I am something of a retrogrouch. Big surprise there. I've gone on record saying that electronic books will never catch on (for me, in any case), that ink and paper is still the best way to record thought, that I can't imagine why anyone would rely on devices that require power.
But this week, I've had to eat my words, somewhat, not once but twice.
First of all, I got to play with a Kindle 2 that some friends recently received, and I have to say, that is one cool little device. I was shocked, for starters, that it looks like...well...ink on paper. It's a far cry from reading text on a backlit PDA type of device. It's easy on the eyes and has the contrast, pretty much, of regular paper, BUT it lies perfectly flat, you can resize the text if you wish, the pages turn at the press of a button, you can easily jump to any given page, search for words...it's almost the best of both worlds. Not that I'm ready to drop $350 on one, but I'm still impressed. Especially considering all the free books available on sites like Gutenberg.org. (I WUVVVV Gutenberg.org!!!) I'd still have worries about battery life, and the fact that any device like that can malfunction and cut you off from your reading material, and that technology changes while printed written material will still be readable without a special device for lifetimes. But I admit, I can see these digital thingies having a place in the world. I'd never give up my real books, but it'd be nice to be able to carry *all* your favorite books and all your favorite reference books on a trip in a two pound package, ya know?
The second instance of anti-Luddite "oooh, cool technology!" I experienced this week was in reaction to a Livescribe pen one of my coworkers picked up. This is one nifty little gadget. It works like a regular ball point pen, but as you write on special dot matrix paper (but it *is* paper!) it records your pen strokes. You can simultaneously record the audio of whatever you're taking notes on, and can later tap that section to hear the audio that was occurring as you were writing. It lets you save your handwritten notes in image form (there are add-ons that are supposed to do handwriting recognition, but I have no idea how well those work), and again, you can search for keywords. I don't know how it identifies the words within regular handwriting, but it seems to be pretty accurate. Magic. And, of course, you still have your handwritten notes to refer to should everything crash.
You can also print pages with the dot matrix grid on regular paper, which makes my Circa/Rolla-loving self twittery. It requires a color laser, though, so it may not be practical for most.
I think the Livescribe is still new enough that there are kinks to work out, but I'm fascinated by this melding of technology with reg'lar old writing on paper. It pleases me. I think it's a far more realistic and practical approach to sci-fi-like technology than a complete movement away from paper and pens and other manual ways of getting data down.
No financial involvement in either of these toys...I can't afford 'em. ;-) But I reluctantly admit that they're pretty darned cool.
As for myself, I'm still quite happy with pen and paper for most purposes. I do a ton of taking notes and making hand-written to-do lists at work: things stick in my head better that way. I go through a lot of notebooks (usually steno pads) and save old ones so I can refer back. I also tend to scribble down to-do lists or notes or poems or other writing for home in the midst of everything and tear them out, leaving me with raggedy steno pages all over the house, tucked into my home notebooks and journal, and in the pockets of my bag.
I'm about to finish another pad at work, after which I'm experimentally going Rollabind for a bit. It will mean I can stick pages from my work notebook into my home one without a problem, and also I can pick my own paper (woo-hoo!): something that will work with fountain pens if I wish--and unlined, which I've come to prefer most of the time. I like the smaller Junior sized for at work since it takes up less real estate on the desk, so today I bought a Rollabind notebook at Staples for five bucks (yes, expensive for a notebook...but it's a reuseable cover), and a ream of good paper. I took the paper to Kinkos and had them cut it in half to fit the cover nicely. It only cost about a buck fifty for the cut, so it was worth it. I now have a thousand pages worth of notebook paper--should be enough to last me for at least a coupla years.... The paper is actually a little too big for the cover (I think Levenger's covers are a little longer, but I could be wrong), but since this will mostly live on a desk, and I just need the cover as an occasional hard surface to write on when I'm taking notes without a table, I can live with the imperfection.