Why Technologists Don’t Like Dead Trees

(Published in The Express Tribune, April 26, 2010)

If there is one thing I can tell you about technologists, it’s that we don’t like dead trees.

Printing stuff on paper is a waste; you need big presses, binders, ink, glue and lots of paper for every book printed. You amass dozens of these books, end up buying yourself a bookshelf to store them and end up carrying that weight with you for your whole life because you are attached to the pulpy flesh.

To make matters worse, these things don’t even have a search feature.

While those working on websites solve issues related to layouts, workflows and content management systems, the editorial team spends their time on style guides, punctuation, grammar and structure. Invariably, they are all word smiths who share a love for print.

I think it maybe because of the finality of the written word as evidenced by Holy Scriptures. Or a sense of romanticism that cannot be enraptured in love letters sent over Hotmail.

Or maybe it’s that the trade of a word smith comes with the rich heritage of the printing press which includes everything from typesetting to the study of ampersands.

Each volume of paper is carefully composed and compiled, each word in its rightful place.

The paper itself is pliable and portable-enough to sustain the man who carries them by the dozens and hawks them at every street corner.

It even provides a sense of callous mockery when yesterday’s news holds your fast food.

Despite this, inevitability looms. Telecoms have all but saturated the mobile phone market to the point where even beggars have two numbers to benefit from cheaper same-network calls.

Their insatiable appetites have shifted to broadband internet which is enjoying lower prices for consumers while providing the same recurring, monthly-subscription revenues for telecoms.

And the new generation of smart phones with fully-featured Internet browsers bring breaking news to people without having to follow a truck route to their houses.