I know several people who are trying to go “paperless” as an organizational strategy. There is certainly something to be said for the ease of access for documents in the cloud, the weightlessness of toting your entire filing system with you and the ability to let an algorithm to instantly find a document from several years ago.
But I like paper.
I think about my dissertation – stored on a floppy disc – that would be essentially lost to me if I did not have a hard copy. I have hundreds of slides from my childhood that I have seen a few dozen times, but every day I see the printed photos that I have framed. I have files with articles that are older than the audience I am using them for, but that I am able to locate and reference almost as quickly as Siri. I know that countless PowerPoints and computer files have been abandoned in between job transitions, but the valuable work I have done is still with me on paper. I have handwritten notes from decades ago, but few of the nice emails I received before this year.
Beyond my own personal love affair with print, I wonder what the archivists and historians will use to tell the story of our era. I have read the letters between John and Abigail Adams that give such a poignant glimpse into life in the early days of our country – and I doubt someone will be able to access the computer files or phone texts of recent presidents and their wives to replicate that insight in the future. Old Moleskins, sketchbooks and journals have told the story of countless inventors and scientists and given a glimpse into emotion beyond what could be conveyed in a typed word. Would the Ann Frank story have even survived if it was written on a computer?
Don’t let technology cloud your thinking against keeping some of your treasures in print.