Paper v. Digital Revision

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Do you print out your novel to revise, or do you do the revisions all on screen?

Paper v. Digital Revision

The Summer 2008 Author’s Guild Bulletin has an article by literary agent, Richard Curtis, entitled, “Watched Any Good Books Lately?”

He says:

Not so long ago an editor told me she’d discovered that the Sony Reader was so perfectly suited to reviewing manuscript submissions that her boss purchased them for everyone on the division’s editorial staff. She simply uploads manuscript files and reads the book at home or on her commute to and from work. Recently I have heard many an editor rave about the virtues of the Sony (and to a lesser extent Amazon’s Kindle) as an editorial tool. They also speak of the “green benefits of paperless transmission of texts. Authors and agents benefit too, thanks to savings on photocopy, printing and mailing costs.

Alvina Ling, editor at Little Brown loves her Sony reader.

Curtis says there are three reasons to use an ebook reader:

  1. Go Green. Paperless saves money.
  2. Reviewing Submissions.
  3. Editing Manuscripts.

I think everyone will agree with number one and two. It’s number three that I’m uncertain about.
Enter this book.


myth of paperless

The Myth of the Paperless Office is a fascinating study of the practices of paper v. digital in an office environment. The researchers approached the study as an anthropological study of how a society operates. I’ll leave you to read all the details, but one thing is relevant here.

The study found that when a person was composing a piece based on several sources, it was easier to have those sources printed out. Otherwise, it was cumbersome to shift back and forth between screens. Tabbed browsers like Firefox have made this easier, but it’s still easier to handle paper.

When editing was required, paper was usually used. This was especially true when two people sat down side by side to work on something. Paper copies for each made the process smoother.

Digital, then, was used to archive or store the final product and this research suggested that was it’s best use — at the time.

Do you Use Digital or Paper Editing

So, do you use digital or paper editing? I find that I do both.

I participate in several online critique groups and we exchange mss by email. Often, I will use the Comments feature of Word to give feedback. But I also find that I prefer to print it out and mark it up and I feel I am a better critiquer on the paper copies. I miss things or skim over too much on the digital version. On the other hand, if I have to explain WHY I think something needs to be changed, it’s easier to do that in depth if I’m typing. I’m on the fence about doing digital editing.

I wonder if editors who edit on the Sony reader are skimming and missing things? I don’t know. Tabbed browsers have made composing easier when you use multiple documents. Maybe there are features of the Sony reader that make editing easier, too.

So — do you use digital or paper editing or both? Why do you prefer one over the other?

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