To Print or Not to Print

For my entire life books have been printed on paper.  Every book I read before 2006 was read from words printed on paper.

At one point in history, printing mass quantities of written words on dead tree pulp was cutting edge, state-of-the-art technology.

That was a long time ago.

Now the thought of having to carry a clunky old book when I already have my phone with me seems silly.

I’m a computer programmer, so I’m not afraid of technology.  I’m also not afraid of change.

I never really liked paper books.  I always felt they were clumsy things, always having to hold them open, losing my place when the bookmark fell out, and I couldn’t read them in the dark without a clunky light attached.

In 2006 I bought a Palm Pilot with eReader installed.  I never bought another paper book after that.

I know people have a lot of excuses as to why they cling to their paper books.  Most of those excuses don’t hold any water logically; they tend to be security blankets.  “Warm and fuzzies” that people are used to.

I’ve had a few people ask me for a paper copy of my book.  I haven’t put one together, even though printing through CreateSpace is actually a pretty viable option now.  I haven’t done it because I find it unnecessary.

eReaders are cheap.  The batteries last forever, they’re portable, and they hold a shit-ton of books.  In less than a minute damn near any book you want is ready to read.  And if you don’t want to buy a device, then use the phone you already own.  Kindle and other eReader apps are free.

If Henry Ford would would have coddled the Luddites who believed people should always ride horses, then we’d never have the car.  And, ironically enough, people still hanging on to paper books as the de facto standard don’t recommend that we go back to riding horses.  They’re fine with their cars, because they’ve grown up with them.  They’re used to them.  The same way they’re used to their books.  The same way the naysayers were used to their horses.

I might change my mind, but I’m not sure I ever want to go back to paper, even to placate others.  Paper never wanted me.  Paper couldn’t sustain my existence.  Paper got in the way of my ability to connect and communicate with others.  It was a barrier, a roadblock, an impediment.  Sure, it’s served its purpose well, but like so many other out-dated technologies it’s beyond its useful life.

The digital age has changed everything.  Questions can be answered anywhere in the world, in seconds, thanks to Google and the Internet.  More information is available to us than ever before.  We should be dazzled and amazed every day that we’re so lucky to be living in a time like this.

Instead, many of us fear it.

There’s nothing to fear.  Paper was limiting, digital is limitless.  Digital is freedom and empowerment.  It’s how things should be.

So why would I want to publish on paper?  And why would anyone want to confine themselves to reading on paper?

Until I can answer that question and come up with a viable reason for paper, I’ll be publishing digitally.

It’s the only answer that makes sense to me.

[Update: January, 2011: I guess I found that viable reason to publish on paper after all.]

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