This blog post comes after a brief break- one that best explains the topic of this post. I have recently fallen in love with pen and paper- all over again. More specifically, I am besotted with fountain pens and high quality paper. I recently wrote a post about this new found love for all things old and almost antiquated. Why then is this post in a tech blog, you may ask?. The reason as the title states is how to bring these two paradigms together in a seamless manner. Let me explain.
I love blogging and writing long form posts. One thing I noticed since I started using my new fountain pens and excellent paper is that it is much more easier writing down ideas and even long form text than trying to type them. Mind you, I type reasonably fast for a non-trained typist- probably around 25 words per minute or better. So for me to think that I can write down text faster than typing them out is a big thing. And more importantly than the speed of writing- the coherence is remarkable with pen and paper. Ideas seem more fluid and flushed out while writing on paper than trying to type them. And most important factor of them all is the lack of distractions. With typing, there is the ever present and persistent distraction than a laptop and more importantly the World Wide Web offers. With pen and paper, there is none such. So it is a big world of a difference and I would love to compose all my blog posts on paper first before getting them here. But there is a small problem.
Digital Input – Of tablets and styli:
Technology has dramatically changed the digital text landscape over the last few years. With the advent of smartphones, tablets and phablets, there are increasingly new ways for text input and data entry. Things have indeed come a long way from the old analog typewriter. Artists are swearing by the iPad and the excellent apps that allow them to express their vision on a digital medium. Over the last few years, Wacomhas taken dramatic strides in giving illustrators a way to capture their art in the digital form that is as close to pencil and paper as possible. But the same strides in digital art input has not translated to writing and here is the problem. Even the best of styli come nowhere close to giving the satisfied feeling that a real pen and paper offer – more so with a fountain pen and good quality paper. I have bought 4 different styli over the last year or so and none has come remotely close to giving me the feel of a real pen on paper. And its not just the fault of the stylus. When I use pen on paper, the paper offers a kind of friendly friction unparalleled. And even the combination of the best styli and the fantastic screen and touch sensitivity of the new iPad fall woefully short of that experience.
Digital Conversion- Of scanners and OCR:
The alternate approach to translating written ideas to a digital realm is to write on paper and get it converted to digital form. This offers a good compromise as I get the luxury of writing with a real pen on real paper yet get it across to the audience in the digital medium. But the translation part is a challenge on its own. The simplest way to do this is to write and use a scanner+OCR software to do the conversion. Simple as it sounds, it is probably the most cumbersome approach. And it does not guarantee results. Often time it is faster to type a few paragraphs looking over written notes than going through the scan, OCR and correction process.
Evernote Moleskine and Shot Note:
The pioneer of cloud based notes and clips, Evernote recently announced a collaboration with one of the pioneers of paper based journals, Moleskine to create Evernote Smart Notebook by Moleskine. This is simply a notebook which is so designed that cameraphone pictures of pages translate and look better when archived as notes in Evernote. It doesnt do any OCR itself but archives notes made in the Smart Notebook better than most other common journals. But it comes at a steep cost. The entry level 3.5 x 5 inch notebook costs $24.95. While the cost is offset by 3 months of Evernote Premium (worth about $15), the purpose of the smart notebook and its value addition is questionable.
In the pursuit of a cheaper alternative to the Evernote Smart Notebook, I stumbled upon Shot Note at my local KinoKuniya store. Shot Note, a series of notepads and journals by Japanese stationer King Jim offers a similar smart notebook system where the pages can be snapped and stored in Evernote. It requires an app from the company of the same name and is offered for free on the Android Play Store and iTunes. In my brief experience, Shot Note worked pretty decently. As an added bonus, it has integration with Evernote and offers a roundabout way of getting the same results as the Evernote Smart Notebook.
Unfortunately neither the Smart Notebook nor the Shot Note solve my original problem of a simple and easy way of moving my written content to the computer. In conclusion, I am still searching for a solution. I hope technology evolves to offering something for people like me who love the act of writing with a good pen on quality paper and getting it seamlessly onto a document or a note on the computer and/or web. Until then, Ill keep looking for one or maybe build one myself.