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Omar Gallaga, technology culture reporter for the Austin American-Statesman, discusses ways to digitize business cards, a new e-reading Web site from the Walt Disney Co., and the Bheestie, a bag that could save your cell phone the next time you — and it — get caught in the rain.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm joined, as we are most Mondays, by Omar Gallaga. He covers technology culture for the Austin American-Statesman.

And Omar, you too, I gather, have been a de-cluttering. You've been digitizing your own stacks of business cards. How's that going for you?

Mr. OMAR GALLAGA (Reporter, Technology Culture, Austin American-Statesman): I -yeah, I'm in the same boat as Joshua. I've been a reporter for 12 years in Austin. So I've got hundreds, if not thousands, of business cards in my desk, in little boxes, all over the place. So a few months ago, I actually got a refurbished Neat scanner, kind of similar to what Joshua got. But yeah, it's a long process. I mean, you're scanning each card individually and that - and you're also correcting them along the way. So, you know, I have to check each business card to make sure that it's scanned in correctly, that it recognized the proper names. And if it's a business card with say, a black background or real colorful characters or weird typography, nine times out of 10 it's just not going to recognize a lot of it. I'm going to have to go in and do a lot of it manually anyway. So it is a process.

BLOCK: And some other ways, Omar, that the traditional business card is going digital?

Mr. GALLAGA: Well, there is a movement to kind of do it with cell phone cameras. Some people are putting 2D barcodes on the actual business cards. So you can scan it in that way and get that information without having to type it all in. And then there's also the idea of synching it over an iPhone. For instance, there's an application called Bump, where you just rub two iPhones together and it transmits that information wirelessly. But I think business cards still have cache. I don't think we're going to see business cards go away completely any time soon until there's one, really good, elegant solution for dealing with them.

BLOCK: Yeah. And a lot of what you're describing does not sound elegant. It sounds like a whole lot of time and effort.

Mr. GALLAGA: It is. And for instance, like, the apps and things like that, I mean, you have to make sure the other person also has that app for it to work. So, there's still a lot of headaches involved. There's still not a really good, all-in-one solution for dealing with it - especially if you've got thousands of business cards, like I do, lying around.

BLOCK: OK, Omar. Let's move on from the business card to a slightly bigger format of printed word - children's books. And that is that the Walt Disney Company is going to unveil a subscription-based site. It's going to make available many of its book titles in electronic form. Tell us about it.

Mr. GALLAGA: Right. DisneyDigitalBooks.com is launching and it's a subscription service. You pay $79.95 a year, and it gives you access to about 500 Disney books. Some are classics like "Winnie The Pooh and Tigger Too" and some are more recent, like "Hannah Montana" or books based on the Pixar movies like "Cars." These are aimed at kids 3 to 12 years old. And in addition to actually seeing the books on the Web, some of the books actually - you can actually hear audio read out loud.

BLOCK: Yeah. And we have a little bit of sound here from the book "Toy Story," being read to a young audience here.

(Soundbite of book reading, "Toy Story")

Unidentified Man: That was only one thing to do. Woody and Buzz jumped on to Bullseye. Ride like the wind, Bullseye, Woody cried…

(Soundbite of horse neighing)

Unidentified Man: …as they galloped off to save Jessie.

BLOCK: And not just reading there, obviously. There's a soundtrack, too.

Mr. GALLAGA: Right, right. I mean, LeapFrog has a product like this, you know, where it's a physical book but you can scan a pen over it and hear some of the stuff read out loud. Harper Collins has a similar service with about a thousand children's titles. The question is whether this is where children's books are going. Are they going to go digital? Are you're going to have to kind of curl up to a laptop in bed with your child at night? Or is this just a stopgap to the perfect e-reader that would have a color screen and that same tactile sensation of a traditional children's book?

BLOCK: One last bit of tech news, Omar, here. And that is good news, I suppose, for people who have lost a cell phone or an MP3 player to water, whether it's in a rainstorm or maybe by dropping it in the toilet. You have information about something called the Bheestie.

Mr. GALLAGA: Right, Bheestie, B-H-E-E-S-T-I-E. It's a company out of Portland, Oregon, and it's a pouch with some materials in it that will absorb water from a device. And you put it into this bag and over about 72 hours, it absorbs the moisture from that device. The Bheestie bag is $20. It's a pretty new company. Now, tech geeks have sort of known of a home remedy similar to this involving rice. You can put your cell phone or digital camera, or whatever was dropped into water, into a bowl of rice and cover it with the rice, and cover the bowl. And then after a couple of days, that moisture is absorbed into the rice.

BLOCK: Do you happen to know, Omar, whether it works on beer? I lost a cell phone into a glass of beer once.

Mr. GALLAGA: You know, we did a segment a few months ago about somebody that dropped a Blackberry into a deep-fat fryer…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GALLAGA: …and I - that I would definitely - probably be doubtful whether that would work.

BLOCK: For the beer - the jury on beer is still out. We'll have to do some testing. Omar, thank you very much.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GALLAGA: Thanks for having me. And we'll put links to the DisneyBooks, the Bheestie Bag, and everything else we've talked about today on the All Tech Considered blog at npr.org/alltech.

BLOCK: Great. Omar Gallaga covers technology culture for the Austin American-Statesman and for All Tech Considered.

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