Internet-originated forms of communication could displace many periodicals--even books.
In the not-too-distant future, the Net could render many paper-based periodicals, and even a good many books, obsolete, purely because of the inherent advantages of an electronic format.
A fully electronic magazine, for example, would not have to remove all of its articles from public availability every time a new issue came out. A more sensible approach would be to just present each issue's new material in what computer database specialists call a "view"i.e., a way of looking at information, rather than the information itself. If a reader was interested just in new material, he could select a view that showed him only what had been added in the past monthor in the past week, or in whatever interval of time had elapsed since he last accessed the electronic magazine.
The retained information base (the new material plus all the "back issues") could actually be far more interesting.
Articles could be broken down into paragraphs or even sentences that interrelated extensively with one anothersome components or modules supporting others, still others limiting or contradicting them. Over time, especially good or insightful observations would tend to find themselves included in a wide variety of theses or threads.
In accessing this material, each reader/user would be free to choose his or her own thread, instead of being limited by traditional whole-article, beginning-to-end formats.
This form of organization would probably be closer to the manner in which bits of knowledge are linked to one another in the human brain. Then again, since the information would be contributed by many sources, the net effect might actually be more like combining the best of many brains.
Either way, by structurally enabling people to approach a knowledge base in more diverse and original ways, a new electronic format of this type is almost bound to foster some creative uses of its contents.
(c) COPYRIGHT 1998 ROBERT WINTER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.