In Praise of Dead Trees

The paper you hold in your hands is a paper you hold in your hands for a reason. I’ve stated a determination to produce an online edition of The Syncopated Times which I would make available to subscribers (particularly overseas readers who pay an exorbitant amount to receive it by mail), but I am equally determined to publish a print edition far into the future. In fact, when a friend suggested it would be a blessing when I finally abandoned ink and wood cellulose, I replied that I would continue to print on dead trees if I had to chop them down myself.

The Syncopated Times is not a scholarly journal. It’s published primarily for the pleasure of its readers while conveying essential information regarding the world of jazz. To be pleasurable, its elements are arranged to present a pleasing view on the printed page. It’s not a delivery device for YouTube videos nor for ads that you must scroll past to arrive at the next paragraph. It does not beep and wink at you.

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I heartily approve of blogs, and I’ve given away acres of free content in my relatively short career online. But the graphics and columns of print on a newspaper page are stuck fast, and were placed so for a reason. It’s an immutable, physical document—at least until it winds up under the parakeet.

Everything is ephemeral. I could back up every scrap of my digital content on the requisite hard drives, and there is no guarantee that what I saved would even be readable even a few years down the road. In fact, I’ve had to be resourceful to find programs to read files I wrote a decade ago. Newsprint does turn yellow and has an unfortunate tendency to crumble eventually. I don’t recommend hoarding it, though there’s much less opportunity these days to accumulate a Collier Brothers-style trove. But it’s stable and readable. . .for a while.

Rome Sentinel Printing Press and workmen
The printing press at the offices of The Rome Sentinel where The Syncopated Times is printed, and the men who make it.

Aside from minor (self) justifications, and despite all compelling reasons why I should leap into and fully embrace my digital destiny (proprietary software permitting), I print The Syncopated Times on paper because I happen to like paper. I’ve shouted my head off on blogs, which for me was a near-guarantee of anonymity. I’ve dwelt on Facebook, which is precisely like The Algonquin Round Table with worse catering. It’s a wonderful place to have your jokes lifted so other people can pretend to be witty. Words on pixels may be The Future, but nothing ever compared to seeing my hard-wrought prose set in type on a page—even if botched by the editor.

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Now I’m the editor, and I do the botching. Oh, yes. So there’s no way I’m about to relinquish my dear, dead trees just yet.

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