It’s clear we’re living in a very “digital” age. That doesn’t mean that we’ve completely abandoned the pen and paper (see our recent discovery that handwriting is still thriving even for business professionals; or two examples of tech bloggers who confess to loving paper notebooks: “Pen and Paper: Better Than All Things Digital” and “This year’s killer app — pen and paper”.) But it’s very clear that things are shifting as our computer devices are getting smaller and more portable and user-friendly.
And we’re not going to even try pretending that computers don’t have clear advantages over notebooks and paper. Just for a simple list, writing with a computer and keyboard allows for the following advantages:
- Editing is infinitely easier (delete, find-&-replace, formatting, cut-&-paste, re-organizing information), which, in turn, saves the writer time
- Your work can be searchable
- Your work is always readable. Some of us have terrible handwriting, making it difficult for others (or let’s be honest, even ourselves!) to read what we’ve written
- Your work is easily sharable
- Text on paper isn’t very convertible to other formats
- Computers are better for the environment (Jotting down information doesn’t require the destruction of an endless amount of trees…)
But, those advantages aside, it’s important to keep in mind just why the pen and paper endure – and why it will to continue to endure! The following is a list of the five advantages the pen and paper have over computer devices.
- Let’s face it: when you’re trying to be productive or creative you want as few obstructions as possible. But with word processors and other devices you’re constantly being distracted by such things as formatting (bold this, italicize that) or the spell-checker. (And all confessions aside: I typed that last sentence and I stopped twice to check the spelling for both “device” and “italicize.”) With a notebook, there are no such obstructions to the writing process.
- On a computer it’s much easier to click away to something else (Open another document; reference something on the web; check your email again…) With a notebook it’s just you, a pen, and the paper – no excuses and no distractions!
- You don’t have to wait for a notebook to start up and it will never shut down on you. Again: Just grab the notebook or sheet of paper and start writing.
- As stated above, you don’t have to wait for a notebook to start up and you never have to fear that it will shut down on you – or worse, die and destroy all your work! No electricity or batteries required.
- Unlike some of the devices (we have to exclude smart phones in this example!), a notebook can be carried everywhere. Easy to open it up and jot down any in-the-moment stray thoughts.
- If you’ve written it down you’ll always have a hard copy of the information on hand. In the situation of your computer dying, the information could be lost to you forever.
The “Doodling” Limitation
- Sure we’ve mastered word processing on electronic devices – but we haven’t yet been able to find a computer program or app that can, in any significant way, replace how we can doodle or sketch or create a mind-map on a sheet of paper. If we’re on a computer and we need to switch from writing to sketching out an idea, we have very few options outside of the pen and paper.
It’s More Personal
- This one’s completely subjective: We asked Paperblanks fans on Facebook and Twitter about there on this topic and more than a few said a variation on this idea: “It’s more personal.” For some, it’s just more special or private to write something down in a notebook or on paper.
- And why not? More and more these days we associate computers with being “connected” (to the Internet, to a server, etc.) or to the scare of information “getting out” (an email read by the wrong people; a personal video or document being leaked, etc.), that a personal book without all those “connections” or vulnerabilities just feels – more personal!
It Just Feels More Natural
- Nothing in a computer or smart phone or tablet can replicate the feeling of holding a pen and gliding it on a piece of paper (Unless you’re talking about a stylus-and-tablet set-up, but how many of us use those?) It just feels good in your hands.
- Inputting information into a device is still just not as natural as writing it down. As a Detroit-based web developer is quoted as saying in this article, “The input of information [on a computer device] is still a little strange … It doesn’t feel right.”
- Put simply: There’s a simplicity to the pen and paper!
Our Conclusion: Use Both!
Our belief is that, just like the study about business professionals still relying on paper – both options should be utilized. They both have clear advantages. Some people do creative and rough work with pen and paper and then professional and share-able work with a computer and keyboard. No matter your process or personal preferences, we feel it’s advantageous to take advantage of the benefits of both mediums!
Have We Missed Anything?
If we’ve missed anything important feel free to tell us in the comments section below!
About Paperblanks: We have been producing superb writing journals for nearly twenty years. We are book people, and we believe that the written word matters and that our blank books have a critical role to play in the art and continued practice of writing itself. For more about Paperblanks, go to our website at paperblanks.com.