I have long been a proponent of a paperless office but today I need to share my great secret shame: I am addicted to taking notes on paper. When I was at CES I carried around a laptop, tablets, camera, and still got my fix with a small notepad. When I attended B&N’s most recent press briefing I brought an 8.5×11 notepad.
I’ve had a 20 years plus fixation with paper notes, so I was particularly annoyed when I read an article in the Harvard Business Review last week:
I knew right away, when you walked in here with a paper notebook — a paper notebook! — I realized that this meeting was not going to be a good use of our time.
You’d make better use of your time if you took your notes in digital form, ideally in an access-anywhere digital notebook like Evernote that makes retrieval a snap. If you had that, I could shoot you the link of the book I want you to read, or the contact card of the person you want to meet. And if you planned to act any of the ideas or outcomes from this meeting, you would want to pop the follow-up tasks into your task management program.
Leaving aside the fact that even Evernote has conceded the value of paper notebooks when they helped develop a new paper notebook with Moleskine, I want to challenge any proponent of digital notes with matching the use cases and functionality of a paper notebook.
In my experience a paper notebook is a strong contender against digital notes in the categories of cost, battery life, screen space, durability and persistence, and it also comes in a close second for certain types of sharing.
I want someone to show me a digital note-taking platform that is as cheap as a 10 cent spiral notebook. I want to see the platform that can match the battery life of that notebook, the way I can tear a page out and share it with anyone in my physical presence, or the way that the effective screen size of that notebook can expand to cover 8 ,9, or 10 pages torn out and spread across my desk, thus enabling me to see vastly more content at once.
I want to see a digital note-taking platform that can match the persistence of the paper notebook. If you think digital content will last longer then the joke is on you. Last fall I went through my old files and threw away a lot of my college notebooks. Some of those notebooks had been languishing in my attic for 10 or more years and yet I still had them.
Don’t even think of asking me for the digital files from that era. Thanks to the vagaries of dead computers, a stolen laptop, and time, I can’t reliably put my hands on any of my work which is more than 4 years old. I doubt I am alone in that.
I’ve taken notes on cash register receipts. I’ve taken notes on business cards. I’ve even taken notes on my hand and arm (being white and male is good for more than just societal acceptance). No digital note-taking platform can even come close to fulfilling those use cases.
Anyone who says that digital notes are hands down better than paper is either a fool or selling something. The author of the above article falls in the latter category; she’s shilling her new book Work Smarter with Evernote.
image by Wm Jas