wins out instead, future Michael Dirdas will suffer. Dirda, a
Washington Post editor from the Ohio steel town of Lorain, has written how
his clever working-class father used reverse psychology to cultivate a love
of books. Now, what if pay-per-read prevails in the 21st century? Then,
knowledge stamps or not, a future version of Dirda's father might truly
mean it when he discouraged reading:
        Mr. Dirda (looking at a record of young Michael's account): "Why are
you wasting your stamps? If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand
times. no more novels this month."
        Michael: "Not even Tolstoy? Not even Faulkner?"
        Mr. Dirda: "I thought you were practical."
        Michael: "Tom Mikus reads all the novels he wants. Bellow, Mailer, you
name it."
        Mr. Dirda: "Look, Mike, you've got only so many stamps. If we could
afford all those books on our own--believe me, we'd get 'em."
        Michael: "Just because his old man's a lawyer--"
        Mr. Dirda: "You've still got $300 in credit this year. Why not take
accounting?"
        Michael: "But I want to go to Oberlin. I want to save my stamps for
the classy stuff."
        Mr. Dirda: "Forget it, Mike. That's for people like Tom."
        I'm assuming, of course, that the future Michael could befriend the
future Tom in a public school attended by children of diverse backgrounds.
By draining away resources, knowledge stamps might kill off many public
schools where social classes mixed.-D.H.R.
 
******************************************************************
 
                                NINE MYTHS
        Say "TeleRead" to a certain species of "information management" guru,
and it will be like touting Fords to a buggywhip maker.
        After Computerworld printed an early version of my TeleRead proposal
in July 1992, it received an angry letter from a Chicago consultant who was
"appalled." He hated the idea of the *government* spending money on
"universal access to on-line information." Presumably we should sit back
and let Fortune 500 companies and the information priesthood decide what's
best for the average American.
        I won't blame some elite consultants for loathing the idea. While many
would adapt to TeleRead--and actually come out ahead--others would find
that it took away their raison d'etre. Many prospective clients could
dial-up information for themselves.
        With people like the Chicago consultant in mind, I'll list nine myths
and rebuttals:
        --Myth #1: Apple started in a garage, so why do we need a new
government program like TeleRead? What a waste.
        Reply: By the time Apple came along, the government had poured
billions into military and space technology. Would integrated chips and
other key components have been invented without years of investment in more
primitive forms of electronics? Consider, too, the shot in the arm that the
laptop industry received when the Internal Revenue Service and other
federal agencies started buying portable computers.
        Such benefits, however, are small compared to those that TeleRead
could bring over time. Without being too xenophobic--not the smartest
mindset in an industry as international as high-tech--TeleRead would try to
favor vendors with American-made screens and other key components.
        The biggest need for TeleRead, of course, has nothing to do with the
immediate welfare of regions such as Silicon Valley and the Route 128
corridor in Massachusetts. It has to do with the decline of reading in the
United States. Millions of students are growing up in bookless homes and
going to schools that lack money for books or squander the funds.
        Some of the worst outrages have occurred in Washington, D.C. Schools
there spend more than half a billion a year, of which a mere $2 million
goes for books. Teachers are tired of using their own money to buy extra
books and other supplies for students.
        Courtland Milloy, a Washington Post columnist, recently wrote: "In the
absence of up-to-date textbooks, many teachers say they must rely heavily
on current publications, routinely spending more than $100 a year just on
duplicating news articles."
        Anyone still question the need for TeleRead?
        --Myth #2: Wouldn't TeleRead stifle competition among publishers and
writers. What's this about DE-escalating royalties?
        Reply: But what's so competitive about our present system? Go to the
computer-book stands at your local chain stores, for example, and you'll
very likely see the same colophons again and again. That's a hint of what
the rest of the book world may face.
        At least one famous publisher tells agents that it no longer wants
midlist books, only potential best-sellers or specialized professional
books.
        Marketers at some big publishing houses don't exactly dream of
publishing Nobel Prize winners and printing scores of good first novels.
Their secret fantasy is a little more MBAish. They would like to print just
one book a year--anything, good or bad--and sell 20 million copies.
        Forget about the explosion in the number of small publishers. Desktop
publishing technology makes it easier to set type and lay out books, but
what's the use if you normally can't get the big chains to display your
wares as well as those from major houses? Most small publishers survive by
sticking to niches and paying meager royalties to writers, who, with less
at stake, often turn out sloppy, badly researched work.
        Nor does the present system truly promote competition among writers.
In a country of a quarter of a billion people, fewer than 10,000-20,000
freelancers are writing books full time and giving the trade their best
efforts. Going full time is normally out of the question unless you're
rich, hyperfrugal or have a working spouse. Write a $20 paperback, and you
may receive all of $1.20 for every copy sold.
        Sociologist Paul Kingston once calculated that writers could earn more
per hour by flipping hamburgers at Wendy's than they could make at the
typewriter. He co-authored a book with a rather apropos title: The Wages of
Writing: Per Word, Per Piece, or Perhaps (Columbia University Press, 1986).
No meaningful government figures exist on the average incomes of
professional book and magazine writers who freelance full-time; but you can
bet that you wouldn't want your daughter to marry one.
        Meanwhile, publishers keep bidding up the prices of a lucky few
writers without truly encouraging them to write better or even in a more
popular style. Judith Krantz will never turn out Pride and Prejudice--or
even a more popular Hollywood saga--just because the industry pays her $2
million rather than $1 million. The industry would be far more competitive
without all those blockbuster advances and without a tendency to promote
just a few writers at the expense of many.
        And that's where the concept of de-escalating royalties would come in.
It could revive the midlist book in America.
        Right now, printers give discounts for large printings--favoring
best-sellers, in effect, and harming many technical and educational books,
along with literary novels. And even with computerized inventory systems,
big chains would rather play up certified best-sellers than midlist books.
Most chain stores are in malls. Booksellers must pay the same rent on the
space a book takes up, whether it sells one or 1,000 copies a month.
        TRnet, however, would be different. It wouldn't cost that much more
per dial-up to distribute a first novel rather than a Krantz book.
Moreover, as suggested in the main TeleRead proposal, TRnet should be
entitled to a steep discount as a mass buyer.
        In the end, then, through de-escalating royalties, the new
book-distribution system would be skewed in favor of competition and
diversity.
        --Myth #3: The government has no business funding writers and
publishers. What about the risk of censorship? Do we really want the feds
telling us how to spend money on books?
        Reply: Marketers already are censoring new ideas more relentlessly
than any government bureaucrats could.
        Write a book about a social or political problem, and watch the
typical publisher run in the other direction if you aren't good talk-show
fodder. Ideally, of course, you'll have your own show and a large audience
that shares your prejudices. Rush Limbaugh is the publishing world's gift
to itself.
        Pesky new idea lose out under this system. The wonderful witticism
from the late A.J. Liebling, the media critic, has held up well; freedom of
the press is for those who own one.
        TeleRead, on the other hand, would be a boon to new publications and
to small publishers of books, newsletters and magazines with original
ideas. I think of people like Roldo Bartimole, a former Wall Street Journal
reporter. For decades he has been taking on the Cleveland establishment.
Read his Point of View newsletter and you will understand why new
skyscrapers arose in Cleveland while neighborhoods crumbled.
        PoV is a delight for citizen activists, journalists, librarians,
academics and others. In fact, some of its most constant readers are its
targets. They keep up with Bartimole's little sheet for the same reason
many financiers read the front page of The Wall Street Journal; his exposes
enrage them at times, but uncover fresh facts that they could never find
elsewhere.
        The problem is, many big law firms and others are not buying PoV so
much as they are *photocopying* it.
        Under TeleRead, Bartimole-style mavericks could reach larger audiences
without worrying about the costs of postage and printing. Yes, some copying
would take place. But the mavericks would still benefit from the wider
exposure. At the same time, big dailies would come out ahead, too, since
they could distribute electronic editions without relying on the goodwill of
the local telephone and cable monopolies.
        But what about the risk of politicians censoring material? That is
exactly why TeleRead would be an independent agency; receive long-range
funding; have many librarians involved in the selection of books and other
material; rely heavily on input from state and local levels rather than
being a top-down organization; offer explicit procedures for writers and
publishers to bypass the librarians; and allow private publishers to run
their own networks and sell books and magazines independently through
subscription programs of their own.
        TeleRead would not even have to be in Washington near the normal
policymakers and lobbyists. Spread out the functions. Let a Silicon Valley
office do much of the laptop-procurement. Have Boston help handle contracts
for the memory-bank facilities, in many different areas of the country. Let
the librarians--most of whom would work for local, state and university
libraries rather than for TeleRead--live anywhere.
        Keep the Library of Congress open as a servant of the Congress and as
a preserver of paper manuscripts, but don't let it run TeleRead, not when
the existing Library is within a short walk of the Capitol Building. In short,
make TeleRead a decentralized, virtual organization without a Washington
headquarters around which the usual lobbyists could hang out. Astute
politicians should welcome this approach. It would provide less opportunity for
book-burning group to hassle them over TeleRead.
        A decentralized TeleRead might lease TRnet computer facilities in
several regions and cut down on communications costs. Granted, each
facility would store the same books (so that comprehensive searches for
information would be easy). But many librarians, in different locations,
would be able to certify titles for dial-up fees.
        These TeleLibrarians, though federally funded, would be working within
their own budgets, just like doctors at HMO's. Consider a librarian in
Bismarck, North Dakota, who was employed by the local library system there;
he or she would use the central database to monitor all new books
submitted for possible certification--no matter where the authors or
publishers were located. Thanks to the powerful search capabilities of
computers, our North Dakotan could flag the system to look regularly for
books of interest to her.
        No book on the Great Plains or on the Dakota history would escape her
notice--nor would any biography of her favorite composer or artist.
        The central database would tell her which books already received
enjoyed certification. Armed with all these facts, she could intelligently
approve a certain number of books each week or two--whatever her budget
allowed. The money would come from the federal government, but this local
TeleLibrarian would be watching out for the interest of her fellow
Dakotans.
        Statisticians would help TRnet monitor the dialup patterns and
constantly adjust the allowances for purchases of certain kinds of books
and other material. The book world already has a classification method,
none other than the Dewey Decimal system. Clearly, then, ways would exist
for TRnet to avoid cost overruns, especially if royalties on best-sellers
were de-escalating.
        With clear selection and budgeting procedures in place, TRnet in some
respects would be like the Internet, the giant network of networks that is
available to thousand of researchers, academics, business people and others
in the United States and throughout the rest of the world. The U.S.
government made the Internet possible, but the network has taken on a life
of its own. It now carries hundreds of message areas on topics ranging from
ozone to "Practical Christianity."
        In fact, the Internet offers much more freedom that people find on
some private networks. Some months ago, while researching a computer book,
my wife and I asked Prodigy members what they thought of this service. Our
neutrally worded notice vanished within hours. The book was many months
from publication and we did not even mention a title, yet Prodigy claimed
we were using the network for commercial purposes.  Prodigy has added some
wonderful new wrinkles, such as 9,600-b.p.s. services, and I very much hope
that this innovative network will survive and thrive--but with more freedom
of expression. Carly and I were hardly the first victims of the Prodigy
censors. A New York Times gardening columnist had a brush with them several
years ago and wrote about it in his paper.
        Should you still see TeleRead as more Big Brotherish than "Free
Enterprise" is, then you might consider the following scenario:
         Let's say the government gave your local newspaper what some have
called "a license to print money." As a believer in separation of state and
press, would you approve of this practice? Would you consider it to be
unfair federal intervention? Then you are a little too late. Television
licenses already exist--for newspaper companies and other businesses--and
the Federal Communications Communication can take them away if the FCC
believes that TV stations are not acting in the public interest.
        What's more, even opinion magazines must plead their case with the
Postal Service if they want to enjoy special mailing rates. And
publications of all kinds of all kinds must satisfy the Internal Revenue.
        So true separation between government and the media is a dream. If it
were reality, copyrights would not be with us. Jesse Helms notwithstanding,
federal copyright law makes it possible for Hustler to turn a profit--by
assuring Larry Flynt that if someone pirates his girlie photos, then Flynt
can sue. Copyrights do not exist like the Rockies and the Atlantic Ocean.
Bureaucrats must grant them.
        The real way to promote freedom of speech, then, is not to deny the
inevitable governmental role in what we read, watch and hear. Rather it's
to come up with a system of checks and balances to guard against censorship
by bureaucrats--or marketers.
        --Myth #4: But if you don't have censorship, you won't be able to
control what books children read.
        The best way for parents to protect their children is to set good
examples and spend enough time with their offspring. Certainly few books
are as likely to promote negative behavior as the barrage of graphic
material on commercial television.
        But, yes, for parents wanting a technological solution,
TeleReader could prevent children from dialing up objectionable
material. Parents and children could use different log-on procedures, just
as they can right now on some commercial computer networks.
        --Myth #5: A good $50 or $100 laptop? You've got to be kidding.
        Reply: What sells for $1,000 today is likely to sell for a tenth of
the price within the next two decades. Consider how much the early
televisions and calculators cost. Even without a government program, you
can pay $100 for a used PC that would have sold in the mid-80s for several
thousand dollars.
        Engineers are squeezing more power into less space, and driving down
costs in the bargain. Twenty years ago, it's been noted, we could not cram
more than 5,000 transistors into an integrated circuit. Now the upper limit
has been said to be five million, and even that estimate may be dated.
Meanwhile, computer memories are growing. An entire chip someday might
house the entire contents of the Library of Congress.
        What's more, portable computer screens are sharper than ever. Already
the Knight-Ridder chain has been studying the use of tablet-style portables
for reading newspapers. The technology may be ready in the next two years
or so.
        Today the screen of the typical portable is still not good enough for
many people to read whole books with. But we are not that far off from the
time when flat screens could actually be *easier* to read from paper. The
screens could be sharp and flickerless, and you would be able to vary the
color, type size and type style. Besides, the first material on TRnet could
be of the "must read" variety--for example,  medical and technical
material--so that the readability of the screen mattered less than for
recreational reading.
        What about battery life? High-tech companies are steadily increasing
the time between recharges. The batteries pack more energy and the
circuitry draws less power. This is one area with plenty of room for
progress, but hardly hopeless. Some portable computers without good screens
can last dozens of hours on penlight cells. Besides, what's so
tragic if the very first TeleReaders rely more extensively on AC
power than future models do?
        So in the end, the issue isn't technology. It's money. Get publishers
to digitize books, create enough of a market for TeleReaders, and Silicon
Valley will oblige. No, a powerful $100 laptop won't be here immediately.
But it will appear in the future--if Silicon Valley works on driving the
costs down, not just on pushing the limits of technology.
        Myth #6: Wouldn't the kids steal or destroy the equipment?
        Reply: But who says every child must get a TeleReader immediately?
        Schools could loan the first machines to the children with the best
prospects--the bright and the hardworking; reward them. Drug-peddlers
flaunt beepers. Now let's get some high-tech into the hands of honest,
well-motivated students who otherwise could never afford powerful laptops.
        Also, etch serial numbers into the cases. Compile a registery of
legitimate users of government-supplied machines, and make it illegal to
sell unregistered TeleReaders. Impose stiff penalties on offenders.
        Reduce damage to equipment by starting the program in the high schools
and working down. Also, insist that durabilty be one of the criteria for
awarding TeleReader contracts. Sooner or later we'd reach the point where
first-graders could blithely play catch with their TeleReaders or drop them
on the sidewalk.
        Yet another way to fight theft and breakage would be to involve
parents in the TeleRead program from the start. The machines could improve
their own literacy skills and make them more employable. Special video
games--with audio and flashy, Sesame Street-style graphics--might even be
designed to help parents and children work together to build up their
skills.
        --Myth #7: It's un-American to tax TV-watchers to support readers.
        Reply: But don't we tax single people and childless couples to support
the public schools?
        Even putting best-sellers online--everything from mystery novels to
Judith Krantz's work--would contribute to general enlightenment. People do
not maintain and sharpen their reading skills by just reading what they
must. They also do this by reading what they want. That's especially true
of children; literacy specialists are among the biggest boosters of comic
books.
        --Myth #8: But why pick on the TV industry?
        Reply: By giving away billions of dollars spectrum space, the
government helped launch the industry. Now the industry and its offshoots
should repay the taxpayers.
        TV could survive TeleRead. The question is, Will books survive
television?
        Outside the elite--especially in inner cities--many more children grow
up in TV-centered homes than in book-centered ones. Here's a chance to
right the balance for the good of society. Americans will never cure heart
disease, fend off international economic competitors, end poverty, or wipe
out the deficit by watching more television. But we might do all of the
aforementioned if we read more.
        Shouldn't our government, then, favor TeleRead over the refinement of
High-Definition Television? Powerful commercial motives exist for refining
HDTV, and surely, within two decades, a 40- or 60-inch television will hang
from the wall of the typical American home. But smarter television sets by
themselves will never mean Einsteinian children.
        Of course, TeleReaders should offer sounds and moving images where
appropriate; and eventually the units might come with goggles and
datagloves that children could don to enter the world of virtual reality.
However, let's not mix up our priorities here; reading is the most crucial
skill. Although Sesame Street and instructional videos are valuable, they
are no substitutes. Television often reduces our children's attention
spans. Books help lengthen them. Would a long or short span be better for
future doctors, engineers, scientists, lawyers, teachers--and, yes, voters?
        Do we really want push-button plebiscites where citizens obediently
agree with their leaders after seeing a few images flash before them? Or do
we want sophisticated voters who can tap into massive databases and send
persuasive e-mail to the government officials?
        Myth #9: But some TeleRead-style projects exist now. How about
competing activities such as Co-NECT Schools? What about groups such
as the New American Schools Development Corporation, which is promoting into
some of the same technologies?
        Bravo! They're not competitors at all. These programs are
a fraction of the size that TeleRead would eventually be. Besides, the more
the technology is tested beforehand, the faster we can get TeleRead
off the ground. TeleRead's TRnet would be a wonderful way to distribute
already-developed educational materials to children--and adults. And educators
already working in this area could help set up programs to accustom American
teachers to high-tech.
        The point to remember here is that no private effort could ever offer
as many books and as much educational software as TeleRead could, and do this
at affordable prices for all.
        Nor could any other program stimulate technological development as
much, by offering so massive a market for reading-computers.
        I have not heard of any private projects using machines as viewable
and affordable as the proposed TeleReaders, but if those ventures
can perfect such machines, that will *help*. It would especially be good if
educators in existing endeavors, computer companies, newspaper people, book
publishers and others worked with the government to come up with goals and
standards for TeleReaders.-D.H.R.
 
******************************************************************
 
                          THE ORIGINS OF TELEREAD
        Several years ago, William F. Buckley, Jr., complained that many
students were using computers rather than card catalogues at the library.
He had a point. Library skills were declining. Skimming a few facts off
databases wasn't like reading *whole* books. I thought, "Why couldn't the
complete texts be online?"
        The idea of dial-up books was already many years old. But to my
knowledge, no one had truly resolved the big issue: Just how could we make
online books affordable--yet also provide for fair compensation for writers
and publishers? Without such a plan, we might well reach the point someday
where most public libraries folded. Suppose only the rich could afford to
be well read. I wondered if our library system would start failing the
average American as badly as our health care system had. Middle-class
people were reading books, but some of the fastest-growing demographical
groups were not. What's more, I feared that future technology might
increase the gap between the middle-class and the rich.
        My concerns have been all too justified. Within the past year, my
local libraries have cut back hours; this happened to me in Fairfax County,
Va., not Harlan County, Kentucky. Even the Library of Congress has scaled
back the schedule of its reading room. On top of that, more and more
students are shunning careers with public libraries, preferring to collect
lawyerish money working for data-hungry corporations.
        Something else is happening, too: Publishers and stores are even more
cavalier toward non-best-sellers than in past years. My books keep coming
out late for business reasons. Typically my publishers are too busy
promoting books by celebrities or hawking the 10 zillionth WordPerfect
guide. Readers never have a chance to discover many midlist books of the
kind that I write. When a writer for major computer magazines wanted to
review The Complete Laptop Computer Guide, he could not find a copy on sale
in all of Salt Lake City.
        Another outrage is the high price of books. Why is it that
schoolchildren must pay $8 for little paperback editions of classics? Or
that more and more of college textbooks cost $50 or $75? Or that many
students must resort to used, outdated textbooks because the new ones are
so expensive? Or that some novels list for $30? Just how can publishers
lobby for more aid to libraries when the prices of books keeps zooming? And
yet we cannot blame publishers alone, not when production costs have risen.
        I conceived TeleRead, then, as a good solution for readers, writers,
and publishers alike--and even for bookstores, too, if they were willing to
adapt to the new technology.
        Refining this proposal, I found that the Association of American
Publishers was helpful with facts on the economics of the trade. AAP has
not endorsed or even seen this detailed version of the plan; it has just
supplied data. However, an AAP staffer seems open-minded. Perhaps readers,
writers and publishers can put aside their differences and work together to
hasten the coming of TeleRead.-D.H.R.
 
******************************************************************
 
                            ACTING ON THE IDEA
        If you like the TeleRead idea, spread this file around and write the
White House or the appropriate people on the Hill. Many officials in
Washington would rather not have their fax or e-mail boxes tied up. So
please use paper mail. Feel free to reproduce this file on paper to
accompany letters.
        I'm a writer, struggling with the usual deadlines, and I have just so
much time to lobby for this idea. I hope that others can follow up. Below
are possible people to contact. This list isn't all-inclusive; some of the
best prospects may not be mentioned here. Do not worry about writing to all
the names below, just to whomever you feel would be responsive.
 
Executive Branch
(In Alphabetical Order)
        --Pam Barnett, Executive Assistant for Domestic Policy, Office of the
First Lady, White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.,  Washington, D.C.
20500. We all know of Hillary Clinton's interest in educational matters.
        --President Bill Clinton, White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.,
Washington, D.C 20500. Contacting President Clinton and Vice President
Gore, I'll be making the point at a national data highway is just a start.
What really counts is what will be online, and whether the average
household will be able to afford it.
        --Jeff Eller, Media Affairs, White House, 1600 Pennsylvania, Ave.,
N.W. Washington, D.C. 20500.
        --Dr. John H. Gibbons, White House Director of Science and Technology,
Old Executive Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20500.
        --Vice President Albert Gore, Jr., White House, 1600 Pennsylvania
Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20500.
        --Ira Magaziner, Senior Advisor for Policy Development, Domestic
Policy Council, 1600 Pennsylania Ave., N.W., Washington D.C. 20500.
        --Roy Neel, Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Old Executive Office
Building, Washington, D.C. 20503.
        --Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20210. Reich, of course, has long pointed out the
connection between educational opportunities and national prosperity.
        --Richard Riley, Secretary of Education, 400 Maryland Ave., S.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20202-0100.
        --Greg Simon, Assistant to the Vice President for Domestic Policy, Old
Executive Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20503.
        --George Stephanopoulos, Director of Communications, White House, 1600
Pennsylvania, Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20500.
        --Laura D'Andrea Tyson, Council of Economic Advisers, Old Executive
Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20503.
        --Margaret Williams, Chief of Staff to the First Lady, White House,
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20500.
 
The Senate
(Alphabetically)
        --The Honorable Max Baucus, U.S. Senate, 706 Hart Senate Building,
Washington, D.C. 20510-2602. Sen. Baucus has shown an interest high-tech.
His state, Montana, could benefit dramatically from a national electronic
library and improved telecommunications.
        --The Honorable Robert Byrd, 311 Hart Senate Building, U.S. Senate,
Washington, D.C. 20510-4801. Sen. Byrd chairs the Appropriations Committee,
and, like Sen. Baucus, comes from a rural state where most citizens lack
easy access to large libraries. West Virginians might appreciate TeleRead's
de-centralized nature. In this era of computer networks and faxes, why
should the Washington area drown in federal offices while people in other
states are begging for good white-collar jobs?
        --The Honorable Byron Dorgan, 825 Hart Senate Building, U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510-3405. A North Dakotan, he sits on the Commerce,
Science and Transportation Committee. And like Senators Byrd and Baucus,
Sen. Dorgan is interested in ways to use high-tech to increase educational
opportunities for rural people.
        --The Honorable Edward Kennedy, 315 Russell Senate Building, U.S.
Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510-2101. Chairman of Labor and Human Resources,
the Senator has been interested for many years in long-distance learning.
        --The Honorable J. Bob Kerrey, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510.
Last October he gave a speech to the Software Publishers Association
calling for online networks for education. Sen. Kerrey is from Nebraska,
one of the many rural state that could benefit from affordable online
libraries.
     --The Honorable Daniel Patrick Moynihan, U.S. Senate, 464 Russell
Senate Building, Washington, D.C. 20510-3201. Himself an author
(well known for sociology), he represents New York state--which of
course is to books what Florida is to oranges.
 
The House
(Alphabetically)
        --The Honorable Edward J. Markey, U.S. House of Representatives, 2133
Rayburn, Washington, D.C. 20515-2107. Rep. Markey sits on the Energy and
Commerce Committee and the Telecommunications and Finance subcommittee. As
befits anyone from Massachusetts, he is intensely interested in high-tech
issues such as national data highways.
        --The Honorable Major Owens, U.S. House of Representatives, 2305
Rayburn, Washington, D.C. 20515-3211. Rep. Owens, the only professonal
librarian in Congress, is on the Education and Labor Committe and is from
Brooklyn.
        --The Honorable Charlie Rose, U.S. House of Representatives, 2230
Rayburn, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515-3307.  The
chairman of the House Administration Committee, Rep. Rose jokes that he is
the "techno-nut" of the Hill. His state, North Carolina, has a number of
high-tech firms in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area.
 
**********************************************************************
 
REACHING ME
        You may contact me through the following networks:
        --America Online (DavidHR).
        --CompuServe (73577,3271).
        --GEnie (D.Rothman1).
        --Internet ([log in to unmask], [log in to unmask] or
[log in to unmask]). Please check with your technical contact to see if
you should preface the addresse with a prefix such as INET:.
        --MCI Mail (David H Rothman at the "To:" command)
        --Prodigy (TNFN63A). E-mail on this network can be cumbersome to
answer, so please use alternatives if possible.
 
******************************************************************
 
                           COPYRIGHT INFORMATION
        A shorter version of the TeleRead proposal appeared in The Washington
Post Education Review of April 4, 1993. Opinions expressed here are my own,
not necessarily the Review's. You may make as many electronic copies of
this expanded version as you want without permission--as long as you do not
alter the text. Please check with me about publication on paper. The only
reason for "Please check with me" is that I may offer some material to a
newspaper syndicate or wire service for wider distribution.
     (c) 1993, David H. Rothman.
 
*********************************************************************
 
                                 ADDENDUM ONE:
                         IS BRIDGEPORT THE FUTURE?
        Bridgeport (pop. 143,000) is turning even bright children into
future cooks and janitors. A story in the April 6 Washington Post tells of
the decline of literacy in Connecticut's biggest city: "The public school
system is so strapped for cash that it spends less than one-third of the
state average on new books for its libraries.
        "And the public library system, a beacon for literacy for 143 years, is
open only about one-third as many hours as in the late 1980s."
         You can blame Bridgeport for short-sightedness, and you would be
right; but another reason exists, too--the disparity between the library
budgets of rich and poor cities. That is exactly what TeleRead would help
address.
         Contrast Bridgeport with Westport and Fairfield, nearby towns that
boast thriving bookstores and libraries. The Post correctly notes that
middle-class Americans are buying and borrowing more books than in past
decades. That's good news in some respects (it suggests that a full-service
TeleRead program could enjoy a sizeable constituency). But white,
middle-class America is not the whole country.
         Some of the fastest-growing demographical groups are the least likely
to be readers; besides, women in all economic groups lag far behind men in
mastery of technical subjects. In an age when white male workers will soon
be a minority, we could all lose. The yuppies in Westport will not fare
well in their retirement if we lack enough skilled workers to support them.
        "With the growing inequities in schools and the cuts in libraries
across the country, literacy is becoming increasingly class-based," the
Post quotes Patricia Shulman, former president of the American Library
Association.
         Furthermore, as shown by the library cuts in Fairfax County, Va., even
the middle-class may not safe in the end. And this information gap will
only grow worse if electronic libraries are not affordable and
old-fashioned libraries go the way of the streetcar.
 
***************************************************************************
 
       AN AFRICAN AMERICAN REFLECTS ON TELEREAD AND AFFORDABLE BOOKS
                           By William R. Murrell
*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Please pass around this essay and the rest of this file. Ask
your local newspapers to print or quote from the material, and write editorials
about TeleRead. Tell your children to contact their school newspaper editors.
Spread the word among friends, teachers, and PTA contacts. Ask your minister to
give a sermon on TeleRead. This is a person-to-person project! My computer
addresses are at the ends of my essays, in case you want to reach me. The
TeleRead idea means A LOT to me as a parent and a Black person. In the past I
have taught technology to African Americans, and my wife teaches third grade,
and we're both tired of seeing children denied the books they need. Here is a
constructive solution.-W.R.M.
*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
 
        Have you ever picked up a book and noticed the famous words below?
                       "All rights reserved. No part of this publication
                       may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
                       tranmitted in any form by any means electronic,
                       mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise,
                       without the prior written permission of the
                       publisher...."
        I know there are business reasons for such restrictions, but I can also
imagine a world where knowledge can be free or at least cost much less than
it does now.
        Why should books be a "privilege"? Self-education is our right as
Americans.
        If we can read enough books, then we'll be able to repay society by
using our skills constructively. My mother always told me, "The key to a
self-sufficent life is to get a good education." It's been said that genius is
born everyday, and a genius takes what he or she has and makes the best of it.
        How to help this process along? What about the masses of our African
American youth, potential geniuses? Someday could they use computers to dial
up electronic books that were as easy to read as paper ones? And
could these computers and books be extra-affordable, and even free
to the some low-income people? Is this possible? I know it is.
        Would this "TeleRead" program create more genuises with better
solutions to the problems that affect us and society at large? I know it would.
        And, since bookmaking is a business, would not smaller African American
publishers and writers be able to share in the dream of a successful
publishing business if they could effortlessly reach the best markets for
their products? I know so.
        Could not our high-tech entrepreneurs become more successful at
selling their services and systems? Could they not create viable,
profitable community-based businesses able to employ local folks? And could
they not also help foster a new generation of reading-computers affordable
by every household? Again, I know so.
        This TeleRead proposal should be taken seriously by anyone who believes
that technology should help all Americans, not just the rich.
        So before the "Information Highway" comes to your area, make sure
that it will provide affordable electronic books for you and your children.
        Black people and other Americans are fed up with the cost
of health-care, and now the politicians are getting the word.
Let's do the same for books. Let's work to make THEM affordable.
        Write the White House and your congressman NOW and tell them about
TeleRead. In particular you might want to write Greg Simon, Assistant to the
Vice President for Domestic Policy, Old Executive Office Building, Washington,
D.C. 20503. Also write Dr. John H. Gibbons, White House Director of Science
and Technology, Old Executive Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20500. Dr.
Gibbons's office is now considering TeleRead.
 
William Murrell
Via Email to: Compuserve: 71521,2516 or Internet: [log in to unmask]
GENIE HOSB Advisor: W.Murrell1
or write to: MurrellBoston Telesis  P.O. Box 190353  Boston, Ma.  02119
 
**********************************************************************
 
END OF FILE
 
 
--1918914643-590364778-736130683:#24969--

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March 1993
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