I’m Afraid I Kind of Like Digital Paper

My most-used productivity tools have historically been my iPad Pro (my primary device since the first one was introduced) and the various notebooks, notepads, and looseleaf sheets of paper strewn around my workspace.

Digital paper devices have long intrigued me, though. Unlike an iPad, they use e-ink to ostensibly mimic a paper writing environment. Their screens are textured in such a way that using a stylus feels similar to writing on paper—not exactly like it, I’m afraid, but close, and far more satisfying than sliding plastic across glass.

When these devices first started hitting the market around five years ago, I was skeptical. No piece of technology could ever truly replace paper.

But then, last year, the reMarkable 2 was introduced. Watching the videos, I couldn’t deny that the thing was sexy: aluminum, sleek, way thinner than its predecessor. Thinner even than my iPad, thinner than most of my oft-used notebooks, and definitely thinner than the composite stack of said notebooks. So after months of ogling, I gave in and bought one.

I’m afraid it’s pretty great.

I’ve been using it for a couple months now—to journal, write the first drafts of essays (including this one), take notes, and read and edit PDFs. I’ve barely touched a piece of paper since I bought it. The stylus feels good, scratchy yet smooth. There are several pen stroke options to choose from, like ballpoint (my favorite), marker, pencil and mechanical pencil, and a calligraphy pen, all faithfully recreating the lines of their analogue counterparts. And I can choose from dozens of templates: lined, dot-grid, various planners, even sheet music (which I have no use for, but lots of people do). The pen nibs wear out after a month or two, but so too do ink cartridges run dry. The leather cover is as beautifully crafted as a leather notebook. The battery lasts only a couple weeks, but paper, too . . . actually, scratch that, paper never dies.

Listen—I really like this device. As a full-time writer, I use it daily. I have plans to write the first draft of an entire novel on it. It fulfills my wildest dreams of writing like Jake Sisko in Deep Space Nine, the best Star Trek series (don’t @ me—I don’t have social media, so good luck even trying).

But I know that, some day, I might drop this thing and shatter the screen, or I might spill my coffee on it, or the software may brick, or the company may go under and stop supporting it, or, heck, the battery might explode. This tablet is still a tablet. It’s not paper. Someday, it’s going to stop working. When that happens, maybe I’ll get a new one—but if I don’t (and even if I do) I know that paper, real paper, will be there waiting for me.