I’m a Paper Pacifist

There are already a lot of articles online about the war between paper and pixel, but apart from the tasks that require a computer (like email or document writing) a lot of people opt for paper for their note taking, journaling, list making, etc. I don’t share this opinion, however, and love my digital tools.

First, some others’ arguments pro paper:

  • Flexible: you can use a blank piece of paper to design any kind of template or platform you want.
  • Portable: you aren’t tethered to your desk to take notes or write documents. You can take them anywhere, including planes, trains, or automobiles.
  • Simple: there are no fonts or tools or menus or customizations. Just a pen and paper is all you need.
  • Tactile: some people get a lot of satisfaction from writing and drawing with their fingers and a pen instead of a mouse and keyboard.
  • Eye Strain: using natural light and no screen helps prevent eye strain for some people.
  • “When was the last time that your (paper) notebook crashed? Or you lost work because something you wrote down didn’t save?”

Here are some of my counterpoints:

  • Flexible: A spreadsheet is about the most flexible thing that I know exists. Any template that you use to structure or organize your paper, there’s likely a Google Docs template available.
  • Portable: Not only do I not own a desktop computer, tablets were specifically invented for portability. Don’t own a tablet? I bet you own a smartphone, and you can accomplish a lot with that and a wireless keyboard. My tablet works anywhere, and only needs an internet connection to sync the work I’ve just done to the cloud.
  • Simple: Don’t get me started on how an abundance of fonts and customizations can help you organize and format whatever it is that you’re working on, but even if you don’t want to use them, there’s always “plain text”.
  • Tactile: Maybe it’s from my lack of using a pen and paper, but my hand gets tired when I write. I like typing, I type fast, and I love the satisfactory feeling of clickity-clacking away at something.
  • Eye Strain: So, this won’t be ideal for everyone, but consider a Hemingwrite.
  • The last time my paper notebook crashed was when a can of Red Bull exploded in my backpack. My notes were not backed up.
  • Traditional word processors may not automatically save your work, but modern solutions like Evernote and Google Docs do.

Over the years I’ve bought a lot (A LOT!) of Moleskine and other paper notebooks by promising myself that they’d help me be more productive or creative, but the truth is that I make myself more productive or creative once I find something that works for me. My sketching Moleskine doesn’t have an undo feature, but Paper by FiftyThree does! I may leave (and have left) my paper notebooks at home when I needed to write something important, but my phone or someone else’s computer is always nearby! My notebook doesn’t do a good job of recording my voice for me to transcribe later, but Evernote does! My notebooks allow me to make big red circles around something important, but so does Skitch!

And it’s not all about document creating a note taking… My calendar is always with me, and so are my books and my lock combinations. Never will I have to worry about a girl’s phone number getting washed out in my pants pocket (unless my phone does as well, in which case I have more important things to worry about).

None of the tools or software that I’m talking about are specialty products or niche services, they’re free to everyone and can fit into anyone’s life*.

At the end of the day, to each their own, but I’ll take pixels over pencils any day of the week.


If you’d like a free, unused Moleskine notebook, contact me. I have too many on my hands in a good many varieties.

 

* The one exception is Paper, it’s iPad-only. I miss not owning an iPad just for this app.

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