It has been interesting to see how many people have ordered the printed version of the FSP book as compared to downloading the e-version: slightly more than half have ordered the printed version. I thought that the pdf version would prevail over the print version because it is cheaper and faster to obtain, and because many of us do a lot of our reading in e-formats these days.
Part of the preference for print v. pdf may relate to a desire to gaze at (and possess) the glossy graph paper cover of the printed version (note that, contrary to the impression one gets from the low-resolution grayscale image on the preview screen, the actual cover has blue lines), but a more likely explanation may be that many people still prefer to read printed text instead of text on a screen.
Even though I too am fond of printed text in some forms, the number of documents that I read only in electronic format has been increasing steadily. I used to print out numerous drafts of each manuscript, mark up the printouts as I edited them, input my corrections into the file, then print it out again and repeat until it was perfect or I couldn't bear to read it again. I still go through numerous drafts, but now I only print out the almost-final version. In some cases -- e.g. if I am a minor co-author -- I never print the manuscript and only do electronic editing.
I also used to like to have a printed version of some reprints that I downloaded as pdf's, but now I almost never print them out, and I do most of my manuscript and proposal reviews without printing out the document.
Anyone who was on proposal review panel in decades past will remember the giant boxes of proposals that would arrive before a panel meeting. It was very daunting. We read just as many proposals online now, but somehow it doesn't seem quite so overwhelming because the experience isn't accompanied by a dramatic visual representation of forest clear-cutting.
Similarly, those who submitted proposals back in ancient times surely do not miss making 57 photocopies of each proposal, doing battle with the heavy-duty stapler, and then mailing everything off in a big box.
Despite the obvious improvement in quality of some aspects of academic life owing to the decline in use of paper documents, I don't know why my print v. pdf ratio for reading documents has changed so much in other respects. Perhaps the increase in e-reading is related in part to the fact that monitor quality has improved a lot. I have had the same size of monitor in terms of screen dimensions for 15 years, but reading a document on a non-flat lower resolution monitor, however large, in the days of yore was certainly not as easy on the eyes as reading a document on a high-res flat panel monitor. Perhaps also I just got used to reading documents on the screen and find it more efficient.
Print is still my preferred mode for reading books and my morning newspaper, and it is easier for my cats to sit on these than on a laptop keyboard, although they are quite skilled at both. Even so, I have been occasionally tempted by the thought of acquiring a electronic device for downloading and reading books. A friend of mine is quite happy with the Kindle portable reading device she acquired from Amazon, and I can see that there are certain circumstances when it would be very handy. For example, perhaps I could have avoided the trauma last year of being on a trans-Atlantic return flight with nothing to read but a book whose first chapter was narrated by a giraffe fetus.
It would be nice to have many options easily at hand without having to haul around a dozen books on each long trip, but it will be a sad day if my only option is to read books and newspapers on an electronic device, even if my print : pdf reading ratio is increasing year by year.
6 months ago