Paper versus digital: what do you choose?

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via Paper or pixel? Don’t burn those books just yet.

Paper vs DigitalMonica 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?

7 thoughts on “Paper versus digital: what do you choose?

    christineplouvier said:
    March 27, 2014 at 8:02 am

    I’ll take a paper book of florid prose over a bludgeoning with flashing digital technology, any day.


      boomer98053 responded:
      March 27, 2014 at 8:22 am

      I couldn’t have said it better. Thanks for reading!


    Arwa said:
    March 24, 2014 at 3:48 am

    I believe that we, as a reader, should stick to paperbooks, and yet not give up on the idea of using an e-reader for conveience. Imagine how terrible our world would be without real books to hold, read and collect. Yet can we give up on the e-reader?


      boomer98053 responded:
      March 24, 2014 at 7:51 am

      The best 2 things about e-readers: quick access to books; terrific economy of space when traveling. I absolutely agree – I want paper books to remain a part of our world. When I finally publish my novel, I want to see it on bookstore shelves, not just on an Amazon screen grab.


    ddesonier said:
    March 23, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    I too have been enmeshed in the digital vs. paper conundrum. A few years ago if you had told me I would own a Kindle, I would have scoffed at such a blasphemous notion. Next thing I know – I get a Kindle for Christmas 2010. It took me barely 24 hours to get used to both the experience of reading on a digital device, and to relish the convenience of never, ever being caught “book-less in Seattle”. What I did not give up, as this blogger notes, is the tactile, Sunday experience of physically flipping through and reading my Sunday paper. There is, however, a “yes, but” here. I had been frustrated recently with not being able to decide on my next Kindle book after having waded through at least a dozen free sample snippets. I woke up one morning with the realization that what I missed was holding the book in my hand, looking at its cover, turning the pages, and bookmarking where I had left off – not digitally, but with one of my many bookmarks collected locally and abroad. I returned to my local independent bookstore committed to buying more than just a greeting card. Once again I am now happily relishing going to the bookstore, browsing their stock, getting feedback from my favorite clerk who truly knows my tastes, and then supporting that store with a new purchase. So I seem to have come full circle. My Kindle – at least for now – is relegated to sitting on my shelf.


    letstalkaboutfamily said:
    March 23, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    I like my newspaper to be paper. I do not read the digital edition. It just isn’t the same to cozy up with my cup of tea and my iPad!


      boomer98053 responded:
      March 23, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      We’re definitely on the same page – pun intended.


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