Everyone talks about how ebooks are great because they cost less, ship faster and don’t kill trees. And it’s all true, but even before a book hits the (virtual) shelves, the production process has changed significantly.

The way it used to be

10 years ago when I had finished a first draft of a story hacking away at my keyboard, I wiped the sweat off my brow and clicked on “print”.  Depending on the length of the story, a few minutes or hours later due to paperjams, I pawed the precious pages filled with words and paragraphs excruciatingly scraped from the insides of my skull.

At first there was an impression of immaculate order, the black letters standing out crisply against their white background. But even while still pulling the sheets out of the printer and sorting them (because yet again I had forgotten to click the “reverse” button in the print menu) I started to notice typos, broken metaphors and busted syntax.

Armed with pencil I started reading through the first draft, fueled by the drive to squash even the smallest mistakes in the first run. Naturally, I missed most of them, and I had to return later, with different colored pens. The margins quickly filled with garbled notes, the text itself began to look like a poorly patched up patient with all its cross-outs, corrections and counter-corrections.

Charles Dicken’s manuscript of A Christmas Carol (via NY times)

And this process continued for many weeks, each time inserting the revisions, printing it all out again, revising and editing, running out to get more printer ink, printing, and so on and so forth. Through the years I must have killed a minor forest like this.

Enter the Paperless Age

Since the beginning of this year I have begun to shift away from this style of working, mostly because my printer had finally joined the choir invisible and I was tired of producing revisions that became impossible to decipher after a few hours of work.

Nowadays, whenever I finish a first draft I load it onto a tablet or ereading device and start tapping, selecting and typing my notes. Among the advantages are

  • speed: instead of waiting for my printer, I click once and can start working
  • cost: no more paying for paper and ink
  • form: even if I work a lot on a draft, it still stays legible
  • mobility: the Kindle app syncs all notes across multiple devices, so I can continue editing on the move
  • guilt-free: I don’t feel I have to limit my revision runs anymore. More drafts don’t mean more dead trees.

editing through the Kindle app

I have to admit, sometimes I miss the mess of sitting within an ocean of unstapled sheets, scrawling multicoloredly all over them in the manner of a madman, but ultimately the digital process is not just more convenient but also makes a lot more sense.

What do you think?