Is the Paperless Age Really Paperless?

Call me old school, but it when it comes to writing and publishing, I believe all authors benefit from printing out their manuscripts.  Sure, lots of people, including myself, bristle at the cost ink cartridges and paper, but here’s the thing, lots of young authors aren’t printing first.

Or ever!

I get the paperless trend. I really do. We’ve entered the paperless age. Movie tickets, bus passes and free coffee at Pete’s all with the ease of flashing the screen of my mobile device.  AWESOME.

Not being critique partners with an amazingly talented, decade-younger author BECAUSE she doesn’t own a printer and refuses to print pages? SUCKS.

She’s not alone. I’ve met five writers in their 20s and 30s who look at me strangely when I tell them they need to print out their manuscripts and proof them before I’ll give feedback.  I am not your copy editing, typo-catching Mommy. GROW UP!

And yet this paperless manuscript trend:

  1. scares the crap out of me.
  2. makes me feel old.
  3. makes me wonder if I’ve missed something somewhere along the way.

cartridge1It hit home the other day when I tried to drop off my empty ink cartridges at the library to support their $1-per-cartridge program.  The program went bust along with the remanufactured ink place that paid the library a buck a cartridge.

So while I stand by my belief that all writers must print out their work before they send it anywhere, or publish their work, it seems like I might be the only one left doing this… while the ink supply holds up anyway. In the meantime, if anyone knows a place where I can recycle my old ink cartridges would they please let me know.  Seems the recycled cartridge business dried up along with all my old cartridges.

Jamie Brazil is the author of The Commodore’s Daughter and other novels. Current FREE download: The Mayan Sisterhood.  

About Jamie Brazil

Humor writer, romance novelist, Bloodhound enthusiast.

Posted on October 21, 2013, in Auth: Jamie Brazil and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I’ve tried using my tablet to read drafts instead of printing them out, but miss being able to scribble on the paper and rearrange things. The notes and highlight features on the tablet are too cumbersome to use. Now I print out a copy for the first round of edit/rewrites and then use the tablet for the rest. That way I feel like I’m contributing a little bit to not killing too many trees. 🙂


  2. When I’m in first pass revisions (usually a hot mess for me), I like to print out a chapter or two at a time so I can see more-than-a-screen’s-worth, draw crazy arrows, mark up blocks of text to move or replace, which is easier (for me) at that stage. But when I approach the final version, I can’t see some of the issues either on my computer screen or on paper (frequently what I miss are things like spaces — either too many or too few — or an extra period, which the font kerning masks from me). That’s when I say “TG for e-readers!” I compile the MS and send it to my Kindle where it’s easier for me to find the typos and formatting issues.

    Like Terri, I use a B&W laser (very reasonably priced, from Newegg).


  3. I cleaned out file cabinets awhile back and recycled piles of old manuscripts, my own and those of other’s in my writers group. I felt guilty for the death of all those trees and am very glad that we share our work on line now. I can’t lie, I still love books in paperback form, but to print out an entire manuscript that is going to be edited and changed, and then edited and changed again, is far too wasteful to me. If I can write on a screen I can read on one too.


  4. I’m one of the authors who does everything digitally. It’s soooo much less expensive. And soooo much faster.

    I think if you do as Maggie suggests and change a few key features, such as font size, or send it to Kindle and read it in that format, you’ll catch as many typos as printing it out. And it’s so much easier to fix.

    I do believe we need other eyes on the story before it goes out, for content editing and boosting even more than for final line edits. We know how the story should read, but we have the whole story world in our minds, so we need others to help us discover what we’ve transported onto the page, and what we’ve left unsaid, or not explained well.

    As far as end product, I love both print and digital reading.



  5. You are not alone. I enjoy the printed page over a computer screen any day!


  6. I cut both ways. I can read on the screen, but after a while my eyes REALLY hate me for it. I feel like I catch more things when I read from the printed page. I’m with you, Jamie! I print my work for proofing before I send it off to anyone. 😀


  7. Terri, is the laser printer cost effective?
    Any suggestions for which laser printers are best?


    • Jamie, I feel your pain, but I’m afraid I’ve gone digital and I kinda love it. Not having reams of paper threatening to collapse my 2nd floor office is a good thing 🙂 But I do have a b&w laser print that still I love. I have an older model HP LaserJet which means I can get remanufactured cartridges for a fraction of the price. I like for service and pricing on toner.


  8. Oh Maggie, I hear you on making more typos by correcting the old typos. It’s enough to drive us mad.
    A lot of writers struggle with the fix-the-old vs. forge-ahead problem. I like your suggestions of using a different font.
    BTW, Office Max Depot out here doesn’t do the ink recycle anymore.I have a bag of cartidges if you want to trade them in for credit.


  9. Here’s my state, TSPC (Oregon’s teacher licensing agency) has gone paperless which means I get to print out everything at home. Paperless? No.

    The school district I work for has gone to paperless newsletter. Parents get emailed the newsletter. Guess how many of them print them out at home? (Or, as I’ve been hearing lately, don’t read it at all because they want the newsletter to post on their bulletin board.)

    One of my teacher friends was complaining the other day about the district going paperless, which means she gets to print out everything that is important or that needs to be documents.

    So if one agency/person says they’re going paperless but someone else has to do the printing, it’s not paperless at all. It’s just a cost-saving measure.


    • Collette, that is unfair to have the burden of printing passed along. Cost saving, sure, but it isn’t really good for the overall picture. There has to be a better way to send along info to parents. Maybe they could all get Facebook updates, or Google alerts, on their phones as each newsletter item is released over a week. I don’t know what the answer is.


  10. Office Max/Office Depot gives you credit for used cartridges that build up so you can buy new ones. They recycle the cartridges but I don’t know if they still do refills.

    Regarding editing and printing, it definitely makes a difference to have a book edited by someone else. My first self-pubbed effort was edited only by me. Even after seven or eight passes, after it was published there were 20-30 typos remaining. After that I decided having an editor was worthwhile.

    My editor INSISTS on having a printed manuscript. He does all the editing by hand–the old-fashioned way. 🙂 The thought of doing it in track changes is an impossibility for him. However, he is in the minority. Most editors I know do edit in track changes.

    The key to self-editing, in my opinion, is in changing the format in which you view the book. For some that is printing it out. I have a hard time with the expense of the paper and ink situation, even though I do recycle. When I’m self-editing on the computer, I change the font to something strange AND increase the font size from 12 to 16. Because it looks so different, I notice things I don’t normally notice. When I think it’s in good shape, I do one paper printing for my editor.

    Even with a good editor, I never catch everything. It’s not the editors fault. He catches 99% of my mistakes. However, I am darn good at introducing new errors when I make my corrections and I don’t have the personal capital to send it back to him one more time.

    Once the book is put on sale, I download a copy to my ereader and put it on my TBR list. I try to read the book again a month or so after it goes on sale. I ALWAYS find a couple more typos when I do that. There is something about reading it in final book form that makes me notice things I didn’t catch before.

    The good news is I can go back and re-upload files for both print and ebooks to all the distributors. The question is at what point is it worth it? For a book with three or four typos it’s not worth it. Fixing and re-uploading to all sites takes about 20 hours out of my writing time. For a book with 20 errors or more, or a huge mistake like leaving out a critical scene that leads to the climax, is definitely worth it. But that time goes in the schedule of work and adding it always effects other projects. If I’m on deadline to get something out, the new book comes first. The error corrections for old books come second.

    I’ve never seen a perfect book from NY or from a self-published author. I’ve given up on being perfect. But I try to get as close to possible through editing.


  11. I can’t help you find a cartridge recycle as I only have a b/w laser printer so this only comes up every two years. I will only critique digital copies now, and I’m older than you so it’s not an age thing, it’s more a preference.


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