Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Paper Isn't Dead Yet

.. and no, I'm not referring to this hilarious video either! :)

Anyone who has followed this blog would have known that I'm all for new technology if it actually has a beneficial effect on what we do. I mentioned a while back of trying to use tablets instead of papers in an undergraduate intro physics labs. I think this is possible, and certainly something we should expose the students to, considering that by the time they enter the job market, these technologies will be ubiquitous in their will place.

However, I find that, in some cases, I still prefer the old-fashion paper. This has nothing to do with being stubborn and wanting to do it in ways that I'm familiar with. Rather, it has more to do with convenience. The one area that I still prefer to have a printed copy in my hands is when I referee/review a manuscript.

What I like the most about having a paper copy is that I can more easily write comments on the paper itself. This is actually not that convenient to do on a tablet. While there are apps that allow you to write on PDF documents on a tablet, I still do not find a standard tablet large enough to accommodate a substantial amount of comments/annotations/etc. Besides, the typical stylus that one use with a tablet are not as responsive as a pen-on-paper combination.

The other aspect of paper-refereeing where paper trumps over electronic version is when I have to keep on referring to figures or tables. Let me explain. A typical manuscript that I often get to be reviewed are often typed double-spaced, and the figures, tables, and captions are grouped at the end of the manuscripts. They are not imbedded within the text. This is because the typesetting will be done by the editors after the manuscript has been accepted for publication. So what usually happens is that when I read a reference to a figure or a table in the text, I often have to go back and forth looking at the figure and reading the relevant text referring to that figure. It is tedious to do electronically. One can lessen the effort on an actual computer where one opens more than one window to display the same manuscript, so that in one window, one has the text, and the other window one can display the relevant figure. So in this case, one only need to switch between windows. But try to do this on a tablet! Oy vey!

What I often do is to print a copy of the manuscript to use to read the text, but also display the manuscript on my iPad by showing the figures. This way, I can read the text, and look at the relevant figures on the tablet. I find that to be the most convenient. Still, the hard-copy print makes it a convenience.

Do you still use paper copies? In what way?


1 comment:

Giuseppe Marco Galatola Teka said...

Hello! =) You and me share the same vision! I report a funny quote from a sci-fi book alien:
"Humanity is strange. Book have a scan page of a blink, computer of second and still it was invented after the better instrument."

Sorry for the bad english!