Monica Guzman wrote a thought-provoking article in the Sunday Seattle Times, linked above, that I read in the print-edition of the local newspaper today. I enjoy reading the newspaper each morning; my husband reads the same newspaper in the evening – both times providing opportunities for daily ritualistic enjoyment. Ms. Guzman describes these occasions as “a world where paper is sweet, sweet, sanctuary.”
I’m certainly a technological user. I own a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet (Kindle), and a smartphone. Because I’ve grown accustomed to the ease with which all of these devices are used, I have been guilty of the same snobbishness (read superiority) experienced by Ms. Guzman. I observe someone reading a bound paper book in a coffee shop, or on an airplane, and I think to myself, “Welcome to the 21st century people; how lame can you be?” But like Ms. Guzman, I’m also jealous.
If we compare paper to digital as media, one is smart, and the other is dumb. If we compare them as devices, “(P)aper’s purpose is simple. You look at it or you put something on it.” Digital media, however, has as many “purposes as infinite as the operations they perform.” But is that always a great thing? Take into consideration the columnist’s statement:
Next to the capabilities of digital, paper is dumb. But next to the tranquility of paper, digital is an assault. Alive with possibilities but full of demands. Always connected but never done. (Emphasis mine) Triggers, enablers, provocateurs.
When I finish reading a print-edition newspaper, I don’t leave it on my nightstand just in case updates come in during the night that I might need to read. Ditto with a hand-written letter I receive from a friend – she put down her thoughts on paper, I’ve read it and might even save it, but the letter is finite – unlike e-mails which leap out at us with each vibrating notification.
In days past, when I finished reading a particularly riveting paperback novel, I would close the back cover, hug the book to my chest, and glory in the connection that said book created in me. I might even mourn that I had finished the book. Give me more! When I finish reading a book on my Kindle Fire HDX, regardless of how fabulous a read, there’s no device hugging going on. Instead I’m instantly downloading another title to be at the ready for my next respite of reading time. One down, millions to go.
Convenient, yes, but I must say that before I entered the Kindle generation, I thoroughly enjoyed requesting books from my local King County library, knowing that it might be a few weeks before the title finally became available to me. How exciting it was, however, when I received an electronic notification that the book was now available for pick-up. I might even drop everything, stop what I was doing, and make an extra car trip just to grab hold of the much-anticipated title.
What an extraordinary pleasure that was.
I don’t bemoan my technological gadgets – they do make my life easier and I am certainly more tuned in to the latest updates in the news, good or bad. But I don’t want paper to go away. I cancelled my Newsweek print magazine prescription when they went to an all digital format in 2012. I don’t want to sit at my computer or gaze into my tablet to read a periodical. (Hear that Seattle Times? Keep printing!) But listen to this. Earlier this month Newsweek brought back their print edition. I sincerely hope this is an indication that print periodicals aren’t dead. I share the same sentiment provided by Ms. Guzman towards the end of her article:
Not long ago I was convinced paper was outdone. Outperformed. Beaten. It wasn’t a question of whether paper would die, but when. Now, I hope it sticks around long enough for us to know why we would want it to.
What about you: paper or digital?