Why I still love paper

The reason I read a paper magazine or book is for the time it gives me — for the space to think, reflect, pause, return, re-read, and so on until what’s on the page has morphed from an idea to something deeper.

Online, and even on a tablet, is a different experience. There’s a light in my face. There’s an urgency. It has no closure; there’s always another click, an eternal, forever, world-without-end-amen stream of data rushing, flowing, pounding, demanding, agitating.

Paper gets me away from that.

When all voices are equal, I have to listen to all voices. I can’t afford this mentally, emotionally or physically. When all data is available, I have to process all data. I’m not big enough.

Paper edits for me.

I once worked with a guy to make a hobby magazine in PDF. His content was 100% from a large online forum. I asked him why he’d do this — why he’d charge for the exact content that hobbyists could get for free online.

He said it’s because the forum is like a river; the water flows by and downstream and away. The magazine dips in and scoops some out, stopping it. It adds images, typography, visual rhythm and alters its environment, and in so doing it changes the experience by giving me space.

It’s an important quality that we can’t afford to lose, and my guess is that we won’t.

Yes, some paper publishing is for tradition or power or status quo or because it’s what we’re used to. These things will change. But the essential ways in which paper is truly superior, these are here to stay.

Talk to me.

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87 Responses to Why I still love paper

  1. Suzie Freedland says:

    Well put John. But this article could also be called:

    Why I still love albums.
    Why I still love to write a letter.

    The digital age has changed the experience that we once knew. I love it and I hate it. But I guess I’m just getting old!

  2. diane says:

    I agree with everything you’ve said about paper. I especially love the tactile sensation of holding something in my hands. Of being able to make notes, attach Post-Its. I know I can also do all of this electronically, but there’s just something about picking up a magazine that I’ve had for many years and going through it again — somehow, bookmarking websites just doesn’t offer the same pleasure.

    • Phyllis Nunn says:

      Well said! Just as creating while clicking a mouse with one finger is not the same as guiding a pencil, brush, Rapidograph, X-Acto knife, or whatever with your fingers, hand, wrist, and sometimes arm. The brain works differently in the two scenarios.

  3. Megan says:

    I love paper. I love designing a project that goes to print. And I love it when I get my Before & After magazine in the mail!

  4. Diane Hokans says:

    I don’t think we want to lose the pleasure of flipping through a glossy magazine, unfolding a beautiful brochure, or holding a well-crafted hardback book. I agree that ink on paper slows us down, and that is probably a good thing in this digital age. I would be sad to see books and magazines completely disappear.

  5. Amber says:

    I agree! I try reading on various devices (older, non-lighted Kindle, iPhone, laptop screen, iPad), but I always revert to “real” books. I’m much more likely to finish a book that’s sitting there with a bookmark sticking out to remind me that I need to keep reading (before it’s due at the library!).

    I also recently realized that my four-year-old doesn’t know I’m reading if I’m staring at a screen. I could be e-mailing, playing a game, etc. If I want him to become a reader, one thing I need to do is let him see me reading and enjoying books.

  6. Andy B says:

    Amen. Preach it!

  7. David Graves says:

    And paper publishing is done because it is still the superior technology for some applications.

    I advise a high school yearbook.

    We’ve played with enhancements like video, DVDs, and QR codes to link to online content. And we’re thinking about doing an ebook version.

    But our emphasis is still on print. Why?

    A good yearbook (and we flatter ourselves that ours is) will be read many times over the next 50 to 75 years.

    Print is the only publishing medium that I am sure will still be readable over that span of time.

    Plus, I love the way the books smell straight off the truck from the printer. You can’t get that from a computer or the internet.

    • Diane Hokans says:

      Good point about the sense of smell, too. Not only is print a tactile pleasure, but it can engage our nose as well. Depending on the medium, the ears might join in — the sound of crisp pages fluttering, the thud of a hardback cover closing . . .

    • Denise Barney says:

      I thought I was the only one who enjoyed sniffing books! Glad to see that, despite what family and friends think, I am not alone. :-)

  8. I could not agree more.

    “It has no closure; there’s always another click, an eternal, forever, world-without-end-amen stream of data rushing, flowing, pounding, demanding, agitating.”

    Exactly. There is no end, and while I appreciate the wealth of information available when I need it, the finite experience of paper provides welcome relief from the endless stream.

  9. Cindy says:


    I couldn’t agree more.

  10. Jack T says:

    Your metaphor of the river of information with the printed piece dipping in and stopping is excellent, thought-provoking, setting a goal for the editor. Unfortunately, too many magazine editors fail in determining what is deserving of being scooped and saved.

    Just as my hardcover books will never be replaced by my tablet, the paperbacks, pulp fiction, were not saved. They didn’t provoke, didn’t inspire to re-read; I paused only to get more pretzels and soda; they just filled time. There’s a place for that. Perfect for the tablet.

  11. Nancy says:

    I agree, John. I can’t imagine the world without books or newspapers. There is something inherently romantic about them compared to a tablet, which seems so cold. With tablets, there is no cover art to truly enjoy. (It doesn’t present the same on a screen). Paper is soft and comfortable. Tablets are hard and cold. My book, if I read it all night, doesn’t get hot or run out of a battery. It is a constant companion of comfort. I don’t have to worry about upgrading my books. They don’t become outdated in a year. I don’t think in my lifetime I will imagine myself on a front porch in South Carolina . . . or at a bed & breakfast in the mountains . . . or on my favorite sofa . . . saying, “I can’t wait to curl up and read my tablet.” It just doesn’t work for me. I love printed piece. They’re like old friends to me.

  12. Thank you for putting into words why I, too, still love paper. Your river analogy is so accurately descriptive. The morning newspaper. A review of the week’s news and opinion. My alumni monthly. A book about street graffiti. Paper provides space and time for us to do the reflecting, rather than the screen.

  13. Donna says:

    Yes Yes Yes!

    Thank you, John, for this eloquent post on the difference in print media, the way it makes us feel, and the value it (still) brings to our audiences.

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts.

  14. I agree with you, except that online communications, with its temporary nature, is more appealing when reviewing fast-changing data flows, such as news items. In general, I do not want to ponder and reread most newsy items.

    Instructional, fiction, educational, and some non-fiction data are more enjoyable when read and re-read from paper.

    But on the other hand, YouTube videos have opened up a whole new world of online communication which you, yourself, have used to your advantage.

  15. Doug Flather says:

    Is the papyrus scroll then even more effective? Or the clay tablet?

    Seriously, I understand you’re expressing your personal preferences, which of course is fine. But as I read the remarks, I was reminded of a librarian in a university library. She was upset about all of the students using online resources; the volume of students in the library was plummeting, etc. She said to me, “but walking the stacks, and the smell of book dust . . . that’s all part of the academic experience!”

    I didn’t say it out loud, but I thought, “No. That’s part of your academic experience . . .”

    My experience is that digital is a vastly superior transmission technology to paper in almost every way. (Everything I’ve ever used from Before & After has been digital.) Like the typewriter and card catalogs, paper will eventually fade, almost to non-existence, I believe, because there’s now a better way to get information across.

    • Martin Voelkening says:


      I completely agree. I read through the comments and was thinking “Is no one going to disagree with these romantic feelings about paper?” I ran a publishing company for years so I love my paper, but time moves on. I read my books on an ereader now and don’t want to miss it. Finished one, downloaded the next one in a minute and keep reading. I am now reading more than before, because access to books is so much easier.

      What’s wrong with some multimedia content on the iPad? The person who took the photo of the the geology of that mountain can now use audio or video explaining what you see and how it came about. That’s the perfect use of technology.

      Paper is great, but I only need so many books on my coffee table, and, quite frankly, when was the last time I opened one of them to look at it?

    • Tormod says:

      I have come to the point in my life where I strongly prefer reading off a screen rather than printed on a paper. The iPad with the retina screen is simply wonderful, IMHO; take a look at any glossy magazine on that thing. I subscribe to Vogue for inspiration, and I find it holds a very high standard when it comes to typography and layout — and a layout that adjusts itself to both landscape and portrait reading.

      For longer-form stuff like books, the iBooks or Kindle apps are great, with user-adjustable settings like font size. Also, if I find myself stuck somewhere, I can simply whip out my phone to continue reading any Kindle book from where I last ended on a different device. When coming across a word I’m not familiar with, select and get the definition right there. Just perfect when reading a second language, for instance.

      PDFs are still a bit of an issue sometimes, but the readers are getting smarter about zooming in to the exact margins of a column and such, so we’re getting there.

      Lastly — less clutter, less recycled glossy paper. That said, I do love paper still, just not for reading.

  16. Alexander says:

    I love it as well. Too bad it is a dying industry…

  17. Anita Wright says:

    Amen and Amen!

    With paper, I just get to read and think. I like to explore the design or layout of whatever I am reading and get excited about it or think how I might go about it differently. It is relaxing.

    I do not have to worry about that little symbol near the bottom: “What is it? Do I need to research that? I should research that . . . right after I research that square thing, because I am falling woefully behind on all this technology stuff, and what was I reading anyhow? — but, hey! there is a cool article on the sidebar I want to check out.”

    I savor the slowness of paper . . .

  18. Bob Long says:

    John — I wish I had written this. It answers the “goofballs” who think only eBooks should exist. Well, like you, I want to enjoy what I read.

    At B&N the other day, I took a look at their lowest-priced Nook. An incredibly poor experience.

    I’ll continue reading books. For me it isn’t about “instant download” or a so-called cheaper price.


  19. Penny McIntire says:

    Ah, John, thank you for clarifying what I was unable to clarify for myself — why I continue to buy books that clutter my house, despite having the availability of ebooks on my iPad as an alternative. I still love paper. That said, I suspect that younger folks have less attachment to paper. Generation Y seems to be perfectly happy with reading online instead. I wonder, though, if they read as thoroughly and retain as much, because they don’t take the time to ponder what they read? Or am I just an old curmudgeon to think that?

  20. Adele says:

    Hi John,

    I got your mail while watching a movie, and you actually have me sitting upright now.

    The way you describe paper versus digital is so interesting and capturing and pulled me right out of my seat!

    It’s so sad that the world is going digital, with electronica taking over that wonderful, new-magazine smell. I love buying my printed copies for exactly that reason. Stopping, pausing, breathing . . . it’s what tickles my creative mind! Debates will be held over digital vs. print. Yes. But print will always be my number 1 choice! I have my iPad, and I have my laptop and iPhone, but then I have my moleskin that is my right hand to my ideas, something no app or digital device can mimic! Paper grabs and holds purity. It’s where all artists and writers started, and nothing will ever replace the true sentiment of paper!

    I share your love for paper!

  21. AKeyes says:

    I will print this article and read it later. :-)

    In the meantime, will you be posting any videos soon? They are excellent.

  22. Dena Neusner says:

    Yes, yes, yes! Well said. Digital content obviously has so much going for it, especially in education. But paper still has a unique beauty to it, in the texture of the page, the pacing of the experience, and the quality of curated material. Fortunately, it’s not an either-or choice.

  23. I wholeheartedly agree with you. Paper in all its forms is a more-pleasing experience for the users. Comprehension is more attainable and the knowledge is more impactful because of white thinking space, like you stated above.

  24. Laura says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, John, about the pause that all graphical elements lend, that tangible feeling of paper between your fingers, and the dog-eared sections holding your place until that next sitdown. I ride the train to work and see numerous people flipping through their glowing electrical devices, quickly jumping from their click-able pages to emails, to games. It’s all so fast, and I’m amazed if any of the information is retained.

  25. David Wood says:

    Paper has a tangible feel that a mouse and touchpad cannot equal. The texture between our fingers tantalizes our sense of touch and connects us to a story in a way that no screen can ever equal. Paper has a permanent quality that lends a sense of importance to that which we hold in our hands as we read. The electronic excitement of the information highway has appeal, purpose and allure, but paper is a refreshing oasis in the torrent that allows our hearts and minds to pause and reflect on that which we have just read. When the power is off and the screen is dim, there is nothing to see, but a book, magazine or paper can be read even by candlelight . . . with great delight!

  26. Leesah Matsee says:

    I love books and have no desire to use a tablet to read from. I think that was a perfect analogy that your friend made about a river. There’s nothing like a beautifully printed coffee-table book with photography, art, or album-cover images. Just sitting and taking your time going through them at your leisure is so relaxing to me. I think it has to do with not being in a rush all the time, and preferring the tactile feeling of the object in your hands, that you can pause and go back to when you feel like it. Then building a library that you can see and lend out to friends.

  27. Beautifully put!

    Stephen King once commented that we commit to paper the things that are important to us. The paper book (magazine, etc.) occupies space. It has volume, heft, weight — sometimes commensurate with the ideas and information contained therein.

    I love the immediacy of the Internet — certainly that aspect of its power to communicate is indisputable. But as you so gracefully pointed out, for ideas that need to become more, and maybe even become a part of who we will become — we owe them paper — at the very least.

  28. Fran Casey says:

    Paper engages more of my senses! The smell of the newsprint or book, the touch of it in my hands, the sound of pages turning. My body physically holds the book, feels its weight. I will always love these things.

  29. Norma Riehle says:

    In many ways your description elucidates paper’s rise to importance, respect, and utility in the digital world. I can’t escape, however, the need to limit this valuable natural resource for purposes that have longevity and shelf life — especially in today’s scrutinized environment. Paper will never be replaced with backlit screens, but instead will become a more prized commodity that is to be valued and honored for its worth.

  30. Kevin says:

    These are wise and relevant words.

    Man does need closure, and paper allows for that — when I finish a book, I can say that I did that. I can never say that I read the entire Internet.

    There’s also something to the smell of print, of paper, of ink, of glue — it creates an experience. I can still remember the smell of the handouts I received in kindergarten, fresh off the press.

    The weight and the texture of the paper speaks to me subconsciously as I turn pages and underline meaningful words or phrases.

    Slick, smooth, lit, and seemingly infinite can sometimes make for a neutered experience that has the potential to slowly eat away at time, precious time.

    I love technology. I am thankful for it. But take away my paper, and you take away my ability to effectively contribute to the world.

    Also, I just love seeing books in the hands of my children.

  31. Cheryl says:

    Hear, hear! You’ve put it so succinctly — the urgency of tablet and online isn’t relaxing and reflective. We need beginnings and endings now and then in order to endure the endless to-do’s in our lives.

  32. Wayne Mapes says:

    You can’t really take your dog for a walk to get the iPad. You can take your dog for a walk to get “The Paper.” Good for me and the dog.

  33. Danielle Pare says:

    I love that! Thank you for posting this.

  34. dave says:

    So good. So true. Thank you. I might use content from this article (with your permission, of course) to send to my prospects (advertisers) who need to understand the value of print in a completely different way. Again, great post.

  35. Hernando Conwi says:

    I like the ability to keep multitudes of digital and PDFs available for quick reference, but there is nothing like paper. In addition to all the points made, somehow placement of information on a page and in relation to other info on other pages, lends a deeper context and processes differently for me. It’s my hope that paper will always be around to communicate things that matter.

  36. Bobbie says:

    Paper is real, offers a glimpse to generations long, is portable, encourages discovery within realistic limits. You can cuddle, curl up, bookmark. To have is to hold. And I have all the techie gadgets, but I prefer paper. Can’t wait for my next issue of B&A to arrive in the mailbox!

  37. This is a lovely. As I begin to delve into web design, I cling to and cherish written language on paper that much more. Oh, for a letter written on vellum in the handwriting of a friend that I can pick up and read anytime. I will never, ever give up real books.

  38. Davina says:

    I like to think digital and paper go hand-in-hand.

    I can remember trying to design an image that I wanted to turn into a piece of embroidery. I used graph paper, and it took for ages.

    Using digital technology is so much quicker — a press of two keys (ctrl+Z) and no eraser or having to start again on a blank piece of paper.

    However, when the “masterpiece” is completed, what is the best way to display it? Why, printed on paper and framed, or in a magazine, or painted on canvas, of course! How many tablets have you seen displaying a portrait in a gallery?

    So for me, digital reduces the time when putting an idea together, but I will alway choose paper to display the idea. I mean, how can one curl up with a good kindle? Not the same.

  39. Andrea Jeris says:

    An art book or magazine I do like paper; easier to flip around, back and forth. A paperback novel on a tablet lets me read hands free; if it slips from my lap it remembers my place, and it always has enough light to read by. But I can’t lend it to my friends, or take it back to the used book section of the store, or buy used books. But I can look up words instantly, I like that. Convenience has its price.

  40. Mary says:

    I work for a large design and technology school that has recently decided to take digital pre-press out of the curriculum for the Graphic Design program, despite the protest of instructors and seasoned professionals. They are betting on everything becoming digital. Your article and the comments that follow are proof that it might not be the wisest decision. And I agree with every single comment and your article. Long Live Paper!

  41. Monica Pitts says:

    I’m with you 100% John. I build websites for a living (or the company I own does), and I admit that for the frivolous thing — a romance novel or fun mystery read — I go digital, but if it’s something I want to ponder and develop an attachment to, I still buy the book. And when I buy the book, I get a rush that’s way better than watching the loading icon spin.

  42. Craig says:

    Well said, John. I love paper. I love digital. There’s room for both. With the advent of radio: “Print is dead.” With the advent of television: “Print is dead.” With the advent of the Internet: “Print is dead.” Print adapts. Always has, always will.

  43. Thank you, John . . .

    . . . for articulating why I love print. Freedom. To enjoy. At my pace. The beauty of the design. And the content.

    I’ll give you another reason: Paper is sensual. It’s tactile. You have to touch it. And you want to.

    The reflective light of a quality printed piece (as opposed to the transmissive light of a device) lures the reader into a relationship with the piece. As opposed to just more “content” — streamed to a screen.

    I stopped using an iPad as a portfolio and lug around photo books instead — hardcover, bound, large-format presentations that potential customers devour.

    Digital content is pixels arranged on a screen. Paper is a permanent record.

    It’s just more human.

  44. Keith Koger says:

    “Paper edits for me…”

    Never thought of it like that before now. Beautifully stated and a compelling argument, too.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love, and live, digital. But there is something about print — perhaps because that is where I started — that I still long to do. Give me a print project and I am a happy designer!

  45. Joni says:

    “Paper edits me.” Simple but never careless. Just like you John!

  46. Mark Reddick says:

    Dear John,

    I’ve long been a been a fan of your musings and content.

    And this post has really resonated with me; your article and the many subsequent comments have captured my own thoughts entirely — and there’s nothing more to add.

    Perhaps only the thought that there’s room for a movement similar to the Slow Food phenomenon. Let it be called Slow Design. And whilst we cherish such a thought, I’ll dig out my oxblood paper, PMT camera, and French curves in anticipation.

    Yours Slowly,

    Mark Reddick

  47. Tom Semmes says:

    John, good topic and something I am sure is on many designers’ minds. But since we are all here digitally, talking to one another, maybe we could see this as less paper vs. digital, but more as a challenge: Is there a way that designers can bring to the digital realm that sense of closure, of editing, for the digital book or magazine? Paper may always be here, but digital is not going to go away either, and the demand for e-readers and content for them is going to do nothing but grow. Let’s get to work!

  48. Bill says:

    Sorry to dissent, John, but I prefer digital. Print is more costly, harder on the environment, and becomes dated as soon as it’s printed. In comparison, digital does not require paper, ink, shipping, or storage space. It’s instant, searchable, and timely.

    I agree that print will not go away completely; however, I would describe it much differently. Nostalgic yes; comforting perhaps; unplugged absolutely; but superior? Not from my perspective.

    • Jess says:

      The counter to that opinion is that computers and waste from manufacturing them is harder on the environment when you consider what robust measures are in place for recycling paper and paper products. Also, while digital fits highly disposable information (like news and crappy first novels), print represents value in information. I have a real library at home that I want to pass on to my kids, but you could delete every bookmark on my laptop and I wouldn’t even notice.

      • Bill says:

        I appreciate your comment, Jess; however, there is nothing I said that is not true.

        On the other hand, I would never put anyone down for their love of printed material. What you value is valuable to you. Heck, even my own wife shares the same love of books as you.

        To give you some background, I started with pens, pencils, straight edges and X-Acto knives — maybe like you did. But when the Mac came along, it profoundly changed me forever.

        I go digital because it’s efficient. It gets me there faster, costs me less, and is a lot of fun. And despite all the cognitive arguments on this thread, I personally find digital communication every bit as enjoyable (and “space” giving) as printed.

        You like printed because of how it makes you feel. I like digital for the same reasons.


  49. Caroline says:

    The thing I like the most about iBooks is the ability to search for the first instance a name was mentioned. Too many times a character pops back into a story and I think, “now who is that, again?” Instant word lookup is great, as is instant download, as is the ability to “carry” many books while traveling.

    But all these things come with sacrifices, well-articulated by the folks on this forum. The biggest loss for me when reading an eBook, aside from the tactile pleasure and ease on the eye, is the “analog” feedback of progress — really knowing at a glance when you are halfway through a book!

  50. Jill Lehwald says:

    Brilliant, John, and I agree with you 100%. I have written over 100 detailed and extremely user-friendly instruction manuals for complicated electronic games over the years — and to actually have one of my easy-to-follow manuals in your hand while familiarizing yourself with a new product can be a true delight.

    I do, however, feel that the translation to PDF for online use leaves much to be desired. The same info is there, of course, but it is tedious at best to constantly zoom in and out to read certain sections and/or view charts and illustrations more closely. To me, this plain and simply takes away from the overall balanced cohesion of the manual, disrupting the flow of informational material from page to page. In my mind, the complete, rounded manual has been turned into a mere series of individual electronic pages — some of which, sadly, may never even be clicked on, and thus never even be seen.

    Hey, that manual is my masterpiece, and its importance and value can only be rightfully appreciated by flipping through the pages the “old-fashioned” way . . .

    • Carmel says:

      PDFs that are intended to be read on-screen should be designed for the screen (like the Before & After booklets). Alas, few take the trouble.

  51. Cole Hartigan says:


  52. Lori Starr says:

    I designed some 25th wedding invitations last week (only 14 total). I used to make hand-made greeting cards out of all types of paper. Doing these invitations reminded me of how much fun it is to combine different paper (silver metallic, silver satin ribbon and rich red paper and textures) to make something beautiful and luxurious. Designing on the computer, you forget how beautiful paper can be. It was really fun and turned out very classy.

  53. Sally Jelbert says:

    Thank you for articulating so well how what I also feel about print. You have helped me realise one thing that I love about print but never realised consciously before – it helps me slow down and appreciate and absorb what I’m reading. For once, I’m not looking for the next thing to click on. And when I’ve finished a book, I have the sense of closure and satisfaction upon closing the book that final time that reading from a screen will never give me.

  54. leonie says:

    Wow . . . that was beautifully written. I’ve never quite been able to explain why I didn’t like reading online materials, why I still prefer a printed newspaper to the online version, a good printed book to an e-book, and so on. You’ve put it all in a nutshell for me! Also, you simply can’t replicate receiving a handwritten letter in the post, taking it outside with a cuppa, reading and re-reading it in the sunshine. Sitting in front of an email just doesn’t cut it!

  55. Judy Robertson says:

    Thanks for your insight John. When I feel the digital world closing in on me, I take a break. One of my favorite things to do is buy a big old fat Sunday paper, find a good coffeeshop, sit there and read it. The smell of ink on paper, the way in gets on my hands, the sound of pages turning. I look at the comics and remember the ones I fought my siblings over to get the first read. It settles me down every time.

  56. Me too. Reading, for example, the New York Times on paper is a great way to get informed every day. I can jump around, determine what I want to read what to skip very easily. And I can learn what I want to learn from some stories by reading the first few paragraphs, while some require reading the whole story. This also is much easier to do on paper. As is the crossword puzzle.

  57. I’m not sure if you are putting up dissenting articles; I could find only one. But if you are, please tell me how you intend to produce all of this paper in a world of exponential growth. Isn’t problem solving the primary role for a designer? This article totally sidesteps the problem of paper. Destruction of habitat is the most important problem facing man, and I think designers would fall into this category. In Australia they are destroying old-growth forests for paper. These forest take approximately 300 years to regrow, but the land is never used that way; once it’s logged out, it is turned into plantation timber or farming land which then becomes desert. Eighty-five percent of Australian forests have been destroyed in the last 200 years. This is a spiraling cycle to oblivion.

    • Tom Gaglione says:

      There are some solutions to the depleting-resources issue — recyclable paper, and also using fiber crops such as kenaf and hemp.

  58. Karen W. says:

    I’ve worked in the web for the better part of the last 15+ years, and while I have my favorite sites and adore my digital devices, I couldn’t agree with you more that paper isn’t going anywhere.

    The interactivity and near-instant delivery that digital media offers certainly has its place in the world. But you really can’t beat the presentation and relative permanence that paper provides to complement its content. Not to mention the aging of the paper and fading of the ink over time that feels very human.

  59. Timothy Taussig says:

    For me, paper gives me a sense of “craft” with the end result, regardless of how I get there. I can hold it, feel it. I can preserve it and come back to it years later and still remember how it came about. Paper “lives.”

  60. Stephen Smith says:

    Have always enjoyed your work and your engaging “editorial comments,” John. Thanks for your continuing service to our print community.

    Very thoughtful analysis and the reactions that you provoked.

    I agree, by the way, about print continuing to have a place. Of course, I use the Internet all the time for myriad reasons, but to my mind there is nothing like the feel and smell of a new book, magazine or flyer. My wife (and family before her) always thought I was a little nuts when I opened a new book and smelled it before endeavoring to read its contents.

    I particularly enjoy the irony that I read your editorial and all the responses on the Internet while the whole discussion is about the power of print on paper.

    Till next time . . .

  61. Ceci Pantin says:

    I so agree! Thank you for this article. Now I feel I’ll not be the only one who thinks this way . . .


  62. Jim Bellomo says:


    Thank you so much for this. Outstanding. I hate the fact that none of my kids (in their 30s) read a newspaper. I can’t imagine a Sunday morning without a newspaper.

    And I also can’t believe that e-books will take over the world until you can borrow them at a local public library. Sure, my library here in Redmond, WA (home of Microsoft) lends some digital books but not many. For instance, there are few best sellers.

    Lastly, having spent my life in the yearbook industry, I fully understand how the yearbook adviser who commented feels. I have seen video yearbooks come and go. I worked on the very first “digital yearbook” done on a Mac in HyperCard back in 1986 at South Eugene High School. I have seen QR codes in yearbooks, Facebook pages for yearbooks, and yet, we still have paper yearbooks and probably always will.

    Great piece. Just great!

  63. Juan Amorocho says:

    I had a moment of enlightenment in the late 90s when I was in high school and asked a friend why he would subscribe to the sports magazine “El Gráfico” when he could get it for free online. He answered me, “Because with paper I can turn the page. I can feel it.” Now, almost 15 years later, I live in Germany, where people celebrate ink and paper. I have learned there is an intimacy to ink and paper, a sense of timelessness that the screen can’t match.

  64. John says:

    Beautifully written, John. It reminded me a little of an essay from The Print Council entitled, “Why Print?” I placed it on our website (the site design is still in progress).

  65. Martin Tolley says:

    Since I got a Kindle for my birthday six months ago, I haven’t read a novel in paper. I’ve also cleared out literally feet of shelving in my study, because I can now store a whole heap of the classics on a pen drive — a pen drive, for goodness’s sake! I’ve bought and (freebie) downloaded masses more books than I would ever have bought in a bookshop — I won’t be able to read my way through my Kindle content in my lifetime.

    But magazines and newspapers have to be paper (the clue might be in the name!). The Kindle (other e-readers and paddy things are available) is a serial processor — it forces you to start at the beginning and plow on. Print presented on a page is a parallel experience. You start reading something, your eye is caught by something else, you wander off, wander back, skim and skip, make connections between things that aren’t physically next to each other, find your place by eye. More importantly, you find things you weren’t expecting, things you didn’t know were there; you construct a meaning for yourself from the elements that are there, discover, invent, get angry — any number of things that rely on your active involvement with the material as crafted. The e-reader takes that away, I fear.

    • John McWade says:

      Great terms — serial vs. parallel. Exactly right. The parallel experience is paper’s true strength, and crafting that experience is the domain of the designer.

      Despite high- and ultra-high-resolution displays, paper is actually the higher-resolution medium, meaning that it delivers more information to your eyes at once, and with far greater variety.

  66. Gary says:

    There is a real cognitive difference between paper and the electronic page when composing writing. I still have students print out their work and copy-edit on paper. They and I see a difference in the final product, but it takes me time to first develop the argument with students.

    I teach freewriting as a way to generate ideas and get students’ language moving. Yesterday I had a student complain that her hand was too tired for her to write nonstop for ten minutes. I suggested she switch pens and realize that the hand muscles, like all muscles, aren’t being used enough. She bristled. Do we really have to argue now for the value of physicality and paper?

    • John McWade says:

      There is indeed a cognitive difference between paper and glass that I think is not fully understood. This is not to say that one medium is better; each has strengths and weaknesses. But we experience material on paper differently than we do onscreen, and we respond differently. And yes, the act of writing by hand produces different results than the act of typing. I suspect it’s because we’re engaging more of our senses; paper is a full-body experience, while glass is primarily visual. Real vs. artificial, you might say.

      • The two times in my life that I had to write an obituary for a parent I sat down with a yellow legal pad and the words just flowed out of my hands through the pen and onto the paper.

        I can type pretty fast, but the act of writing and editing on paper enables the transfer of emotion to the writing surface.

  67. Carolyn says:

    John, you eloquently put into words what I could not. I often feel overwhelmed by the constant flow of information in this age of data overload. Paper is my solace for all of the reasons you cited.

  68. Manuel Calderon de la Barca says:

    Well put Mr. McWade. I totally agree with your thoughts. There’s nothing better than the fresh smell of paper and ink together. I think books have their place in our world, even when we say this is the “digital” age. “Digital” comes from fingers, and fingers are simply and totally human as well as our senses, like touch and smell, a brand new book, or a beautifully printed ad.

  69. Aniko Erlinger says:

    I loved this short but very precise essay from Master McWade. Thank you; you nailed it exactly.

    I myself am a big romantic for books. But the digital age changed my habits, too. I read easy novels, some magazines, and mainly literature about my job (programming and design) on my iPad.

    So, I understand here both sides. There are books I would not want to ever have digitally. Like a 100-year-old volume I picked up recently. Or the cookbook of the eldest sister of my grandfather, who was born in 1899. These things are just irreplaceable. I do not think my future descendants will cherish any digital copies I had once read.

    But then again, there are books that I read once, and normally I recycle them. Or programming books that go stale after two years. Why should we have them on paper then?

  70. Denise Barney says:

    Does anyone else see the irony in reading, and commenting, online about an article stating “Why I Still Love Paper”?

    Having pointed that out, I am of two minds. I love my e-reader. It allows me to carry around an entire library. Whatever I am in the mood to read is, literally, at my fingertips. (The linked dictionary is a pretty cool feature, too.)

    However, I am not giving up paper books. I can read them in the tub. I can take them camping and not worry about battery life.

    For me, it’s not either/or. It’s “and.”

  71. Predrag says:

    There is some magic, some secret in the feeling when you’re holding a book that awakens reminiscences from the past.

  72. Tom Gaglione says:

    I agree totally. The Newsweek cover a few weeks ago shocked and saddened me (even though I wasn’t a fan). Unfortunately the upcoming generation is being brought up on digital media — teens live off their cell phones — and as a result will be more accustomed and comfortable with it. And in schools, going paperless is seen as a positive because of the technology factor. As this new generation emerges, I fear print will diminish. It’s not good, but sadly it may be inevitable.

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