The enduring pleasure of paper

I have tried very hard to go paper free. My printer is rarely turned on, almost all of my scientific reading and reviewing, editing and marking is now done on screen, and my iPad Papers library is full of PDFs destined to remain digital. Why, then, was it such a pleasure to return home yesterday to find, after a gap of a few months, a pristine, cellophane-wrapped copy of Nature on my doormat? Honestly, I really did try to kick this habit. Earlier this year my Nature subscription expired around the time that my blogging briefly reached the required frequency to qualify me for personal online access. I duly installed the Reader on the iPad, marvelled as it filled with content, and… have barely looked at it since.

Partly, I suspect, this is due to my entrenched reading routines. Just as I need a physical copy of the Guardian every Saturday to satisfy my coffee and crossword habit, I had also established the 20 minute tram ride to work as the ideal environment in which to catch up on essential science news. Maybe down in that London or somewhere equally fancy it would be acceptable to flop out the iPad and carry on regardless. But I just can’t do that on a Sheffield tram without feeling what Logan Mountstuart would call, with spectacular rudeness, a CAUC (one for readers of William Boyd’s Any Human Heart).

But also, I know my way around the physical magazine – know where I can find the news, the books and arts section, the opinions, correspondence, news and views, all the bits I tend to read – and prefer its linear structure to the mass of interlinked stuff on the online (and App-ed) versions, which always leave me with the feeling that I may have missed something essential. Harder to ignore content when there is less choice too, I suspect.

All of which lends to the peculiar sensation of somehow being more connected, more in touch, now I’m back with the hard copy. Of course, at some point the sheer weight of back issues in my office may force me to reconsider, but for now I remain happily wedded to paper.