Paper Is Good … Pass It On

I nearly dropped my spoon into my fibery breakfast cereal last Sunday, because as I was reading the  paper, I noticed a a full page ad that read in part…

“It’s Easier to Learn on Paper”

Seems a Paper Company – called Domtar, has been taking out full page ads in the New York Times Magazine, among others, to tell the world – words go better with paper.

I was reading about the virtues of paper, in a paper, printed on paper. A paper trifecta.

Another of their claims: Reading on Paper is 10-30% faster than reading online, plus reviewing notes and highlights is significantly more effective.

Now I don’t know if any of that stuff is really true.  Or if it is the dying gasp of a dying medium.

Speaking of dying, did the guys who made papyrus tell the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls that the scrolls would be an easier read if read on their vegetable based medium rather than the animal medium of parchment?

I remember way back when I was a kid growing up Brooklyn, and my teachers at P.S. 241 put our class on the subway for a class trip to visit the Gray Lady herself. That was when she still printed on West 43rd Street (and you wondered why it’s called Times Square – duh!).

And they gave us a tour and showed us the whole process – from the city room to the banks of men typing the stories on gargantuan machines that molded type out of lead – to the printing presses to the trucks.

Anyhow, I wonder whether the Linotype Operators union was telling its people then…words go better with lead?

Now people actually have to remind us – Paper is Good??

The point is I love paper.  I love to hold it, fold it, read from it, make airplanes and spitballs with it and most of all, possess and be surrounded by stuff like books that are actually made from it.  I love letters, and posters and all manner of things printed on it.

But if it easier and cheaper to distribute electronically… that is the way the cookie will crumble.

Paper won’t disappear overnight, Brother Gregory.

Computers were supposed to have rendered workplaces into efficient paperless knowledge exchange markets. But there have not been significant reductions in our use of paper.

Instead, the decline will be gradual. Virtually unnoticeable.

Just as each of the generations born since the 1990′s are digital natives… there will be eventually be paperless natives… and further down the evolutionary ladder (did I say down, I think I meant up?) someone will find the nano-fiber optic fabric, or the 3D printing and fabricated thing or the medium not net invented that will render the glowing screen obsolete.

But for the meantime, I too, think paper is good.

Alex Epstein is currently SVP of Production, Programming and Editorial at ReachMD – a medical information and education service that includes XM160 – the only nation-wide broadcast channel for medical professionals. A graduate of Bennington College and the Yale School of Management, Alex got his start in broadcast TV and radio in Fairbanks, Alaska. His experience includes 10 years in LA writing and producing broadcast and syndicated TV for a variety of high profile outlets. He transitioned to creating corporate, association and educational content and messaging in all its evolving forms after moving to Chicago. His personal blog is Viewser – digital streams of consciousness, where this post first appeared.

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8 replies »

  1. Didn’t I see this on an episode of “The Office” where Michael Scott was lecturing business school students why the paper industry (and Dunder Mifflin more specifically) was still a great business. He said something to the effect that “paper was everywhere”, meanwhile the students were all busily typing their notes into their laptops – not a pad of paper or pencil to be found in the entire classroom.

  2. @klkl … I was thinking more of magazines which are professionally printed … and not your home ink jet printer. But even a tripling of 100 dpi only gives 300 dpi .. no match for typeset paper. I generally will print on my 1200 dpi laser ( no ink diffusion! ) if I need to read something important.

  3. @Graham Chiu:LCD screens today are 100dpi or more, and subpixel rendering (e.g., ClearType) nearly triples horizontal resolution.
    Printers are marketed to have 1200/2400dpi, but resolution of the print head is poorly transferred to paper (at such microscopic scales paper is very rough and in addition to that ink diffuses in paper).

  4. Print resolution is something like 1200 – 2400 dpi, but that for screen is closer to 75 dpi. So, it’s much easier for the old brain to resolve the words on paper than it is on the low resolution screen.