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Taking pen in hand…

This is a first for me. Multiple conferences over a short interval this spring necessitated much of the current issue being created in hotels that, for some reason, had virtual systems incompatible wi...

May 1, 2007
By Pulp & Paper Canada



This is a first for me. Multiple conferences over a short interval this spring necessitated much of the current issue being created in hotels that, for some reason, had virtual systems incompatible with my temperamental computer.

Ergo, no convenient internet access.

The solution? Old-fashioned but effective: pen and paper.

My first thought, I must admit, was one of annoyance but that was replaced quickly by the realization that what I considered (with guilt, considering the industry I serve) as an inconvenience, was really a return to a method that brought me more pleasure and, in the end, proved easier than my former technique. True enough that the pages were covered in seemingly random scrawls and, yes, the words were crossed out or crammed in the text destined to become this editorial, but it was a permanent record with no danger of deletion or virtual misfiling.

This revelation coincided with a Voith Paper conference in Vienna on new developments in their packaging division. The conference, entitled ahead07, was subtitled High Technology, Human Touch. Seemingly an incongruent pairing of concepts, this was explained as combining the Voith technical innovations with collaborations and true partnerships. Included in the conference was a tour of the most popular newspaper (Osterreich) in Vienna which, as with many other news sources around the world, admitted to being concerned about the impact of the Internet on their business. However, surveys conducted by them through the Internet (another incongruent juxtaposition) established that the readership was actually growing, even among the young who had grown up with, seemingly, a keyboard never at more than arms’ length. Questions included the “what” and the “how” of reading. Responses indicated that, while information about current events was readily available through the Internet, researched and detailed information was often sought, and preferred, on paper, books or hard copy.

Finding this idea to be thought-provoking, I arrived at a gathering of mill personnel during this conference and decided to approach some of them, with pen and pad in hand, to ask about their use of paper. This gathered some interesting tidbits of information. Besides the feel of the paper, which many admitted to enjoying, several of the participants to the conference told me that they preferred their magazines to digital information because magazines had more focused information. One of the interesting interviews focused on the emotional impact of paper, as people responded to the quality of the paper in their hands, something obviously impossible to convey virtually. Several people spoke of the ease of using paper and the comfort of being able to read the paper or their magazines while relaxing in bed or riding to the office (although one hopes that this was not while driving). Another interesting fact offered by the subjects was that the commercial content was mentioned more than once, since readers seemed to think that advertisements focused on recent developments and contained information that was more difficult to collect now that many companies had more restricted budgets and curtailed travel.

Many positive comments were gathered and, while I continued the interviews with my colleagues, I did not let their responses skew the results since they were all unanimous in their support of pen and paper. It was to be predicted that their views were somewhat biased by their profession.

In the end, having finished my assignment, I found the experience to be rewarding. Most importantly, it gave me a theme for this editorial and a return to a method that I had enjoyed at the beginning of my career. Yes, it was nostalgic but I found it just as creative as the modern technology I had been using for so long.

No, I will not toss my electronic notebook aside but be prepared to see me writing more often with my trusty pen in hand.