Thursday, October 1, 2009

We're going digital!

Last post, I extolled the merits of pen & paper. Today I want to talk about doing away with that outmoded system, We’re going digital!

I’m a proponent of going paperless. I know I’m a geek, I’ve resigned myself to that fact. Going paperless, however, is not as easy as it seems. We don’t always have immediate access to a computer, internet connectivity, and there are still many things that just don’t translate well from pen to keyboard.

I already talked about how universally easy it is to jot down notes on a pad a paper. So what can possibly replace such a universal, inexpensive, and portable option? So far I haven’t found anything. Short of expensive devices like iPhones or other PDA’s, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find something that beats the old standby.

If you have one, however, the iPhone comes close. Most smart-phones should fit this category as well. I can pull up notes and type out something fairly quickly. I can turn on the voice recorder and leave myself an audio reminder. I can even email myself, or look something up on wikipedia to find out if the idea I have is correct. It does come in handy, but it’s not perfect.

Something does get lost in the translation. It’s hard to doodle in the margins like you can on paper. Underlining does not have the same impact as ink, where the thickness of the line left by your pen can convey as much information as a full sentence typed out on the computer.

I also own and love the Kindle, Amazon’s ebook reader. The e-ink display is just like reading real paper. I don’t get eye strain like I do on a crt or even lcd monitor. I can store hundreds of books and take them wherever I go. I can create bookmarks and even take notes.

The Kindle, however, is not perfect. Battery life for an avid reader will only last you a couple days. I also recently read about a group of students in Princeton that found it difficult to take proper notes on the Kindle. Seems it’s just easier to jot down something in the margin of a paper book.

Ebooks have a ways to go. Right now I think the pdf conversion is seriously lacking, but that’s something that will eventually be fixed as more and more books are designed with ebook readers in mind and not just a quick port at the last minute. The cost does need to come down as well.

No, we definitely lose the personal touch when we go digital.

Still, ultimately I type everything into the computer, it’s my natural habitat and a place I know I’ll never leave. I’ll still continue to out-think my pen and my computer. Until we are one with our computers, able to spew down words as fast as our minds can think, I will keep straddling the digital divide hoping to hold on to a simpler method. One that I hope will never go out of style.

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