To Print or Not to Print?

To Print or Not to Print? via an Essay columnA habitual note-taker, I find it hard to focus in my classes at university without a pen and paper. And yes, I’m one of those students who turns up with a printed copy of the lecture material every time. But the environmentalist in me keeps urging me to embrace technology, stop printing every single set of notes and just read it off my computer. In vain, however. Usually it’s a passing feeling, and before I know it I’m standing in queue to use the library printer once again.

To be fair, I’ve tried it one too many times. Each time it’s the same. I resolve to read a set of notes online instead of printing. Type out my notes during class instead of writing them. But I just can’t get used to it – I find it hard to organize my thoughts without a pen and blank paper in my hand. And even when it comes to reading materials, it frustrating when I can’t flip back and forth between pages smoothly, or annotate with the freedom that handwritten marking provides.

I often see my tech savvy friends come to class just carrying their tablet – one place for all notes, all readings, and even an entertainment source during study breaks. Seems extremely effective –  but I wonder: does a physical copy to read or handwritten notes have a charm that hasn’t yet been recreated by technology?

Just the way our grandparents always say that an email can’t replace a handwritten letter – indeed there seems to be some unnamed charm in the feel of paper instead of a type-face on our laptop screen. It’s funny how touch, enhances our sensory perception of something we read in a book despite the fact that the content written doesn’t change.

But it’s also possible that the charm of paper only exists for grew up with that tradition. To me, books and e-books feel different – but perhaps not to the millennials who were born into a more tech savvy world. Maybe  I associate the pleasure of reading with the experience of reading books as a kid, snuggling in a bed with a book in my hand. Maybe I just can’t type fast enough as I think and that’s why handwritten notes are the more effortless alternative.  Maybe.

The gap between my laptop screen and notebook seems to stem more from my mind  than actual differences between the two media. If that’s the case – I think it’s time to step out of my comfort zone, and start embracing the virtual world in small steps (like typing out this blogpost on my text editor for example hehe). That way the sudden change won’t tempt me to resort to pen and paper all the time, and let me adapt to the change gradually. Well, it’s definitely worth a try! -Dee

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