Paper is not broken.

My friend Steve Best recently sent me a link to yet another tablet like device promising to replace paper to get my take. It seems interesting enough at first glance, with a typically stylish video attempting to make the case. But, my take on all of these things is that, in order to be relevant, they must start from a premise that rings false for me and most others I know who love and use paper. That being, that paper is somehow broken or inferior. Or, even worse, they make the assumption that you are using your paper based products poorly and that you are too incompetent to solve it in any way other than their digital “solution”.

I’m going to rip this false premise apart by using the very words they do in their introductory video. Here it is:

They start with this line…

“Paper is the ultimate tool for thinking. It lets your mind roam freely, without restrictions. Lets you focus, without distractions. ”

So, were off to a good start. They lay out three out of a few dozen ways I could easily enumerate why paper is better than any digital tool I can think of. Then…

“But if you love paper, you probably struggle to keep track of your notebooks,”

False premise #1. No, I don’t, actually. Neither does anyone I know. Now, maybe I live in my own little paper bubble and this is a real problem, but I suspect not. And, I would suggest to those people for whom this is a problem that perhaps they should find a way to only use one large bright colored notebook that is not easily lost.

“…Print a lot of documents,”

False premise #2. I can copy and easily print and/or share anything I write in under a minute by scanning it as a PDF document with my smartphone.

“…Or have a desk that looks like this”.

This is where they show a shot of a desk strewn with paper and pens. Once again, making the assumption that there’s something wrong with that. Some people may see a cluttered mess. Those of us who know the truth, see a creative mind at work.

But, it’s the “solution” — their product — that really gets me. Take a good look at that video. Is there a single thing they are showing — the writing, the reading, the multiple notebooks, etc. that you can’t do right now with what you have? One that is worth $379.00 (their pre-order price the final is promising to be almost $800) to “fix”. It’s trying so hard to be “just like paper” that I’m left back at the question of why I would want to spend almost $400 to do everything I can do today with real paper for under $40. If paper and notebooks are such a burden then why are you trying so hard to be just like it?

But, that’s the rub. These tools have to convince you that what you are using and/or how you are using these things are broken in order to sell you a solution to fix it. It’s a classic straw man argument.

But I’m here to tell you that paper is not broken. I refuse to accept that premise because it can’t be proven. In fact, the opposite is far more likely. I don’t have to back it up, charge it’s battery, change it’s format to be opened by something else once the app maker goes out of business, or let it co-exist on a device with a hundred other things competing for my time and attention. It’s a technology that’s a couple of thousand years old and has worked reliably, virtually unchanged, in that time. It’s better than any digital solution in fundamental ways. Not the least of which is the fact that it has been proven to last for a thousand or more years given the right care.

So, don’t let anyone tell you paper is broken. It’s digital, that has yet to be proven.