That, I think, cuts right to the heart of it for some of us. Online and electronic lookups tend to be linear activities .
Well, I suspect that would be generally true for all
(not just some) of us - in terms of human experience.
If you analyse anything that you do as a process, then you can quickly establish/see whether it is linear. A lot of what we do can thus be seen to be linear process flow, and even that explosive/connected "discovery" process would be linear if it was broken down (decomposed) into small enough discrete steps. The thing about using the hardcopy reference texts (hardcopy media) though is that it seems non-linear, because it is "fast" (speedy).
It is fast because you can use your trained reading faculties and that media, jumping your attention across a wider span and then focussing in as necessary, in such a way as to minimise
of the discrete sequential linear process steps and of any delay intervals between them.
You thus accelerate the process.
"Need more input! Need more input!" (from the movie "Number 5")
Doing this another way doesn't seem to be possible at present, using the available technology. In fact the Britannica-on-a-tablet technology suggested (above) could arguably slow the process down.
I think that if you tried it out in practice it would indeed slow the process down. This would be unusual in my experience, because time and again it can be demonstrated that if you automate a process you will be able to speed it up - but it is generally implicit in that that you are removing the human element (and human error). But this discussion is related to the ergonomics and the human experience of "discovery" learning, so it is impossible to isolate the human element without defeating the objective (which would be something like [To achieve effective "discovery" learning]).
So we're probably not able to go about automating it in "the right way" using current technology - or at least in the way I am supposing we could use Britannica-on-a-tablet - i.e., it is, or could potentially be going backwards.
I have realised during this discussion that, whereas I had initially envisaged using just a laptop and a tablet as described, you could equally use a laptop and two or more separate displays (monitor screens). It's the number of displays that seems a relevant constraint - to mimic the books "spread out on the floor" around you. I have googled displays and decided that what could
work might be larger touch-sensitive displays that you could position in portrait or landscape format, and adjust from vertical or to lie down flat or at a (say) a 35° angle facing you. Sort of "big" tablets positioned/laid out on the floor or desk around you.
And it wouldn't matter where
the knowledge base
was that you were accessing, as long as all devices could access it with equal facility. So, using Britannica-on-a-tablet would not
seem to be the solution, but it would seem to be a pretty good starting-point to experiment and "suck it and see" and to better understand the limitations of the technology. Rather like a prototype of the multi-display scenario that I have just outlined.
I think I might have asked the "wrong" question in the opening post. Substitute "knowledge base" for "Britannica" or "Wikipedia", so as to remove the attractively diverting debate about which is "better", etc. But you would
have to be able to trust the authors of that knowledge base not to be loading it with bias, political correctness, religio-political ideology, propaganda, innacuracies or downright falsehoods - or to be over-pricing it. Those of us who have been awake for the last 20 or so years are more likely to be skeptical as to how that
might be able to work out.
In any event, I would still love to have my knowledge base - including my entire document reference library - either held on
a tablet or readily accessible via
a tablet. Portable, discrete, read-anywhere access to knowledge and references.
I reckon Britannica-on-a-tablet could be a good starting point and I'd be a serious potential customer for one of those, subject to price/affordability.
This would go a little way towards a worthwhile objective (imho) - the expansion of free and easy access to the sum of all human knowledge, necessary for our further development and cultural evolution. Only the other day I was delighted to read that Oxford U was putting some of Newton's papers and some Islamic manuscripts online. How good to see these things finally being made accessible to the general public, brought out into the daylight instead of being held in secure and dark cells behind some artificial and seemingly impenetrable barrier - library walls or other academic walls/paywalls (ref. Elsevier).
So, my thanks go to Amazon or Apple et al
. Whatever fault we might be able to find in them (probably quite a lot), this discussion might not have even been able to take place on this subject if it hadn't been for the de facto
commoditisation of the concept of reading tablets, by that group.