Digital Media and me: Paper vs Screen.

Posted: February 24, 2012 in Apple, computers, software, technology
Tags: , , , , ,

It struck me as funny the other day as I, the person that swears by all things digital when it comes to media, was reading a hard cover book that is probably the one that most should have been read in Apple’s iBooks app:  The biography of Steve Jobs.

I probably would have bought the digital edition of the book, but got the hard copy as a gift.  As nice as it would have been to have it on my iPhone with me whenever I had a spare moment to read, sitting down in a comfortable chair with good lighting and immersing myself in an actual printed-on-paper book is somewhat relaxing in a way that staring at a LCD/LED screen just doesn’t compare.

I was quick to embrace the digital lifestyle of reading magazines on a screen instead of killing trees for paper or waiting for the stories to be printed and delivered to me.  Aside from the environmental issues there is also the immediacy of getting your news delivered digitally.  So many times, the news I hear or see at night is news from earlier in the day I already knew about thanks to that immediacy.  Score one for screen over paper.

So, is print media going the way of the Dodo bird? Maybe, but we can’t blame the dutch for this one.  Or can we?

The recently deceased Joost Kist, aside from being a lawyer and CEO of a dutch legal and medical publisher, was a pioneer in electronic publishing in fact he published a book entitled exactly that in 1988.  His work in information sciences led to his Ph.D. thesis BiblioDynamica a 386 page book about the success and failure factors for innovation of informative systems, especially in publishing, focusing on the full process from creation to consumer.  As said so well in the forward of his book (translated from the original dutch) “I chose as the title `Biblio Dynamica’ with the goal of the overarching research hold: namely, the development of printed informative book to database , from paper to electronic optical storage, from analogue to digital information.”  His work went a long way in developing early methods of storing and publishing electronically.

Not that he was the first to imagine or pursue electronic storage and distribution of information, in fact Arthur C. Clarke did that in his 1953 short story “The Nine Billion Names of God“, and its been a common theme in science fiction films since the first “talkies” hit the screens.  Its been a long time in the making, and finding the perfect way of getting the info to the consumer is an ever-changing and evolving process.

On the other side though, is the tactile experience of sitting holding a book, magazine or newspaper.  Sitting comfortably without the need for electricity or battery power to be able to read is a bonus.  A book never runs out of power or needs to be plugged in to recharge.  Another check mark on the paper side of the tally sheet is the lack of distractions when reading a book.  There are no pop-ups or notifications pulling you away from the task at hand like there are while reading on a computer or iDevice/tablet/kindle, etc.

Portability is one factor that goes to the electronic side though.  As easy as it is to stuff a paperback into your pocket or backpack or purse.  With electronic forms of those same books you can carry a small library with you restricted only by the drive space available.  Definitely a check mark on the electronic side of the tally sheet.

For me, the short answer is the writing may be on the wall when it comes to certain forms of printed publications, but I for one hope books stay around for those lazy days when you want to get away from all things electric and let your mind fully absorb what you are reading, without absorbing the radiation off the screen.



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