A Day in the Life

June 1, 2008
I read the news today, oh boy!

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: Chumby, iPhone, Sony Reader Digital Book, Iliad Reader, Kindle, virtual trade show.

I read the news today, oh boy!

I awoke Sunday morning, went to my front porch and picked up my copy of the Boston Globe. I proceeded to spread it on the kitchen table, pour my coffee, and begin to read the news. A few minutes later, my 15-year-old son appeared. I said,“Look at this, Charlton Heston just passed away.” “Yeah Dad, I know,” my son responded. “And the Celtics won last night in overtime,” I offered. Again he replied, “I know. I get the news as it happens.”

He had seen these items on his computer and his new gadget called Chumby — a small alarm clock connected to the Internet via wireless that displays requested Web pages by scrolling through user programmable sites. (More complete information can be found at www.chumby.com.)

My point, though, is that the newspaper is irrelevant to my son. Other than the Sunday comics, which also are online, he has no use for this medium. When I was in grade school, we were taught how to hold and fold a newspaper so you could read it on a train. Today, with computers and portable devices like the iPhone, there is no reason to wait for a newspaper, magazine, or even the 10 p.m. news. There is certainly a problem industry-wide with companies like the New York Times.These companies are adapting toward more online formats. It is difficult, though, to charge for this sort of service when one can easily find these newsfeeds free online. There are columnists and writers who issue interesting spins on information, but do you really need to see it in print? After all, you don't take your laptop into the bathroom, do you? But will there soon be digital devices that will allow this to occur without stigma?

Part of flipping through pages is from tradition and based on how you grew up. Some Web sites simulate the flipping pages when you click on the corner of a page. This is fine for people used to this format, but the “new generation” has no problem scanning through a computer screen.

Some people have talked about the demise of printed books. So far neither the Sony Reader Digital Book (PRS 505) nor the Kindle have been a rousing success. E-books are not mainstream, and are still awkward and expensive. The Iliad Reader, with an eight-inch diagonal display, is about $800.

Gutenberg.org is a group that has scanned in more than 24,000 books with expired copyrights that they offer at no charge. You can even read them on your phone. What? Are you kidding me? I'm at a point in life where I'm thinking of large print books!

How about the Dental Economics® you're now reading? This column and the entire magazine (as well as the last eight years of printed issues) are available online free at www.dentaleconomics.com. It is indexed and searchable by inputting a topic, author, or keyword. At this Web site, you can find what you're looking for in DE®, as well as other PennWell® dental publications (RDH®, Dental Office™, Woman Dentist Journal®, Proofs®, and Dental Assisting Digest).

Strangely, as I visit various offices, the dentist has a giant stack of years of magazines that he or she thinks will be read someday when there is “free time.” In a typical office, the stack gets quite high before someone pulls out the bottom issues and discards them. This happens just before the stack topples over. I still pick up the latest copy of this magazine (and others) and thumb through it. Sometimes I look at titles, other times at the pictures. I still think I am much faster with the paper copy than I would be with an online version. But, again, that is the way I grew up. Will these ever go exclusively online? Some existing magazines already have, and a number of new ones are popping up online. There are now combinations of commercial and literary sites, too. A few sites that were originally set up to showcase products now have an editorial staff and writers.

Again, if you go to the DE® site, you will not only find articles but you can interact with authors and editors. Blogging is now part of the magazine's Web presence, as have online CE opportunities. There's also a dental community you can join. To go a step further, PennWell® has created virtual online dental trade shows for dentists and hygienists. You can go to booths and interact with manufacturer reps, meet your friends, and ask questions of experts — all without spending a dime on airfare or hotel accommodations.

To get a glimpse of the future, I invite you to come on over to www.dentaleconomics.com. If you show up at the trade show, I'll even buy you a virtual dinner!

Dr. Paul Feuerstein installed one of dentistry's first computers in 1978. For more than 20 years, he has taught technology courses. A mainstay at technology sessions, he is an ADA seminar series speaker. A general practitioner in North Billerica, Mass., since 1973, Dr. Feuerstein maintains a Web site (www.computersindentistry.com) and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].

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