Are You Becoming a Paperless Writer?

Pep and Paper
Digital Painting by Linda Greenberg

When I think of Shakespeare and of Dickens and of Chekhov I imagine stacks of paper and ink pots and quills (or at least fountain pens). But when I think of well, me, I must admit that there is not much paper on my desk, and no ink pots or quills whatsoever, just a laptop and a computer screen, and my oh my even the books are starting to disappear, replaced by a convenient Kindle. Are you becoming a paperless writer too?

What we are becoming…

You are probably in a situation not unlike my own. I bet you still have some books around your desk and some paper and some pencils too, but you’re doing most of your writing on a laptop, don’t you? Nobody will blame you – typing is faster. And let’s not forget the spellchecker…

And what about your dictionary? Do you search for peculiar words like floccinaucinihilipilification in some big old tome? Or do you have a ‘type here instant result + synonyms + antonyms + etymology’ dictionary installed on your computer? Or maybe you just Google suspicious words.

I know you still read plenty of paperbacks and hardbacks and prefer them to e-books, but surely you won’t deny that the latter are (sometimes more) convenient. If you have a Kindle or and iPad or some other e-book reader, it would be hard for you to part with it now, wouldn’t it?

Paperless writers!

That’s what we are becoming, whether we write blog posts or books, whether we are young or old, whether we live in America or in Romania.

The pros and cons of being paperless

The paperless writer has a small bag to pack when she goes out – a laptop and an e-book reader.

The paperless writer saves the trees she does.

But then what if while waiting for the bus a thief passes by and snatches her bag? No backups? No cash for new hardware? My oh my! She is in dire straits…

Or let’s imagine that you are a boy about my age and one day you stand in the middle of your room, reading aloud a line from your favorite paperback. A beautiful woman passes before your window. You are so startled that you drop the book. You rush to the window, but the woman has, alas, disappeared. You sigh and hang your head. Your thoughts shift back to the book, and you brighten. You return to your fallen book and pick it up and dust it off and continue reading. ‘Good old paper!’ you whisper, caressing it.

But what if instead of a book you held an e-book reader? Or a fancy iPad? My oh my!

Computers and e-book readers can fall, can break, can die. And even if they work they need to be replaced every few years anyway. Paper and ink last more. I mean a bashful ballerina recently sent me a book that was over 100 years old.

To conclude,

For me, a short and frail boy-writer living in a shadowy attic in faraway Romania, laptops and e-book readers come in handy. I must admit that without them I would probably not be able to write in English today. But for you, Americans and Britons and Aussies and English natives, who have stacks of classics everywhere around you, and who by all accounts move too fast, maybe for you things are different…

Are you becoming a paperless writer too? Is this good, bad, or conveniently acceptable?

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58 thoughts on “Are You Becoming a Paperless Writer?

  1. Great post. I definitely enjoy the scratch of pen on paper and have multiple notebooks for idea accumulation. But usually when I write a story or something I do it on my computer.

      1. Ah! Been there, done that!
        I remember losing three, almost done short stories due to hard disk failure… never got them back. Tried to re-write them but the soul was lost.

  2. I have not evolved yet. My thought doesn’t order and organize or flow and scatter the same on-screen as through the slowing tools of shaping letters, friction, and so on. I’d type too fast. So all things save some brief correspondences (such as this one) make themselves on paper first and then are translated into less emotional more conventional and standardized type. I have no e-reader capacities either. It burns me eyes even by the end of my wordpress reader. As long as the tools are available, I’ll have to use them, but then I’m much older than ye. I’m happy your work comes out in whatever format or construction.

    1. I, too, find on-screen reading tiring and distracting. So much so that if I start my day with reading blogs or even e-books I am quite incapable of precise writing afterwards. So I always do the writing in the morning and the reading in the evening.

      I prefer writing to typing. Usually, I don’t have enough time for transcribing, though.

      Maybe they will invent some kind of digital paper one day. A paper whose content can be transferred to the computer through a cable, or better, through WiFi.

  3. “Are you becoming a paperless writer too?” > No way!

    “I bet you still have some books around your desk and some paper and some pencils too, but you’re doing most of your writing on a laptop, don’t you? ” >>> It is not my case.
    I have books around me and dictionaries too. I still prefer paper and pencil. Never tried any kind of e-book reader. I have no idea how a Kindle works and never wanted an iPad, I don’t even have cell phone! I am an ancient soul, I guess and I think nothing can replace the pleasure of having the company of good books, always within reach of my hands… But I don’t think it is wrong, good or bad, it is just a choice, option, another alternative. People should read, that’s what matters.

  4. I too am becoming a paperless writer. Even the notebook I used to carry around in my handbag is gone, and I use my phone for when the thoughts randomly strike while I am outside.
    I am still reading paper books, however, as starting too much at a laptop or a tablet startles my eyes. Also, it’s safer to have a book out in public transports than to have a tablet, in my opinion.

  5. For me a pen and paper will always be part of my kit. The things I write on my laptop will normally only be short pieces normally no more than a few hundred words, and nothing ever more than a thousand.

    I can’t sit in one spot for too long without getting distracted at my computer but I can quite happily sit outside watching the world and writing for hours on end with a pen in hand.

  6. Have heard many good things about Kindle but never wanted to try it out. Did read a short story on the screen – ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – but didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d have on paper… I guess my love for the printed word conquers all!

    And as much as I love fountain pens, I have to accept, I use the computer more. What can I say… I type faster and when the ideas flow in full force, writing seems to hold me back. But I always carry a little notebook and a pen with me and jot down ideas as and when they come (Sometimes a little note or a recording on my phone works just as well).
    Even though I type more, I feel nothing beats ink and paper – classic stuff.

  7. I am a paperless writer, but still a paperfull reader. Writing is definitely better on a computer. I can type pretty fast and my handwriting is atrocious. If I need to look up how to spell something, Google’s a lot closer than my paper dictionary, even when that dictionary’s just a few feet away. I can’t imagine trying to edit on paper. What a mess! You’d end up rewriting it anyway once you have a final version. Editing on the computer is so much easier.

    However, when it comes to reading, I find real books much better than e-books. This is partially due to my cheapness. I rarely buy books. I borrow them from the library. At this point, the selection of titles in paper is much larger than what the library can offer electronically. My library offers about 5,000 e-books to borrow. In contrast, the smallest branch of my local library system has at least 30,000 books. I work at a library too, so getting books is very easy, I never have to make a special trip.

    I own a Kindle Fire, but rarely read on it. That’s partially because I’ve got plenty of paper books to read. The other factor, however, is that the Kindle Fire is a tablet, so one can browse the Web with it. If I try to read on the Kindle, I get distracted by the desire to check Facebook, or look something up in Wikipedia.

    I suspect that within the next decade, the number of books available in paper will diminish considerably. It’s just so much cheaper for the publishers to distribute e-books instead of paper copies. I’m not looking forward to this change. I think a paper book has distinct advantages over an e-book. However, I don’t think people in general are going to be so attached to the paper format that they’ll refuse to switch to e-books.

  8. Yes. I am — though I always, always carry a pen and paper with me wherever I go. You never know when the words will come, and one must always be prepared.

  9. It’s unfortunate but true. I flow so much better typing as opposed to holding a pen over paper. To the point where I am actually typing out my daughter’s birth story, something so utterly intimate I feel as if I’m defiling it by typing it so I’m forcing myself to switch to the pen. Eventually.

  10. I haven’t written in a long long time and then when I did decide to write a letter to my grandparents two weeks ago, I realized how much my handwriting had suffered. :/

  11. I’m a paperless writer and a paper designer. I never read books through a screen. I only watch movies this way. I neither read magazines through a screen. There’s nothing like the smell and touch of a paper with millions of words on it… And that won’t change. No matter how fast the world starts spinning. Because some things just don’t change. They remain. To remind us how it all began and where we come from, and what is after all so special about writing letters and reading books.

  12. I…..AM becoming one. It happened over the summer, when I stopped writing in my journal. Something about e books seemed more convenient…..especially when I got my kindle….which I’m on NOW. Hmm, But I read many types of writing now….broadening my writing weaponry.

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