Palm Pilots! We're on Palm Pilots!
No, it's true: as of this morning, if you have one of those handheld personal digital assistants, you can automatically download each day's open letter into its memory, and then read it later, while you pretend to be looking up stock quotes.
I've been getting email about this idea from readers for months now. Back in July, Jason Pettus in Chicago wrote,
Hello there. I want to encourage you to offer an electronic version in the future for use on PDAs such as Palm Pilots. I got my first Palm this March and it has been an indispensable aid in reading large amounts of content without the need of paper or a bag/notebook to carry the paper around in.
Jason was very convincing, and yet I did nothing. A reader in New York named James Bucknell also suggested a handheld version, and even offered to design the page. Again, I did nothing. Two weeks ago, Melinda Gordon, a reader in San Francisco, took matters into her own hands. As she wrote:
I am a recent subscriber to Open Letters. Even more recently, I bought a Palm handheld organizer and discovered that using the AvantGo software I can download the Open Letters onto my Palm automatically each day! It's a really nice way to carry Open Letters with me without killing any trees.
I still did nothing. But, fortunately, Susan Burton, my new colleague at Open Letters, did do something. To see what Susan came up with (with the kind assistance of Melinda and James and also Mark Weissburg of Chicago), please go to this page. It has all the information and instructions you will need to follow Melinda's lead.
I don't own a PDA, so I can't be too persuasive about this particular distribution method, but Susan does, and can. She's been testing the handheld version of Open Letters for the past week, and as she wrote me yesterday:
when you sit down in the subway and power on your Visor and open your first letter, it's kind of a crazy surprise - that something that could move you in any way could come out of your calendar. I don't know how to say this without sounding weird, but there's something oddly intimate about the experience of holding someone's words in the palm of your hand.
I promised last week that we'd have two new distribution methods to announce this week, one high-tech, one low. And we do. But I'm going to wait until tomorrow to get into the whole paper-version-in-bookstores plan.
Meanwhile, there's the little matter of today's letter, the sequel to John Hodgman's account of his trip to the Jersey shore at the end of the summer, which we ran as our first post-hiatus letter, right after Labor Day. John's first letter concerned mothers, memory, and chaos, and it inspired a cool response from Mary Rogan of Toronto, which I ran as part of an editor's letter a week later.
So today, John writes back to Mary: another dispatch from the shore, this time concerning funnel cake, a ride called the Slingshot, and the possibility that the moon is going to explode in a giant ball of flames.
Tomorrow: another letter, another distribution method, and more people reading their palms than ever before.