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If it's important, the news will find me

This is part of an ongoing series related to Peter Meyers' project "Breaking the Page, Saving the Reader: A Buyer & Builder's Guide to Digital Books." We'll be featuring additional material in the weeks ahead. (Note: This post originally appeared on A New Kind of Book. It's republished with permission.)

I don't necessarily want to give up Twitter, Google+, blogs, Zite, and so on. But it's clear: they're too much for my single core, ADD-prone brain to manage. Gone are the days when I try to consume, or even just scan, all the social media I've signed up for. I've tried drinking from the Internet's firehose and what I've ended up with is a wet face and a headache. After a couple recent experiments in offline living I'm sold on the idea that, for me, less is more. I think more clearly, and more creatively, when I unplug. It seems kinda obvious but it's taken me a decade or so to figure out: info-gorging leaves me feeling fat-headed and logy. Now, for example, rather than web surfing and info snacking in the morning, I get up early and read whatever book I'm into for an hour or two.

I do try to carve out an hour or two each day for some focused exploration — digital publishing and design are my main areas of interest — but even there I've given up stressing that I might miss some Seriously Important Item. There's just no way I can see everything that comes out. I figure if something's really important I'll catch it somewhere; I'm sure I miss plenty using this system, but all in all I feel less scatterbrained.

But here's the thing: for some topics — what's happening in Afghanistan, the debt crisis, toddler management — I'd like to figure out a way to stay informed without getting overwhelmed. I don't want a newsfeed on any of these topics. What I want is something I've started to think of as News Gems: the best of what's out there, updated only when something new has happened or when something notable has been written. And I want it presented in a way that's more compelling than a list of links. I want something that's more like the cover of a magazine, where typography, titling, and visuals all combine to say: "Hey, Pete! Look at this, it's slightly more important than that. And over here, you might also be interested in this." A sporadically delivered email or text alerting me to new stuff would also be nice; it's gotten to the point where I more or less ignore email alerts that show up each day.

What are you doing to stay on top of the topics you care about? Leave a comment or shoot me an email [peter DOT meyers; gmail].

TOC Frankfurt 2011 — Being held on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, TOC Frankfurt will feature a full day of cutting-edge keynotes and panel discussions by key figures in the worlds of publishing and technology.

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