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COMMUNET Home

COMMUNET Home

COMMUNET  March 1994, Week 4

COMMUNET March 1994, Week 4

Subject:

Summit: Of Literacy, Hardware and Cost-Justification

From:

David Rothman <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Thu, 24 Mar 1994 12:19:06 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (71 lines)

Lest they be slighted amid talk of two-way video for the masses, here
are some pedestrian issues for the Summit:
 
1. Literacy and the need for a national library online. In an interview
with Larry Magid of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Al Gore seemed
relatively tongue-tied on the subject of literacy. Specifics apps,
please, Mr. Gore. Meanwhile, some influential trade groups are lobbying
for pay-per-read schemes that could tax curiosity in the worst way. Just
as disturbingly, a computer company with well-known investors such as
Peter Sprague and George Gilder has been talking about 35-percent
encryption fees for publishers. The real solution remains a
*comprehensive* national library online with e-books and educational
software for rich and poor alive. There are ways to assure fair
compensation for writers and publishers, and to guarantee alternative
methods of distributing material; a national library needn't be a
monopoly. Moreover, librarians in many cities could participate in
selection of material; and local and university libraries could offer
e-books from the national collection for dial-up. The point is, we must
bring e-books home and make them as inexpensive as TV watching. If
parents read, then children will. In this regard, what's the real goal
of the conference--mummifying local libraries as they exist now, or
making books as ubiquitous as Roseanne? How about the child in Harlem or
Watts who is too scared of street crime to say late at the library, or
the grocery clerk who is too tired to go to a public builidng to gawk at
a terminal? Can't librarians show a little more compassion toward
patrons--and potential patrons--and worry less about buildings and more
about books? These issues need to be discussed.
 
2. Hardware. Even HDTVs are rotten for the reading of text. We need a
procurement program for schools and libraries to encourage the
production of small, sharp-screened computers that ultimately could
sell for little more than fancy calculators. Such machines could be
optimized for reading, writing and networking. At this point, most
public interest groups and the Administration have glossed over the
hardware questions in regard to e-text. As author of a book on portable
computer technology, I can assure the panelists that we could
dramatically lower the cost of small, book-friendly computers. Such
machines could work both off phone lines and RF links with set-up boxes
(Washington should require all set-top boxes to offer this capability).
Different models, from many vendors, could serve different needs.
 
3. Cost-justification. I don't hear that phrase nearly as often as I
should. Just who the devil is going to pay for all the grand schemes
that will be discussed at the conference? Rate-payers will put up with
only so much. In the case of the book-friendly computers, I advocate use
of the same technology for electronic forms for government and consumer
transactions (including, horror of horror, home shopping). The
pen-interface would be optimal. It could also be used for controlling TV
sets--for programming them as well as for multimedia.
 
For more background on these issues, check out the CoSN gopher
(cosn.org). And then select: --> Networking Information  --> Reference
- --> TeleRead proposal. For those without easy access to gophers, I'll be
happy to e-mail the latest teleread.txt (185K). My opinions are my own,
not necessarily CoSN's.
 
**************************************************************************
David H. Rothman                             "So we beat on, boats against
[log in to unmask]                            the current...."
805 N. Howard St., #240
Alexandria, Va. 22304
703-370-6540(o)(h)
NOTE TO PEOPLE REPLYING *PRIVATELY* TO MY LIST POSTINGS: PLEASE DIRECT YOUR
           RESPONSES ONLY TO ME ([log in to unmask]) RATHER THAN
 TO THE ENTIRE LIST. BE CAREFUL THAT YOUR SOFTWARE DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY
                   SEND YOUR NOTE TO EVERYONE ELSE, TOO.
          I *encourage* online reproduction of my public postings.
       Permission hereby granted--implicit, explicit, whatever. Down
          with unnecessary restrictions on the flow of knowledge!
**************************************************************************

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