I am routinely intrigued by the stories that come out despairing over the rise of the digital and the subsequent fall of the analogue. The most recent of these has been a scare that e-readers will spell the death of books. I’m not so sure. At least, I’m not sure it will happen as quickly as people think. We’re at least a generation away from people who have grown up with nothing but e-readers and I suspect that a fondness for the paper product will remain. I mean, who wants to take their expensive e-reader in the bath?
I will admit that while I have played with a couple different models, I am yet to actually seriously sit down and read anything digitally. I still even prefer to print out anything longer than, oh, three pages at work and settle down with my pile of paper held together with a staple (or bulldog clip, depending on boringness of report). But then I didn’t understand before getting an iphone just how much it would change the way I used a mobile. Now I can’t imagine not being able to check a map or tweet or look up that actor to see what else I know him from all while on the go. And during a recent trip to the other side of the country I could see the attraction of having my regular newspapers delivered automatically (and digitally) over breakfast each morning.
The “rise of digital” despair story that I probably understand the most but relate to the least is that perennial one about how will kids these days finish their exams when they’ve never actually written anything down. I understand how this can happen. If you don’t use a skill regularly, any skill, it degrades and eventually disappears. I’ve been in that exam room furiously scribbling away. It’s hard enough to remember everything you planned to put down, but I can’t imagine having to cope with not being able to write fast enough too. See, writing is my everything. That pile of notepads at left above, that’s two years’ worth of work. I have a similar pile in my wardrobe that is the previous two years. It takes me roughly time and a half to transcribe an interview from an audio recording and I just don’t have enough time in my week for that. Thus handwriting is everything. Put it on paper.