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Why paper still matters in a digital age

 Are you bombarded with messages that paper is a dying medium and you need to go completely digital?  Do you wonder why you should continue to invest in paper returns, reports, and portfolios?  Why would you invest in a luxury presentation folder for your clients?  Isn’t this the end of paper?

Quite emphatically, the answer is no.  If you want to make a long lasting impression in the hearts and minds of your clients, you need to do it in a tangible, physical medium that can be seen, felt and remembered.  Yes, of course you need to supply your clients with tax returns and financial reports digitally – that’s a no brainer – but multiple studies have linked printed materials to better retention of information compared to digital media.

Paper still matters, as I could learn several years from then fellow Philippine Daily Inquirer staff writer Phyllis Korkki. Yes, paper still matters. The frequent whirring of printers in offices – despite the Internet, Microsoft Word, social media (I love Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter), scanners, smart phones applications and many much more – attest to that.

I am very old fashioned in many things. I was still typing on an old manual typewriter, when my colleagues in different publishing houses already used electric units. I loved my antique typewriter. I love it till today. Yes, it’s still here in my office in Davao City. I can’t use it anymore, because no more ribbons are available in the Philippines. It’s okay. My electric typewriter is also here. Just beside the manual unit. Those were the days, my love… .

It has been sometimes at the end of the 1990’s. I worked as coordinating editor in an international publishing house in Berlin with branches in Amsterdam and New York. I still used one of those wonderful electric typewriters – and tried to avoid a personal computer. Already during that time I needed to hold paper in my hands. Paper, says the productivity expert David Allen, is “in your face”. I strongly agree with David. He said, “Its physical presence can be a goal to completing tasks, whereas computer files can easily be hidden and thus forgotten. I am also returning to paper planners for this very reason. Please, don’t smile at me, my dear readers!

David Allen, the author of “Getting Things Done”, does much of his writing on a computer. So I do meanwhile. But, there are still times when writing with a fountain pen on a notepad. It allows “us” to get “our” heads in the right place. When I tried to learn more from David Allen, I really got surprised, that we have many things in common. Old fashioned or not? I don’t care. Here are some facts:

Paper print outs serve an important function. For long texts, a print out can allow a reader to better understand relationships between sections and writings. Paper handouts are still a presence at meetings partly because they are useful for taking notes. Reading a long document on paper rather than on a computer screen helps people “better understand the geography of the argument contained within, “said Richard H.R. Harper, a principal researcher for Microsoft in Cambridge/England and co-author with Abigail J. Sellen of “The Myth of the Paperless Office,” published already in 2001.

I also strongly agree with Sellen, saying that using more than one computer screen can be helpful for all this cognitive juggling. But when workers are going back and forth between points in a longer document, it can be more efficient to read on paper. 

How about “e-reading a book”? A novel, a drama, whatever? What do you prefer, my dear reader? You wanna know my opinion? I am sure, you can imagine. Yes guys, I still need a book in my hands for my leisure reading. I need to feel the book as well as I need to smell a fresh-printed newspaper. Environment savers might start yelling at me now, though I am one of them. So, where is the edge and borderline?

Paper can be indeed a luscious and beautiful thing – the way we savor fine food and wine, as Steve Leveen, co-founder and CEO of Levenger, said. People complain that writing by hand is slow (yes, I am really!), BUT that can be good for thinking and creating! Here we are again!

So while digital media is an inherent part of doing business now, and allows businesses greater reach, printed materials are in some cases more effective at enticing prospects to take action, enhancing recall of a brand, or conveying the idea of value.

Yes, it matters still: in defense of the power of paper! What do you think, my dear readers, while holding this newspaper right now in your hands? Or you might read us online … .


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