Let me ask you something: Would you rather be reading this on an iPad right now? What about on a Nook, an eReader, or even your phone? Well in this day and age of technological advancement, it’s more than doable; digital copies of quite literally everything are available at a few taps on a protected, warranty-imbued LED screen. This begs another question: Who bothers with paper anymore?
With social media predominantly controlling our interactions with each other and the outside world, it would seem that reading anything on paper is just a waste of time. The last time I read a newspaper was to see what my horoscope said, and now I have an app for that on my smartphone. There are now millions of apps taking over our lives, shortcutting everything down to mindless eye-rolls over an arguably annoyingly small screen and because of this, anything printed on paper could very well be following the dinosaurs. Is digital really the best that we can do?
For a while, there was a stint about whether we should continue to teach our kids cursive in school. Advocates for continuing the practice argued that our younger generations would never learn how to write their own signature but as it is, a digital signature these days only requires your initials typed on a keyboard—problem solved. Cursive is giving way to typing classes. Libraries are bowing down to giants like Amazon, where books are cheap and easily accessible on a tablet and perhaps more inductive to persuading those less inclined into actually reading a work of literature for once.
The arguments in favor of digitalizing everything are overwhelming, yet valid. No one goes anywhere without their phone anymore, so you could be sitting on a beach in Barcelona, enjoying Don Quixote without having to actually lug around the 1,000-something-page copy (and that’s just paperback). When it comes to textbooks, the benefits are even greater. No one knows better than a student how to Google search notes, summaries, and now entire books. You want to highlight and write notes in the margins? On some eReaders, you can do that too. So what’s the point of paper?
Talk to any traditional connoisseur of that familiar musty smell and those softly crinkled pages stained with the lives of past readers, and they will regale you with the history of the writing down of old folklore and the value of containing our memories and lessons within leather-bound covers. Even if books appear far and in-between in your leisure time, there is something sentimental about dog-earing a favorite passage or seeing the book later on, thrown on some coffee table and recalling the particular feelings that each turn of the page conjured up in you.
The downside? It seems that paper has become obsolete, especially in our over-zealous crusade to save the earth. The need to recycle is urged upon us at every corner of every school campus and business, and if you aren’t going to recycle, then it might seem a bit hypocritical to screech about the injustices of publishers refusing to print books anymore. They are, after all, quite concerned with the wellbeing of our planet’s resources. Not to mention printing digitally is cheap and fast, one thing that we as human beings demand and thrive on.
When it really comes down to it, the only controversy lies in whether you are more prone to feeling sentimental for a ream of papers or an electronic screen. The true stuff to be hemmed and hawed at is the words themselves and what emotions they invoke in you. The supposed battle between paper and digital has its last tethers hooked into those who like tradition; if it weren’t for them, such a problem wouldn’t exist. Everything else around us is changing— technology being the current frontrunner—and a digital revolution is inevitable, if not already set into motion.