Saturday, April 21, 2012

Still in Love with Paper

Computers and the Digital Age have made the life of a writer easier in too many ways to count. Yet, after trying new digital tools, I often return to my original paper and analog methods.

For example, after I got my new color Kindle, I bought a few background books for my next novel because they were cheaper as e-books. Yet I immediately forgot the names and authors of those books. It wouldn't surprise me if I one day buy some of them again in paper (if I haven't already), not knowing I already own them.

Other books I would have been willing to buy as e-books I didn't because for some reason the illustrations weren't included in the e-book, only the paper book. 

You might object that those are technical issues; that once Kindles allow one to tag books and then sort books by multiple tags, that once Kindles have bigger memories so they can easily hold many image-heavy e-books, these problems will disappear. True, and if those advances happen, I will reconsider my decision. In the meantime, I buy only pleasure reading in e-book form.

Some of the downsides of new digital ways of doing things are intrinsic. For example, software improvements so far have been inevitable. Twenty years from now, I won't be able to access the books currently on my Kindle or any files that are now on my computer because the software and possibly the hardware will have advanced too far.

Another example: office recordkeeping. I've found Quicken worse than useless for recording my business expenses. I don't like using Microsoft Excel, either. It's much faster and more convenient to keep records of expenses by hand. With an old-fashioned paper ledger, I can work on my account book anywhere, not just at my computer. For another, I can see all my expenses and their categories for the year with only three or four glances (or with a single glance if I tear out the pages and spread them out). I make fewer mistakes when I write numbers in by hand, and it's easier to notice and correct mistakes in a paper ledger.

These aren't the only areas in which I've decided to be a Luddite. Recently I decided to return to using a paper address book as my master list of addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses. I loved having a Palm Pilot, with all data collected in one place and accessible in 30 seconds from anywhere I was. But my newer-model computer doesn't support such old technology. Contact data are now scattered through several different programs, and they're not accessible when I'm away from home. So it's back to a portable address book for me until smartphones and smartphone data plans drop drastically in price.

And it hardly needs mentioning that even if one makes many backups of computer files and stores them in more than one physical location, one can nevertheless irretrievably lose important information.

As a result, I'm still in love with paper. Where do you fall? Does your office and business depend entirely on computers and digital devices, does it still run entirely on paper, or is it somewhere in-between? And why?

I'll be blogging again on May 6. I hope you stop by again then.

—Shauna Roberts


Charles Gramlich said...

I still do all my record keeping and even my gradebook for school in a printed file. It just makes it a lot easier for me to deal with. I worry about that technological change and loss of my current kindle books. that is kind of scary.

Liane Spicer said...

I too have attempted to download books that were already in my Kindle file. I've also heard far too many people screaming about losing all their contacts along with their phone, or upgrading and finding the info cannot be transferred.

The digital revolution was supposed to simplify life, and it has in some ways. It also complicated it immeasurably in others.

I never 'upgrade' anything unless it becomes absolutely necessary for my work. So I guess I'm in the 'somewhere in-between' aisle.

Shauna Roberts said...

CHARLES, I hate that my computer can't read some of the articles I wrote in the first years of my career. I assume the same will be true for all my articles and short stories and book manuscripts in a few years. And so much of what I write ends up published online. I wonder whether my legacy of work will survive me.

Shauna Roberts said...

LIANE, I know what you mean. I have gotten that message "Do you really want to buy that Kindle book again" message several times in the past couple of weeks. The future will look back on now as a lost time in history, with so many of our records and publications inaccessible because they are in outdated formats.

G. B. Miller said...

Guv'ments are notorious for not learning how to properly mesh the digital with the paper.

Case in point, the state guv'ment I work for introduced a new operating system back in '03 that was supposed to cut down on paperwork and make things easier.

Nine years later, we go through double the amount of paper simply because of the amount of reports we have to run in order to make sure things are done correctly.

And, oh yeah, can't forget that a paper trail is absolutely necessary in my world. Simply relying on memory does not hold up with union greivances, money grubbing employee pet peeves, management incompetance, etc. etc. etc.