by Chris Lapham (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It makes a lot of sense: a national digital library with small, sharp- screened "readers" you could borrow from the library as we now know it. The project is called TeleRead and David Rothman is its articulate advocate. Rothman, a writer based in Alexandria, Va., has created a provocative Web site with diverse links that display the depth of his knowledge and his awareness of the politics involved.
"My goal is balance," says Rothman. "TeleReaders wouldn't just be for reading -- they'd also be for writing and networking and e-forms. I want to justify TeleRead with electronic forms. . . . In a $6 trillion economy we could save tens of billions of dollars with the forms, not just in paperwork on the public side but also on the private side," he says.
As Rothman envisions it, TeleRead is a procurement program and digital library with accepted technical standards. In addition to the classics and other public-domain books, the plan includes electronic access to current best sellers as well as scholarly works, newspapers, and magazines. It promises to bring books to urban neighborhoods and rural states without infringing on intellectual property rights. "TeleRead would protect long e-text -- the most vulnerable medium -- by reducing the financial incentive for piracy of novels and the like," says Rothman in an email interview.
TeleRead has been called "an inspired idea" by the conservative columnist William F. Buckley, Jr., and the entire TeleRead proposal will appear as a chapter in Scholarly Publishing: The Electronic Frontier, edited by Robin Peek and Gregory Newby.
Time will tell if TeleRead is simply a way of "using the efficiencies of technology to fight for more use of the efficiencies of technology," as Rothman says, or a carefully-crafted application that needs popular support to bring it to fruition.
Anyone who is connected to the Web can use this site, and is enouraged to do so. The service is student and teacher friendly and features discussion areas, "cool hangouts" on the Web, news and features stories, as well as poetry and fiction written by students from many different places including Alaska, Pennsylvania, and Canada. According to Dr. Owens, there has been a steady flow of work and he now has a mirror site set up in Sirio,Italy.
"The International Student Newswire serves as a model of what other kids are doing as well as a place for stories to gain feedback. It also serves as a true wire service in that schools developing newspapers can use KidNews stories as sidebars or interesting additions," says Dr. Owens. Lively graphics invite students to submit stories that range from profiles and sports to reviews and straight news. Students can write the story online or cut and paste it into a window. The user interface is clear and understandable and it includes good guidelines for writing for a new, global audience.
Dr. Owens welcomes submissions and plans to publish an electronic newspaper in the future. "We're also looking for comments about publishing, computers, and adventures in reporting from both students and teachers," he says.
Chris Lapham, Chief Correspondent for Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine, is a freelance writer and reporter who lives in the Capital Region of New York. She recently received a Master's degree in Communication and Rhetoric from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.
Copyright © 1995 by Chris Lapham. All Rights Reserved.