Tuesday, January 26, 2010

We Are (Amost) Living In A Paperless World

but I am a paper loving girl.

This morning I read this article by Nicholas Ciarelli over at The Daily Beast in which he praises living the digital life and breaking free from the "oppressive world of books, magazines, newspapers, business cards, store receipts, and old toaster instruction manuals...

Humm, I've never felt oppressed by books since reading is a tactile experience as well as a mental one. I prefer the feel of the leaves of a book against my fingers as I turn the pages to the hard plastic of a Kindle or a nook. I will give him the inconvenience of keeping and finding appliance manuals when you need them. Having them online at the manufacturer's website does make it easier. But books? Once you buy them they are yours to read again, lend to a friend, or sell. Try that with a e-book.

Mr. Ciarelli's also points out that with a Kindle or a nook, why, you will never be caught without reading material while standing in line ever again! Excuse me, hasn't he ever heard of paperback books or magazines? The advantage to those forms of information storage is that you never have to worry about your battery juice running out or about software viruses. Plus, when was the last time you broke a book by dropping it?

The main reason for Mr. Ciarelli's enthusiasm for a digital world is control.

With a paperless life, you have a greater ability to measure how you consume media, such as in these charts, which depict the pace at which different readers enjoyed a short story. Most people do not imagine ever wanting to chronicle something like this—after all, none of this measurement is possible with printed material.

He goes on to say that this may not be seen as useful (I agree), but, hey, look how useful keeping track of your financial spending online is right now. I fail to see the connection. Of course control works both ways and Mr. Ciarelli notes that if you can monitor your reading preferences so can others.

By the same token, if you can more easily measure your media consumption, then others can as well. Consider the possibilities: Novelists could identify the point at which people are most likely to abandon their books, and could then release modified versions with those parts re-written. Authors could even release different versions of their books to different customers and conduct experiments to see which editions are the most effective, testing out different plotlines, characters, or endings.

Do those words read as frightening to you as they to to me. Why stop there, we could re-write the boring parts out of all those dull classics while we are at it. I was wrong, we aren't almost living in a paperless world, we are almost living in a Walmart world where quality is less important than making a buck.

What are your thoughts on this? Is a paperless world a good idea? Books or e-reader? Online banking or not? Online newspaper or not? Paper or electronic storage of records? Why or why not?

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