Virginia Heffernan laments the demise of datebooks like the Filofax:

It’s hard to remember, surveying my dull Google version (“parents in town,” “book club”), that a Filofax was also a place for plot arcs, self-invention and self-regulation. It was, in every sense, a diary — a forward-running record, unlike backward-running blogs. The quality of the paper stock, the slot for the pen, the blank but substantial cover, the hints of grand possibilities that came with the inserts — all of these inspired not just introspection but also the joining of history: the mapping of an individual life onto the grand old Gregorian-calendar template….

[N]ow that I’ve shelved my Filofax in favor of a calendar program that seems somehow to flatten existence, I realize that another year is passing without my building up the compact book of a year’s worth of Filofax pages that, every December, I used to wrap in a rubber band and put on a shelf, just as my new refills came in the mail.

If there is one thing we’ve discovered about print media, especially in the wake of the disappearance of some artifact (card catalogs, the encyclopedia, etc.), is that readers and users don’t treat print media merely as inefficient carriers of information that wanted to be digital (or free, or expensive, as Stewart Brand put it), but developed all kinds of other uses for print that increased their utility, were taken for granted, and tended to be overlooked by engineers. Engineers looked at the Filofax and saw a digital calendar-in-waiting; in Heffernan’s hands, in contrast, it was “a place for plot arcs, self-invention and self-regulation. It was, in every sense, a diary — a forward-running record, unlike backward-running blogs.”

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We don’t just act on information or media; we interact with it, and the character of those interactions, as much as the information itself, define our relationships with media. One reason I still prefer printed books to digital is that it’s difficult to annotate digital books in a way I find satisfactory: when I’m reviewing a book, or using it in my work, I need to be able to underline, annotate, add Post-Its, and make notes– to document my dialogue with or reflections on the book. (This goes far beyond the kind of annotations you can make on ebooks today, and a world away from leaving comments on blogs, or hitting the “Like” button on a Web page.) This kind of reading is more like a martial art than the quiet, interior activity that many people think of when they think about “reading.” And while I don’t do it with everything– I never got the calendar bug, for example– there are a few activities in which the affordances of print media support practices and interactions that electronic media cannot.

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