Sunday, February 27, 2011

Embrace change

Here's my newspaper column for this week. I thought my writer friends might enjoy it.

Embrace change

I did something I'd never thought I do - I read an e-book on my iPad.

You know how I love new media, but somehow reading a digital book felt dirty, like I was sneaking or cheating or taking a shortcut. And worse, I enjoyed it. Oh the horror! (Sorry, Joseph Conrad.)

I love books. I love reading them and, most of all, I love writing them. My idea of a good time is cozying up on the couch with a tome or two.

I love the entire experience - feeling the book in my hands, turning the pages, flipping back to reread a passage or sneaking ahead to peek at what's coming. (Yeah, sometimes I just can't resist.)

But what I've come to understand is that there's room for both. It doesn't have to be one or the other. They aren't mutually exclusive.

Some people like physical books.

Some like digital books.

And others, like me, enjoy both.

It's the same way with newspapers. There's nothing better than sipping a hot cup of joe while reading the morning newspaper. But, I also read a number of newspapers on my iPad, including The New York Times, USA Today and The Washington Post.

I admit that reading a book or newspaper on an e-reader is a different experience than reading their physical counterparts, but that doesn't mean it's a bad experience.

In some ways, the interactivity an e-reader provides is a definite plus. Come across a word you don't know, look it up in an instant. Want to highlight a passage that you like? Easy enough to do with a quick finger grab.

With any change, however, come naysayers. "That's not the way we've always done it," they lament. "I liked the old way better."

To them I say: Embrace change. Change is good.

Whenever I say this I'm reminded of the Eastman Kodak Company. Would this company have survived if it refused to embrace change - if it had resisted developing a digital strategy because, well, darn it, it liked producing film and photographic chemicals?

Kodak was smart enough to know that those who succeed and indeed flourish in this digital age will be those who embrace change.

It recognized that the market for traditional photography was declining and repositioned itself to continue to compete globally.

For this photographic powerhouse, that meant an extensive footprint reduction program that included imploding obsolete buildings at its Rochester, N.Y., manufacturing facility.

I can't imagine what it must have felt like for the employees and area residents to watch the transformation of Kodak Park. While the new skyline might have been a bit jarring, I'm sure they understood that the retooling was necessary as imaging transitioned from analog to digital.

So why am I telling you all this? Well, I'm from York County. Born and raised here. I know that we don't like change. We like things just the way they are. But there's positive in change, if we're open to it.

As our news organization, like Kodak, positions itself to survive in this dog-eat-dog digital world, it will continue to find ways to connect with readers. A day doesn't pass when one of us isn't thinking digitally about how we can continue to bring you the news and information you want in whatever way you want it.

I'm not a fool. I know that change is hard. Just ask anyone who works with me. They'll tell you I like my desk organized a certain way and can tell if something has been moved, even an inch.

But I've also found that when I embrace change, instead of fight it, I discover a world full of hope and a little something about myself.

Recently, 7-year-old Emma Vrabel (YAY! Emma) was reading one of my middle-grade books on her iPad. Each night after she read a chapter or two, she'd e-mail me her thoughts. What she liked or didn't like. Her frustration with the bully in the book or her love for the protagonist.

Each night, I looked forward to receiving her e-mail. It didn't matter to me how Emma was reading my book. What mattered was that she was enjoying it.

As a writer, I want people to read my work in whatever way suits them. Some people will read this column in the newspaper. Others will read it on one of my blogs and still others will read it on our website. I'm OK with that. As long as you read me, that's cool. (Now, if you hate what I write, well, that's another matter.)

I hope that as we continue our social media journey together, you'll be open to exploring new technologies or at least recognize that while they might not be for you, they might work for someone else.

I know that Hubs, just like an overwhelming majority of York countains, would never give up the physical newspaper. And I would never try to convince him - or you - to do so. That's where he's parked and, believe me, there's no moving him.

But, he also recognizes that many people get their news via a website or on their smartphone or iPad or, heck, even their Facebook page or Twitter feed.

And that recognition is change I can live with.


  1. I love both methods of reading and can already see personal libraries being a future symbol of wealth *grin* will be strange! I really can't wait to get my first kindle (saving the pennies!) :)

    The Arrival, .99c on Amazon

  2. Great post. I love reading on my Kindle and I agree that we have to embrace the digital age. I think it is so cool that a reader was able to read and email you her thoughts as she read. That is so cool.

  3. Great post. I tend to be stubborn sometimes and resist change. But sometimes it's good. Thanks for reminding us.

  4. Super post! I can see how there is room for both. I've asked my daughter if she wants an ereader for her birthday, but it's still a surprising no...