Saturday, March 27, 2010

How Far Am I Willing to Go, Digitally?

(Forgive me - this post is only loosely related to reading.)

My sister sent me an online article the other day about ebooks vs. "real" books, and the reading happened to coincide with a push on my part to do some spring housecleaning.  We debated the merits of the two types of books, and my conclusion was, "Ebooks don't sit on a shelf collecting dust. It's the story that really matters, anyway, not the form in which it is presented."

Fast forward a few days. Part of my spring cleaning was to eliminate the jumble of Lego instruction booklets my kids accumulated over the years, but I didn't want to just throw them away - grandkids might like to build the Millenium Falcon someday, ha ha. So I had the bright idea of scanning them and saving the entire collection to a CD. One neat plastic disc could replace an entire fat notebook with untidy papers poking out at its edges.  So that process is well underway.

As I was sitting at the computer slowly scanning the instructions to pdfs, my eyes fell on a pile of scrapbook pages of a family trip that had been taken out of their binder for some reason (I think they were sharing the binder with some pages that went to the county fair). I've always thought it would be a good idea to digitize those scrapbooks in case of a fire, or to have an extra copy so the kids won't have THAT to fight about once I'm gone.  I scanned several pages, and they turned out beautifully (as jpg files rather than pdf).  Then the idea went a little further; instead of having those pages be individual files on the CD, why not use Adobe's InDesign (which is one of the programs I'm supposed to be working on for my sabbatical) to recreate the scrapboook?  I liked the way it turned out (see below for an example).

That experience led to my turning a calculating eye on all the boxes of memorabilia I've collected throughout my life.  I'll admit it:  I'm a memory junkie, and I have programs from every community theatre production my husband and I did BK (before kids), and I have just about every drawing and finger painting the kids did from pre-school on and I have dozens of photographs.  There are literally boxes of those memories sitting in a closet collecting dust.  Why not digitize them and eliminate all those boxes?  My thought processes took me a step further; instead of physically producing a scrapbook page to scan into digital form, why not go digital all the way?  I've seen articles on digital scrapbooking, and I bet with the design software I've got on my laptop, I could do some pretty neat designs with the photo files directly from the camera.  No need to pay for photo processing fees.

But wait a minute.

I haven't used a Kindle or an iPad, but I'm a little wary of how well they would convey a scrapbook page.  Even on a computer screen, if you want to see the whole page, you have to set the view to like 50% of the original, and then it's impossible for my "gently-aging" eyes to tell any detail about the photos.  Plus, there's something neat about sitting on the couch with my daughter and flipping through the trip scrapbooks, remembering those good times.  Even if they do take up shelf space and collect dust, maybe they are worth it.

The play programs?  Maybe not.  The plethora of finger paintings? Let's admit it, once you've seen one finger painting by a three-year-old.....And some of those photos, while they are precious as memories, aren't really tied to anything significant.  Why couldn't they work as well in digital form as in physical form? 

I guess I need to evaluate items on a case-by-case basis. I'll probably go ahead and make physical scrapbooks of all our trips, but I'll also scan them to have the digital files.  After all, who knows what the future generations of e-readers will be capable of?

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