After trying to implement updates to one of my documents. I realized that I was having problems trying to visualize how to incorporate a number of needed changes. After staring at my document on the screen for a period of time, I decided to print out my table of contents to better visualize the document structure. The table of contents serves as a de facto document outline, enabling me to get an idea of the document’s structure.
However, the mere fact that I had to print out the table of contents got me thinking: is paper still relevant in this digital age?
These days, it seems like everything is digitized. An increasingly number of people are reading books on e-readers and tablets. Even I, a longtime New York Times reader, stopped buying hardcopy newspapers a long time ago and started maintaining a digital subscription.
That said, there’s something to be said about savoring a good book — a real book, with paper pages to flip, and a dog-eared cover. Even though I maintain a digital Times subscription, every once in a blue moon, I’ll pick up an actual newspaper and sit myself down in a comfortable chair in a Starbucks, flipping through the pages and getting my fingers dirty with newspaper ink, while enjoying a cup of mocha.
(I’ll also confess to being a little biased, since my wife works in the newspaper industry.)
While viewing documents entirely on a screen seems to be the way of the world these days, I’m finding that there are some instances where there is no substitute for paper. For starters, I recently wrote that, as a tech writer, I sometimes come across mental blocks in my work. Viewing a document as a hardcopy, as opposed to on a screen, sometimes helps to break the stalemate. With paper, I can take whatever individual sheets I need, place them on a table, and skip through whatever I need to edit. I am able to better visualize document structure and hierarchy so I can better understand where things need to go. I also have the advantage of being able to pick up a pen and scribble any notes wherever I need them and wherever I please. Try doing that on a computer screen.
Paper copies could also help alleviate eye strain. (I am not an expert in this, so for all I know, I might be off-base here.) I sometimes find it easier to look at material in print than I do on a screen. I say this, despite the fact that the old tube-style CRT monitors have gone the way of the dinosaur.
By no means am I advocating that we should go out and kill more trees; on the contrary, I am all for taking steps to protect the environment. All I am saying is that paper is not completely dead. Although most documentation these days is digitized, I believe that the imminent demise of paper is somewhat exaggerated.