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    Electronic Document - Please Scroll

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    During a visit last weekend, my father offered to send me some John Grisham novels he has finished with. Later, talking with my wife, I remarked that I've reached the point that if something isn't available in ebook or audiobook format, there's not much chance I'll get around to reading it. My bookshelves at home hold scores of books - both fiction and nonfiction - that have sat there for years unread, gathering dust.

    My PDA, on the other hand, has cycled through a couple of books every month for a dozen years now (many of them classics downloaded from Gutenberg.org), and I've taken to listening to audiobooks on the drive to and from work (again often from Gutenberg.org). Recently I picked up a Kindle reader to make those ebooks readable on a larger screen.

    My wife replied, "Oh, I think there will always be some people who want paper books. Don't you?" And I remarked that someone probably said the same thing about clay tablets or scrolls when the first bound books appeared. After all, you can't roll the text in a book with pages the way you can a good old scroll, right? (Now that I think about it, much electronic text is like a scroll in this regard.) In any case, she told me to hush, and I did.

    But of course it's something to think about, especially where business writing is concerned. Consider how much of your daily writing and reading is in electronic form. How many manuals do you now access in PDF format? How does this compare to a year ago? My payroll and banking statements both come as electronic documents now, and I'm happy they're archived online and easily searchable, instead of filling a filing cabinet drawer at my home. By the same token, it's easier to view a Gantt chart onscreen than as a multi-page printout. On the other hand, proofreading seems to remain quicker and more accurate on paper, and I don't think that's just due to habit.

    What's your own take on this subject? Are you happy to see the move to electronic text in business, or does it disturb you? What benefits does the printed word have that electronic text does not, and vice versa? Does the speed of publishing nowadays diminish its value? We'd love to hear your opinions.

    - Lester Smith

    Photo by takomabibelot