Paper Is Good… Pass It On

October 28, 2010

I nearly dropped my spoon into my fibery breakfast cereal last Sunday, because – as I was reading the paper, I noticed a full page ad that read in part…

“It’s Easier to Learn on Paper”

Seems a Paper Company – called Domtar, has been taking out full page ads in the New York Times Magazine, and other publications, to tell the world – words go better with paper.

I was reading about the virtues of paper, in a paper, printed on paper. A paper trifecta.

Another of their claims: Reading on Paper is 10-30% faster than reading online. And, reviewing notes and highlights is significantly more effective on pages made from trees or rice rather than electrons.

Now I don’t know if any of that stuff is really true.  Or if it is the death rattle of a dying medium.

Speaking of dying, did the guys who made papyrus tell the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls that the scrolls would be an easier read if read on their vegetable based medium rather than the animal medium of parchment?

I remember way back when I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn, and my teachers at P.S. 241 put our class on the subway for a class trip to visit the Gray Lady herself. That was when she still printed on West 43rd Street (and you wondered why it’s called Times Square – duh!).

And they gave us a tour and showed us the whole process – from the city room to the banks of men typing the stories on gargantuan machines that molded type out of lead – to the printing presses to the trucks.

Anyhow, I wonder whether the Linotype Operators Union was telling its people then…words go better with lead?

Now people actually have to remind us – Paper is Good??

The point is I love paper. They don’t have to remind me. I love to hold it, fold it, read from it, make airplanes and spitballs with it and most of all, possess and be surrounded by stuff like books that are actually made from it.  I love letters, and posters and all manner of things printed on it.

But if it is easier and cheaper to distribute electronically… that is the way the cookie will crumble.

Paper won’t disappear overnight, Brother Gregory.

Computers were supposed to have rendered workplaces into efficient paperless knowledge exchanges. But there have not been significant reductions in our use of paper.

Instead, the decline will be gradual. Virtually unnoticeable. Until one day POOF – just like Newsweek, or Life, or the Saturday Evening Post – it’s gone.

Just as each person born since 1990 – if they come from a family with enough money -is a digital native, there will be eventually be paperless natives… and further down the evolutionary ladder (did I say down, I think I meant up?) someone will find the nano-fiber optic fabric, or the 3D printing and fabricated thing or the medium not yet invented that will render the glowing screen obsolete.

But for the meantime, I too, think paper is good.



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