Saturday, September 05, 2009

In Praise of Print

There have been a few Twitter threads recently asking "what is your oldest digital photo?" I guess I've got a few from 1999-2000, as that was the first time I had access to any sort of digital camera. I'm quite careful to keep archiving "My Documents" so even though those snaps would have been loaded onto a computer that was the one before the one before this one I've got a folder somewhere that says "Archives."

I've been writing to screen regularly since 1990, and for many years would ensure I'd got a print copy of absolutely everything I'd just written. CD-Rs, USB sticks and portable storage are all quite recent things; and, just like everyone else I've got lazy. The problem with backing things up electronically is that you can't actually see what's there. The shoebox under the bed full of photographs is there to be discovered - and its contents understood - ten, twenty years from now; but as for the USB stick? Will they even be readable in a decade or another piece of obsolete technology.

It is with this in mind that I've started to archive my writings on paper again, but rather than a lever arch file, I've gonna back to's Print on Demand facility. Its still not the easiest thing to negotiate, but with a bit of time and effort, putting together a "paper archive" is easier than ever. Even a prolific author's lifetime work doesn't add up that many pages or volumes in the scheme of things - yet just as we take endless digital snapshots (and treasure only a few), our writing on blogs, or into word documents probably doesn't get ordered now until it actually is ready for publication. When I was writing a novel full-time I used to print off the morning's writing for checking and re-reading in the evening.

Even at a time when I'm thinking about how writing can be made available online or via e-readers or iPhones, being able to get a good printout of your work remains important; both for re-reading and editing the work, and for creating an archive that seems to have a little more permanence than a series of "virtual files."

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