Saturday, June 18, 2011

Adventures in iPaddery

Tucked away in a back page in the sport's section of today's paper, a brief item: Brian Gordon, just moved up to the big show as a NY Yankee, played his first game. 

Wearing a glove made entirely from artificial material. No leather in it at all.

Scott Carpenter, the creator of the glove, watched, more than a little pleased.

I'm not a baseball fan, but I grew up when it was a big sport and I watched and played, and the idea of a non-leather glove must be causing heart attacks among the traditionalists.

I understand. I prefer my handguns to be made from steel, not Tupperware. I like leather holsters over Kydex.

I can go with the iPad for a book reader because the experience is similar enough for me: I advance the pages almost as if the book was paper, and they even appear to turn that way in iBooks. I still prefer the organic version, but at least the ebook is doable.

A novel is a simple item. You open it and read the pages. They are sequential, finish one, go on to the next, nothing difficult about it. Someday, embedded videos or links will doubtless be all the rage in the fiction we read, but for now, I don't need that. Words on a page, and they look pretty good on an iPad. 

The New Yorker Magazine looks fine on the iPad, too, and the layout is clean and intuitive. Another winner, and I can get it five or six days sooner than the hardcopy takes to reach my mailbox. 

However, even though I can get online the entire newspaper I read daily, the way it is laid out electronically doesn't do it for me. I thought, well, if I can read the paper on my computer or iPad, that'll save me four hundred bucks a year, more than enough to pay for the AT&T connection for the iPad, I can download it anywhere I can get a phone sig. Such a deal.

I tried reading The Oregonian the last couple of mornings in two forms, side-by-side: the paper, and on the iPad, and doing such a comparison, the iPad comes up a far distant second. Why? 

Because a newspaper is more complicated than a novel. 

Open a broadsheet newspaper, you have a bunch of choices. You let your gaze shift, pick out a story that catches your attention, read it, then look up or down for the next item. Done, you turn the page, and there is that holistic choice again. An overview at a glance, holographically laid out.

Not so on a computer or iPad. You see a list of titles, and you drill down for specifics, and if you are looking for something specific, you can plug that in and find it, but sometimes, you don't know what you are looking for, and eNews doesn't give it to you.

Case in point. A woman I know had a piece done on her Studebaker, at a local informal drive-in for classic and antique cars held in Aloha. I happened to see her picture when I was separating out the paper's sections. No way I would have drilled down to find that on the electronic paper, and even when I went looking for it, I couldn't find it without having to use her name. The path to it wasn't one I'd have found, and even using her name and then backwalking it was a pain in the ass. 

I can go through the newspaper in thirty or forty minutes and if not read every item, at least have seen them. On the electronic version, I suspect it would take several hours, if not days, to click on links and scan them, and part of that is because they keep the previous stories online, so you aren't looking at just today's news, but also yesterday's and even last week's.

Yeah, you can get the headlines easily enough. A short item about the first non-leather baseball glove in the majors? You won't see that unless you already know it's there and go looking to find it. 

Not a magic bullet, computers. Still things they are gonna miss for a while.

Now, if I had one of those CSI/Hawaii Five-O table top computers that would allow me to throw up a full sheet of a newspaper? That would be something. Of course, what it would cost would buy newspapers for a long time, and I can use the papers to drain my fried shrimp and to start the log in the fireplace burning ...

1 comment:

The Daring Novelist said...

I have been reading papers online for a while, and I agree -- the way online newspapers are laid out sucks. That's partly a design flaw, though, not entirely a flaw of the electronic version.

I think one of the biggest flaws of online newspapering is the tendency to try to predict what you want to read. Instead of giving the day's news stories to you and letting you browse and chose, they try to guess what you're most likely to click on, and then give you only that and nothing else.

I had to stop reading after a while, because there had been a sensational murder, and I followed it for a few days -- and thereafter, they would only give me missing women and dead baby stories. I couldn't get any other news out of them. (They stopped that finally.)

The problem is that most of us actually read ALL the headlines, and we want to see ALL the headlines, even if we don't read all the stories. Some days I might only click on the comics and restaurant reviews -- but that doesn't mean that's what I went to the paper for, and it doesn't mean I want them to stop giving me hard news headlines and only feed me soft news.

Yeah, I'm worried about the demise of paper for this reason. Maybe, though, a few of the newspaper sites will get a clue. Eventually.