The blogosphere has been full of excellent discussions of how electronic publishing will or will not, should or should not, replace paper publishing. Most of the discussion has focused on an either-or scenario: we'll have paper books or electronic books; we'll have paper newspapers or we'll read the news on a screen. The future of publishing, learning and new technology will be far more promising and more complex than some of us expect.
The good news is that we have choices and that we can access information and knowledge in many different ways. We can now receive news and other information on our iPhones or other devices while we're on buses or while we're sitting in coffee shops. We can watch conference presentations on our iPods and on our computers.
Most of us are now creators on the web as well as consumers. We write blogs, various types of messages and we produce podcasts, both video and audio. Our comments and our content can be read by people throughout the world.
Most newspapers are still producing paper products and are also online. I can still subscribe (and I do) to various newspapers and I can read these same newspapers online. I have a choice. Each day two newspapers are delivered to my door, one local and one from Toronto. On Sunday or Monday the weekend New York Times is dropped at my door. I also subscribe to the Maple Creek News, a bi-weekly paper from my home town.
But I also read headlines and stories from most of these papers online, via applications on my iPhone or Twitter messages. Paper products and electronic messages each serve a role.
Paper books continue to be available in thousands of bookstores in North America, and online, at reasonable prices. Many of these are also available electronically. We choose which format works best for us.
We have many options with regard to learning, and some of these are free. We depend on a combination of formal and informal learning. Even formal face-to-face learning can work effectively in conjunction with distance and e-learning: but most schools and universities in Canada and in many other countries have not supported mixed models of education.
Change is healthy and exciting, and it brings more choice, not less. Paper books, film cameras, newspapers and other tried and true technologies will still be used by some people if they choose them and pay for them. Mixed models of paper and e-books, face-to-face learning and podcasts, and film and digital photography are working.
If you like paper newspapers and books, buy them. If you prefer to use other ways of being informed and communicating with others, use your iPod or computer. The combination of paper and e-products gives us options that could not have been dreamt of even a few years ago. And it will only get more more exciting.