Physical books and bookstores are making a comeback too, which makes me happy. It seems that e-book sales have hit a plateau and real books are now selling faster, and with higher profit margins than E-Books. Incredibly, Amazon just opened a new bookstore about 20 minutes away from my house. Weren't they supposed to destroy "bricks-and-mortar" bookstores, not start opening them?
Well, speaking as someone who buys books online and in bookstores, I often prefer the bookstore shopping experience over a digital one. It's fun to be tactile, to grab a book, to turn the pages, to take it to the bookstore cafe and read it for an hour. Bookstores are also social places, as I should know. I met my wife when we both worked at the same bookstore in Cambridge, MA many years ago. It's fun to be around other people who love books. Conversations can start that could never start online.
You know bookstores are coming back when Amazon recognizes that they offer a superior customer experience and higher profit margins than digital does. People will pay more for physical books and the experience of shopping for them. Why? Because humans are analog creatures, not digital ones. I'm not made from 1's and O's but from blood and bones. We inhabit a real space, as books do, and we can appreciate the value of having all our senses engaged by a shopping and reading experience that isn't mediated by digital technology.
By the way, I'm no Luddite who wants to return to 1953. I recognize that digital technology often supplies the best solution for human needs, but NOT always. The choice isn't a binary one. For instance, neuroscientists have repeatedly shown that people retain ideas better and longer when they take notes with pen/pencil and paper, as opposed to using a laptop. It seems that the physical act of moving our fingers and hand as we write engages the brain in a different way, combing muscle memory with conceptual thinking to enhance retention of ideas.
When we take notes with paper, we listen for concepts, the big ideas behind the words, and we scribble down those concepts. It's a filtering experience. When we take notes on a laptop, as nearly all college students do today, we just type words that seem to have no larger context. It's unfiltered. We must contextualize and conceptualize LATER, after we've read the verbatim typed notes again. This is not an efficient way to learn. In this case anyway, the pen is mightier than the laptop.
It's the same with books. Before I interviewed David Sax, I read his book with a pen in hand, as I read nearly every book. I underline sentences I like (lots of underlines were in David's book) and make notes both in the margins and in the blank back pages of the book. For me, reading and writing literally go hand-in-hand. After I finished the book, I re-read my scribbled notes and the underlined passages. I then took out my moleskine notebook.
Nearly all the mobile app developers and high-tech entrepreneurs I work alongside in my Boston coworking space use a moleskine notebook to "ideate" (a fancy word for thinking up ideas), as I do. Again, they could use a digital tool like Evernote to ideate but they choose to use a moleskine notebook and a pen -- and these are millennials working in technology, not "older" writers like myself who grew up with pen and paper in dinosaur times.
So I open my moleskine notebook and start drafting my questions for David Sax, two days before our interview. The pages are a total mess of cross-outs and false starts, in other words, the process allows for the "make-mistake-and-learn" that's inherent in all creative endeavors. After about 30 minutes, I have my 10 questions finalized, and I type them into a wordprocessor. Again, I think the analog option worked better here, at least for me. I LOVE seeing messy, scribbled pages -- the kind of creative process writers have gone through for centuries. There's something about the convenience and cleanliness of digital that I don't like. I don't need 58 fonts and 12 font sizes -- I need to find the right word to express my ideas, and that can get messy on paper (as it needs to be) or, as I like to say, "iterative."
So, to conclude, what this messy blog post is about is encouraging you to think deeper about how best to use analog and digital tools as part of your creative process. I often prefer analog tools, but will blend in digital tools as well. Pen and paper are far from dead. They help me every single day.