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The D.C. newspaper novel, the media,the Washington area, tech and other surrealism: David Rothman at large
How the iPad-related stimulus plan could help the news business—plus a brief update on the plan

My thoughts on hyperlocal news—prompted by the forthcoming launch of TBD, the Web and TV combo for the D.C. area—have drawn visits from some powerful news organizations.

While they’re at it, perhaps they can check out A national information stimulus plan: How iPad-style tablets could help educate millions and trim bureaucracy—not just be techno toys for the D.C. elite, which appeared in James Fallows’ Atlantic blog. For a quick overview within my own blog, read An iPad Stimulus Plan: it’s about books, jobs, lower healthcare costs and fewer paperwork hassles.

imageSo how could the plan help the besieged news business? iPad-style tablets make it simpler to read e-newspapers and other news sites in an immersive way, as opposed to just hopping around from link to link. It’s more tempting to laze back on the couch or your favorite armchair rather than having to tether yourself to your desktop computer, and the technology is less scary for nongeeks than is the usual kind associated with laptops and desktops. I’ve suggested tax breaks and other inducements to speed the popularization of iPads and similar machines while giving many vendors a chance to compete, not merely Apple. Far from benefitting just the news business, the stimulus plan would help in other areas ranging from mental stimulation of the elderly to job-training, education and libraries. The YouTube video shows a 99-year-old woman befriending her new iPad.

Nick van TerheydenFor reactions to the plan, read:

–The Voice of the Doctor blog, where Dr. Nick van Terheyden (photo), a leading healthcare technology expert now working for Nuance, discusses the possibilities the stimulus plan raises.

–A post and related Tweet (also pointing to an article on new healthcare regulations) from medical librarian Eric Rumsey at the University of Iowa.

imageComments from Steve Rubel, a prominent public relations man in the tech community. He regards the plan as “compelling in that Rothman sees the iPad as a way to help media and education in one fell swoop. It would be great to see tablets become a pivotal way we retrain the workforce.”

Meanwhile I’ve read with interest A new America through broadband, by Blair Levin and J. Erik Garr, in the Washington Post Outlook section. “Why are we still using ink-on-paper textbooks, when digital technology offers a much better way?” they ask—a sensible question. I myself have been saying the same since the early 1990s, and many of their thoughts jibe with my 1996 TeleRead op-ed in the Post. One difference is that I’m not certain we could automate grading to the extent that Levin and Garr suggest. Still, it’s good to see my e-book craziness from eons ago actually reach the cusp of mainstream thought.

image On June 29, I sent an email about the iPad-related plan to an aide to Vivek Kundra, President Obama’s chief information offcer, but so far I have not received a reply. I’ll shop the plan around elsewhere—to Republicans and Democrats alike—if the White House isn’t more responsive. Actually I may do so either way. I’ve always been nonpartisan about the plan, and, in fact, the late William F. Buckley, Jr., was a big supporter of the earlier TeleRead proposal despite our being political opposites: “Andrew Carnegie, if he were alive, would probably buy TeleRead from Mr. Rothman for $1, develop the whole idea at his own expense, and then make a gift of it to the American people.”

Advocacy of the iPad-related plan would help President Obama—for whom I voted—make up to the tech community for his disparaging remarks about the effects of the iPad and other gizmos on young people. The biggest problem isn’t iPad-style technology per se—it’s society’s failure to use it better. To the White House’s credit, many top staffers are now toting Pads. Time to make it easier for the masses to benefit as well, especially if an e-savvy government can lead the way?

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1 Comment to “How the iPad-related stimulus plan could help the news business—plus a brief update on the plan”

  1. […] The Atlantic featured a post by David Rothman that presented an iPad Stimulus plan: A national information stimulus plan: How iPad-style tablets could help educate millions and trim bureaucracy–not just be techno toys for the D.C. elite. Hold on – don’t give up quite yet, it’s not quite as crazy as it sounds and he makes some interesting and important points. And there was an update here […]

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