Digital shreds paper option

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Just about anything in print can be found in electronic format, and it makes me wonder if anyone still needs paper.

The Oct. 13 issue of National Review, for example, is mine to read, days before I could hope to see it in my mailbox. That’s because, instead of signing up for the print version, I opted for electronic access to the venerable journal of conservative thought.

An e-mail message on Friday told me of the issue’s availability, both at the magazine’s Web site, and as a “PDF” file, the initials standing for Adobe Corp.’s Portable Document Format.

This is not the first magazine of its genre to offer PDF files. Each week, the Weekly Standard sends a PDF of the new issue to interested subscribers via e-mail, something begun two years ago in the face of mounting postal delays. Not all periodicals are equal, it seems: Whether in Los Angeles or suburban Maryland, Time magazine showed up, almost without fail, on Monday or, latest, Tuesday. The smaller, less powerful “World” magazine? When I subscribed in Los Angeles a while back, delivery was less than certain.

The problems with postal delivery are plaguing publishers and advertisers, both of whom want to get their information to readers at a certain time. The publishers want to get news out while it’s still news; the advertisers want current ads in front of their prospects.

That’s where the PDF of National Review comes in rather handy: Everything is there, and you can page through it just like a magazine. The ads are there, right down to the classifieds. Nothing is damaged by rain or tearing. One can even print out a given page — or the entire magazine — if desired.

The publishers kindly also have the editorial content of each issue online at a Web site, password protected. This also makes sense, in my view, especially as the archive of such issues grows in the future: It should be easier to search back to 2003 a few years hence.

A wide range of specialized publications are offering PDF distribution, an adjunct to other electronic formats. Zinio Systems Inc. has brought more than 70 titles from 30 publishers to an interactive format that stores magazines for reading on PC and, now, Macintosh computers. You get the same interactive experience of turning pages as with a paper-based magazine.

The Zinio format is well suited to the Microsoft Tablet PC, given that device’s use of pen controls and other single-handed buttons and toggle switches to handle the task of flipping “pages.” Details on the available magazines can be found at www.zinio.com.

Both the Palm handheld platform and Windows Mobile, the platform formerly known as Pocket PC, each have leagues of materials available online for downloading and reading.

For those of a theological bent, several firms have taken the Bible, Old and New Testaments, and formatted them as an e-book for handhelds. Laridian Software, Olive Tree Software and Parsons Software, are three publishers offering such resources. Prices range from free to $60 or so, depending on the version of the Bible desired.

It’s not just theology, but compactness, that dictate a move away from paper. A substantial reference Bible can weigh a good 5 pounds; a handheld computer under 8 ounces. For many, then, the choice would seem simple.

E-mail MarkKel@aol.com or visit www.kellner.us.

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