Thursday, January 14, 2010

The joys of print

For the past two months I have been enjoying my first ever print subscription to a scientific journal. The good folks over at Nature Reviews Genetics offered my a small discount that nudged me to it (thank you!). I thought that if I ever tried a print subscription it would be for sure a review journal. I can't say I regret the decision. Having the print issue to read on my commute makes me read articles that I would not normally print out and the front section (research highlights) is a good way to catch up to science news.


Maybe this explosion of e-readers will make it easier to emulate the browsing experience of a bound print copy. As Nicholas Carr (and others) have pointed out, changes in internet technology shape the way we think and use information. In a recent post, Carr gives his answer to this year's Edge annual question "How is the Internet changing the way you think?".
He writes:
"My own reading and thinking habits have shifted dramatically since I first logged onto the Web fifteen or so years ago. I now do the bulk of my reading and researching online. And my brain has changed as a result. Even as I’ve become more adept at navigating the rapids of the Net, I have experienced a steady decay in my ability to sustain my attention."

I think that Carr is, as usual, exaggerating in his pessimist view of web culture. In my work I scan online and print to read. The difference from that workflow to browsing a bound print copy is only the way I filter what I read. Still, it is worth a thought. Maybe we should be working on technologies that will help us work by forcing us to focus our attention better. For now, a print out will do :).