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The Good Old Days, When Typewriters were Typewriters:

In today's Washington Post, Ruth Marcus has an op-ed piece bemoaning the public release of the federal budget documents exclusively in electronic form, rather than in the form of a 2,200-page printed document. "It isn't the same," she writes, "as having the volume -- volumes, actually -- in hand, being able to flip through the tables, to see the columns neatly arrayed without having to scroll up or down to decipher the details."

It's "more than simple nostalgia" for the experience of paper, she doth protest:

"There is a clarifying immediacy to holding the document itself, not settling for its online representation . . . To read a document online is to face constant temptations to stray from the text. . . . [To] my school-age children, [who]are being taught to compose at the keyboard, writing in longhand seems as antiquated as dipping quill in ink. But there is something lost in intellectual rigor by abandoning -- indeed, never really learning -- the laborious discipline of writing out a first draft."
"Online is much harder to use. It makes the information less accessible and harder to ferret out. Frankly, it is no fun staring for hours at a computer screen to find obscure spend-out rates. You can't underline, can't make a note on a page, and who wants to read a computer in bed?"
Hmmm . . . can't say I get the point about the "intellectual rigor" of writing longhand. Sure, releasing the information in electronic form is different than having the Government Printing Office produce a couple of thousand copies -- different as in "better." It makes the information "less accessible"? You've got to be joking -- it's "less accessible" when anyone in the world who wants a copy can get one than when you have to stand in line at the GPO and lug away your copy? Harder to ferret out information? How so? I find searching through 2200 page documents a whole lot easier when they're in electronic form -- and if you don't, if you really "crave the comforting certainty of ink on paper" or are desperate to underline or make notes on a page or read in bed, you might find it useful to buy a "printer," a fabulous little device that can take electronic documents and, quite successfully, transfer them onto paper; your local Kinko's would be more than happy to prepare as many 2200-page versions of the budget as you would like.
What Ms Marcus is really asking for, I suspect,is a taxpayer subsidy for her craving -- the good old days, when reporters could get nice free copies at the GPO at taxpayer expense. If the federal government wants to print up a few thousand copies to give away, I don't have a big problem that -- but couching it as some sort of plea for information purity is a bunch of nonsense.

alias:
If she has a printer, I'm not sure what her problem is.
2.6.2008 1:14pm
rbj:
I agree about not wanting to read a computer in bed, but who the heck reads the federal budget right before sleep?
2.6.2008 1:14pm
CDU (mail) (www):
I agree about not wanting to read a computer in bed, but who the heck reads the federal budget right before sleep?
Someone desperate to cure their insomnia?
2.6.2008 1:19pm
Wahoowa:
Has the GPO released a Kindle version? Can't you underline and write in the margins on that thing? Or am I thinking of something else?
2.6.2008 1:20pm
Kazinski:
You're just too young to understand. Just wait 20 years(10? 5?) until we have wifi chips implanted in our head and have to browse and search mentally through the whole budget. You'll be saying:

Why can't I just see it on the screen? It was so much easier to browse when I could look at it rather than have it directly beamed into my brain.
2.6.2008 1:21pm
rarango (mail):
"If she has a printer, I'm not sure what her problem is."
Perhaps it is replacing the toner cartridge--that is one long document. I don't understand the romanticism attached to typewriters, carbons, etc. The old days really sucked.
2.6.2008 1:22pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Shorter Ruth Marcus: "Why, when I was a girl, we had to walk 6 miles in the snow to get the budget!"
2.6.2008 1:26pm
OrinKerr:
Reminds me of my 7th Grade teacher who insisted that we write out our semester-end research report in unerasable ink, and that if we made an error on the page, we had to write the entire page over again. We couldn't use computers, he told us, because "the business world will never accept computer-printed documents." Oh well.
2.6.2008 1:29pm
c.gray (mail):

You can't underline, can't make a note on a page


Anyone with fairly minimal computer literacy can do either of those things on a laptop with a number of common office software products.

I just chalk this one up to yet another a aging newspaper columnist knowing less than nothing about the subject they've chosen to blather on about. A few generations ago she would have written an almost identical column complaining that telephones were an inferior means of communication to writing letters.
2.6.2008 1:29pm
TerrencePhilip:
who the heck reads the federal budget right before sleep?

I bet it could induce sleep even for people who weren't planning on it.
2.6.2008 1:30pm
Nate F (www):
There are certain circumstances where having a printed document is better -- for example, I find reading academic papers from a computer screen nearly impossible. I have also heard of research that suggests information read from a computer screen is not retained as well as information read from hard copy. However, as somebody above said... what, she doesn't have a printer?
2.6.2008 1:32pm
Richard Nieporent (mail):
I suspect that the real reason she is upset is that now anyone can get a copy of it to peruse while in the old days only the press and academics would get a copy. Thus only the cognoscenti would have been able to knowledgeably comment on it.
2.6.2008 1:33pm
swg:
I sometimes read things on my laptop in bed. Tonight I might even read the federal budget on my laptop in bed.
2.6.2008 1:35pm
Anderson (mail):
Reading War and Peace in book form, I can understand.

But who the heck cares about having a bound copy of the federal budget?
2.6.2008 1:35pm
The Mad Hat Chemist:
I have to agree with her that flipping through a book is much easier then trying to scan back and forth between pages in a very long PDF document. I read a plethora of scientific articles and save the PDF files -- but print out a copy and use exclusivly that. It is easier on the eye and much more convienient when comparing 20 different documents with highlights and handwritten notes (one usually can't alter these documents, even with a full version rather then a reader which most people use).

While having electronic copies are a definite benefit, it isn't the same as flipping through the pages.
2.6.2008 1:39pm
Mark Eckenwiler:
Part of what Ruth Marcus is trying to say, however inartfully, is indisputably true: paper has "affordances" -- attributes that enable or enhance certain uses -- lacking in electronic copies. In my day job, I regularly need to review documents 50-100 pages long, often on a very short deadline; most of the time, I ruefully print myself a paper copy (2-sided, natch) to mark up, flip through, etc., rather than doing on-screen reading. I'd bet most of the VC's knowledge-worker readership does the same.

All that said, David's right that nostalgia for the old days of waiting for the GPO to crank out bound books is foolish. Having essentially instant, free access to public documents from almost anywhere on the planet redefines the term "no-brainer."
2.6.2008 1:39pm
MXE (mail):
Online is much harder to use. It makes the information less accessible and harder to ferret out. Frankly, it is no fun staring for hours at a computer screen to find obscure spend-out rates. You can't underline, can't make a note on a page, and who wants to read a computer in bed?

Somebody call the Wahhhhmbulance!
2.6.2008 2:00pm
KeithK (mail):
I hate working with paper copies in most cases. I'd much rather read something on a screen. But then I've never been the type to mark up documents with highlights and handwritten notes even before everything was computerized. It's just not how I work.

But the beauty of the electronic medium is that it's accessible to all and can be converted to hard copy cheaply and easily. Even better, you can choose to only print out the sections of the document that you care about. If you're only interested in the DoD budget then you don't need to have the rest on paper.

As Bugs Bunny might say: What a maroon.
2.6.2008 2:01pm
boo:
I hope she sees the fiasco for what it is--a money-making opportunity! She should print out the entire thing, bind it (in multiple volumes, of course), and sell it to the multitudes who, like her, want the hard-copy volumes. Everybody wins!

[You can freely reproduce public documents, right?]
2.6.2008 2:01pm
KeithK (mail):
As a good believer in small government I feel the need to say: 2200 pages! That's frickin' ridiculous! Cut the damn thing to 100 pages and then give Ms. Marcus all the copies she wants.
2.6.2008 2:02pm
Tracy Johnson (www):
It would also be easier to falsify documents online. Especially in the Ministry of Truth, where last week's war hero becomes this week's traitor or worse, is transferred to a child molester status website. That is obviously a gross exaggeration, but when I come to think of it, the possibility exists should all government data become over centralized.
2.6.2008 2:03pm
KenB (mail):
I, too, find it easier to read complex documemts when printed out rather than on screen. But I think David Post nailed it by observing that she is asking for a taxpayer subsidy. Yes, she could print it out, but 2,200 pages uses up a lot of ink or toner, as the case may be. Better to let the little people pay for that through the tax system.
2.6.2008 2:13pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
The real problem is that with computers the government can create 2200 page documents at the blink of an eye and no one has to even write it or read it. Yet it will be law.
2.6.2008 2:15pm
Houston Lawyer:
The printed word on paper is much easier to read than anything on screen.

Since I have become adept at typing, I can no longer compose by hand. However, other than a thank you note, I am unaware of anything that requires my personal script. My handwriting was always poor, so typing is much better.
2.6.2008 2:17pm
Nathan_M (mail):
Last year one of my professors decided to be modern and give us all of our readings on a cd-rom. There wasn't a signle person in a 40 person class who was satisfied with that, we all insisted on printed readings as well, because they're easier to read. No doubt it's a matter of opinion, but I doubt Marcus is in the minority on this.

As for the argument that she just wants a subsidy from taxpayers, there might be some truth to that. But it would probably cost $500 or so to print a 2200 page document with a regular inkjet printer. I'd be surprised if it cost more than $20 to print it professionally.
2.6.2008 2:27pm
Virginian:

Shorter Ruth Marcus: "Why, when I was a girl, we had to walk 6 miles in the snow to get the budget!"


And it was uphill both ways!
2.6.2008 2:36pm
Kanchou (www):
I am not surprised.

We are one of the few non-depository library that actually pay for our Federal Register subscription. And they are consulted frequently.

In our branch operation, we direct people to GPOAccess for electronic version. I got a handful of request for print edition.(Which is not happening for space and budgeting reason)
2.6.2008 2:40pm
JBL:
Though it's potentially a whole new thread, I must say there are several things that make me uncomfortable with the idea of giving up the skill of handwriting.

The old-fashioned way is less efficient for many and probably most uses, but it should always be a possibility.
2.6.2008 2:40pm
Dave N (mail):
it would probably cost $500 or so to print a 2200 page document with a regular inkjet printer.
That is a pretty poor printer if it is costing 44 cents a page. I know my printer isn't that expensive to use.
2.6.2008 2:43pm
Bob Montgomery:
This makes no sense to me. Don't like it on the screen? Want to make notes in the margin? Want to read it in bed?

Print the damn thing out! There is an entire industry devoted to printing out documents, for crying out loud.
2.6.2008 2:45pm
Zathras (mail):
Regarding the general question of paper vs. screen, I recall seeing a few years ago a study which took a group of college-educated people and gave them two documents to edit: one in paper form and one in electronic form. The people were able to catch a lot more mistakes on the paper form than on the electronic form. I think in general that people pay more attention to detail on the paper word, as opposed to the electronic word. Anecdotally, I knew a couple of attorneys who ran paperless offices, and the briefs of theirs I saw were strewn with errors of detail. For editing, at least, a hard copy is often essential.
2.6.2008 2:51pm
Mac (mail):



as for the argument that she just wants a subsidy from taxpayers, there might be some truth to that. But it would probably cost $500 or so to print a 2200 page document with a regular inkjet printer. I'd be surprised if it cost more than $20 to print it professionally.

Nathan,

This is our Government we are talking about! I would be surprised if they could do it for only 500.00 per copy.
2.6.2008 2:53pm
Nathan_M (mail):

it would probably cost $500 or so to print a 2200 page document with a regular inkjet printer.

That is a pretty poor printer if it is costing 44 cents a page. I know my printer isn't that expensive to use.

I was using 25 cents a page, which gave a cost of $550, 44 cents a page would cost almost $1000.

It's a fair point that this is a government printer we're talking about, though, so no price for them would be particularly shocking.
2.6.2008 2:59pm
bonhomme (mail):
I did some back of the napkin calculations based on a Xerox Phaser 6130 laser printer's print costs for a 2200 page document. You can get a toner cartridge for $66.86+$10 ground shipping. Manufacturer's specs say that'll print 2500 pages. You can get some really nice Hammermill laser printer paper here for $11.27 per ream. Five reams will cost you $56.35. Bonus! No shipping charge for purchase over $50. That's $133.21 with some paper and toner left over. Of course there's wear and tear on the printer to throw in, make it an even $140 total. I'm sure Kinko's or some other printing company could get you a better deal, but basically my position is: suck it up and print it out.
2.6.2008 3:00pm
Cornellian (mail):
Why kill a forest full of trees to produce a product that's less portable and less useful than a electronic version in a pdf file?

You can search the pdf file with ctrl-F, something you can't do with a paper version. The pdf takes up no space (you can carry it on a USB drive the size of a key, along with thousands of other files), can be copied perfectly an infinite number of times, and never gets torn, out of order, worn out etc.

I say good riddance to the paper version.
2.6.2008 3:08pm
Student:

if the federal government wants to print up a few thousand copies to give away, I don't have a big problem that


You might not have a problem with it, but I do. If she wants the information she can do what the rest of us do. Go to a library or buy a copy. Even if it weren't available electronically, why should my taxes subsidize her profession?
2.6.2008 3:11pm
Joel:
Mark Eckenwiler: Word and Adobe Reader, and most printer drivers, also offer the ability to print out documents in booklet form, with four pages per sheet of paper. Get a long-handled stapler, and viola! :-)
2.6.2008 3:16pm
Anderson (mail):
More to the point, if the feds *did* print a few paper copies, why is Ruth Marcus somebody who should receive one?
2.6.2008 3:24pm
Alan Gunn (mail):
While I agree with most of this post, it does seem right, or at least possible, that writing in different ways (longhand, typing, computer) could affect the nature of one's prose, and maybe of one's thought processes. I once knew a lawyer who dictated all his stuff; maybe it was just coincidence, but he went on at great length and repeated himself a lot. I suspected at the time that if he wrote his memos in longhand he'd have developed a pithier style. I don't know whether anyone has ever tried to look into this question rigorously.

Also, while I haven't looked at the budget, the government's tax publications are hard to work with on screen because they're still printed in columns, so you have to scroll down and then up to read a whole page. But this isn't a reason for wanting print; it's a reason for wanting the IRS to adopt a better format.
2.6.2008 3:25pm
Mark Eckenwiler:
Joel writes, most printer drivers, also offer the ability to print out documents in booklet form, with four pages per sheet of paper.

True, but folio printing (let alone quarto, octavo, or 16mo) with commensurate print image reduction is suboptimal for persons of A Certain Age.
2.6.2008 3:35pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I agree with all of the advantages cited for electronic documents, and even do quite bit of reading with my Sony Reader.

But, somehow, I can flip through a large book or document, and catch things of interest. The same is true of a paper magazine versus the online version. I sure can't search the paper version, can't print pertinent sections, and can't dump it on the thumb drive and then into my pocket. But, if I'm aproaching one of the many topics I know nothing about, browsing the paper book provides a much faster means of gaining a general perspective and idea of what's happening. Maybe someone can do the same with 2200 pages a txt file; hints would be appreiated.

Here's a test. You are faced with an open book test lasting four hours. It is for professional engineer, CPA, legal bar, or something else of that nature. You can either bring a laptop or a stack of books. Which to you bring?
2.6.2008 3:40pm
kevin r:
You know what they say: you can't grep a dead tree.
2.6.2008 4:00pm
Shane (mail) (www):
Tracy Johnson -

It would also be easier to falsify documents online. Especially in the Ministry of Truth, where last week's war hero becomes this week's traitor or worse, is transferred to a child molester status website. That is obviously a gross exaggeration, but when I come to think of it, the possibility exists should all government data become over centralized.


Digital signatures would solve this problem easily - the government digitally signs a document, so anyone can later prove that the government authored it.
2.6.2008 4:06pm
rarango (mail):
JBL notes: "Though it's potentially a whole new thread, I must say there are several things that make me uncomfortable with the idea of giving up the skill of handwriting.

The old-fashioned way is less efficient for many and probably most uses, but it should always be a possibility."

JBL: You have every reason to be uncomfortable.
There are some elementary schools that have dropped cursive writing!
2.6.2008 4:34pm
MDJD2B (mail):

But who the heck cares about having a bound copy of the federal budget?

Rare book dealers. A pristine condition of the 1924 Federal Budget is worth $24,000. /end irony
2.6.2008 4:43pm
Andrew Mitton (mail) (www):
What percentage of all the legal books lining a law firm's wall would you say is actually read. I bet it's barely over 1/1000th of all the pages, if that. I don't understand why law firms still buy those expensive books to collect dust. Just use Westlaw or one of those free online services. You find things much more quickly, then print out what you need to read.
2.6.2008 4:44pm
NotAllFirmsLoveWestlaw:
@Andrew Mitton

Because paying $10 to retrieve a case that you also have in book form -- particularly the common/important cases (like Booker, Crawford, etc if you're in crim law) -- is stupid.

Paying Westlaw to do what you can do on a shelf, then paying AGAIN to get the official printout in Fed 3rd format, is a waste of money.
2.6.2008 5:18pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I don't understand why law firms still buy those expensive books to collect dust. Just use Westlaw or one of those free online services. You find things much more quickly, then print out what you need to read.
Because when the client walks into the office, having stacks of printouts on the bookshelves doesn't look quite as impressive.
2.6.2008 5:20pm
KeithK (mail):

JBL: You have every reason to be uncomfortable.
There are some elementary schools that have dropped cursive writing!


Is there really any purpose to cursive writing? Aside from as an art form, which is separate from it's function. The old argument that it's faster than printed writing is trumped by electronic media. Printing is far more legible in most cases. All in all, I say we relgate cursive to the dust bin of history along with Gothic script, runes and other such things.

I write this as someone who hasn't hardly written a letter of script since they stopped requiring it in 7th (?) grade.
2.6.2008 5:29pm
PersonFromPorlock:
I stopped using cursive when I was about forty; everyone has been much happier with my writing since then and nobody suggests I think about a career in medicine anymore.
2.6.2008 5:50pm
Pete Freans (mail):
On an unrelated note, my mother continues to swear by her 1956 Smith Corona typewriter. She buys her "ribbon" ink from a typewriter store (yes, they still exist) although I believe she is only one of a handful of clients. While the keystrokes require a Herculean effort, and a lowercase "L" does not function anymore (she substitutes it with the number "1"), I can't help but smile when I hear the snapping of the keys and that high pitched bell-ring (that signifies the arrival to the right margin, for those generation Y readers).
2.6.2008 5:55pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Movable type is much less attractive, and lacks the intellectual rigor, of a finely crafted cursive script, which is then nicely illuminated and bound. Let's bring back copiests.
2.6.2008 5:59pm
Earnest Iconoclast (mail) (www):
While I'd rather see the 2,200 page budget offered in electronic form, a part of me wonders if we should require that any bill be hand written by the sponsor(s) before it could be voted on. Only after it was passed would it be converted to electronic format.

Laws would be much simpler...
2.6.2008 6:04pm
visitor from Texas (mail) (www):
Computer screens are about 70dpi for text. Printouts are effectively 300 to 600 dpi. Off-set press is about 1200 dpi.

You read faster and understand better at higher dpi.

Which is why the push for the 200 dpi standard for screens.
2.6.2008 6:11pm
WillS:
Funny thing is the tablet PC the budget was delivered on allows both digital pen handwriting markup on the document as well as highlighter-style highlighting using that same tablet pen.
2.6.2008 6:17pm
Steve in CA (mail):

More to the point, if the feds *did* print a few paper copies, why is Ruth Marcus somebody who should receive one?



Maybe because she covers the federal budget for the Washington Post? I can't think of too many jobs that would require a copy more than hers would.

Lots of people have mentioned the cost of printing 2200 pages ($140 or so, somebody said), and it's not that much, but what about the time? It seems like it would take all day. I'm not saying its an essential function of government to print copies of the federal budget, but it seems like a pretty decent public service to print them for people who ask. I wouldn't mind if they charged a fee so it's provided at cost.
2.6.2008 6:23pm
mugwump2:
Please note that a printed version of the budget is available for purchase. So Marcus' column is a plea for the taxpayers to give her the printed copy for free (since it's unlikely that the Post will think it a good investment of dollars to buy for $213 what's available to Marcus online). I have nothing against editorial writers; I used to be one myself. But Marcus' sense of entitlement, and attitude toward electronic information, is a perfect example of why newspapers and their editorial pages are headed for oblivion.
2.6.2008 6:31pm
Le Messurier (mail):
There is no question in my mind that there is a place for both print and electronic. As to the accessibility question it is obvious that the electronic media is more accessible if you mean that more people can have access to it, but if you mean that you can actually use it I'll have to go with the printed version. The suggestions to "print it out" are ludicrous. It can be done, but printing out a 2000+ page document on a computer printer would pretty much take up a whole part of a day, forget the costs. As a journalist she needs "immediate" access which means a print version.

On the subject of print versus electronic generally, I would much rather read the print edition of the Wall Street Journal than the electronic version. That's true for any paper. You get some information from the electronic version, but you get the full flow of news with the printed version. Oh, and you say well "print it out". Yeah, right. Really practical.

Another point. If one is examining 2 or 3 documents at once for comparative purposes, a computer just won't work. many times I've had more than one volume open to specific pages and would have to go back and forth between them. It's a significant part of many kinds of research to do that. Try it on a computer and be able to keep your place.

Believe me, I value my computer; I use it every day, but David Post must use a computer for scanning the written word rather than studying it.
2.6.2008 6:43pm
Steve in CA (mail):
OK, if there's a printed copy for sale like mugwump says, then I stand corrected.

I think people are being pretty harsh on Marcus, though. It seems like her column is just a reflection on changing times and what's been lost, etc, not a serious argument that the government should print her a free copy.
2.6.2008 6:44pm
Lonely Capitalist (mail):
I don't understand why law firms still buy those expensive books to collect dust. Just use Westlaw

But then you couldn't just pick up a volume, flip through it and come across an interesting case.
2.6.2008 7:04pm
Le Messurier (mail):
Steve in CA


Maybe because she covers the federal budget for the Washington Post? I can't think of too many jobs that would require a copy more than hers would.

How about being a Congressmen? It's hard for me to imagine that most of them can even use a computer! Of course that's what they have those "aides" for. I'm sure the Congressman never even read the thing anyway and just takes what their aides says as gospel so I guess my point is lost
2.6.2008 7:10pm
KeithK (mail):
I suspect that a lot of the folks here who say that hard copies provide better information retention are simply describing preferences developed over time. If you grew up reading the news in a newspaper maybe it seems better (in terms of retention, comprehension, etc.) in the print version. If you grew up getting your news from a website you might feel differently.

I'd be interested in the source for the stats that visitor from texas cites.
2.6.2008 7:16pm
KeithK (mail):

...it seems like a pretty decent public service to print them for people who ask. I wouldn't mind if they charged a fee so it's provided at cost.


Would it not be better to only provide it in electronic format and allow the private sector to provide the printing services? No need to involve civil servants in something that Kinkos can handle very well.
2.6.2008 7:19pm
aces:
There is no question in my mind that there is a place for both print and electronic.

IIRC, the hard-copy version of the 9/11 Commission Report was #1 on the NY Times bestseller list, even though the entire report was available free online.
2.6.2008 7:20pm
U.Va. 3L:
But then you couldn't just pick up a volume, flip through it and come across an interesting case.

People do that? I mean, I'm the nerdy kid who used to do that with print encyclopedias (and still does that with Wikipedia), but I can't imagine anyone actually making like Jimmy Stewart in Anatomy of a Murder and pulling out a volume of the F.2d to read before bed.
2.6.2008 8:47pm
mark eckenwiler:
Per Duffy Pratt, Movable type is much less attractive, and lacks the intellectual rigor, of a finely crafted cursive script, which is then nicely illuminated and bound. Let's bring back [copyists].

I know you're being sarcastic, but you're about five centuries behind the curve on that particular observation. According to Benedictine abbot Johannes Trithemius, writing in his famous De laude scriptorum (In Praise of Scribes),
Printed books will never be the equivalent of handwritten codices....The simple reason is that copying by hand involves more diligence and industry.

The word written on parchment will last a thousand years ... The most you can expect a book of paper to survive is two hundred years. Yet, there are many who think they can entrust their works to paper. Only time will tell.
Those with a keen appreciation for irony will be pleased to know that the De laude, originally circulated in manuscript form in 1492, is well known largely because of the widespread 1494 circulation of a printed edition.
2.6.2008 11:51pm
K Parker (mail):
Earnest Iconoclast,

What a brilliant suggestion! Much more workable than my thoughts on how to achieve a similar result (which were more along the lines of preventing legislators from voting on any bill they hadn't read in its entirety, and if the resulting Yeas and Nays didn't add up to a quorum, it didn't pass.)
2.7.2008 12:09am
Ian Argent (www):
I know at least one law librarian who essentially has given over hardcopy in favor of electronic resources. OTOH, I understand he has negotiated a flat rate for nexis/westlaw; and also uses "free" resources when possible (and a lot of google). Surprisingly, old enough to be my father, and me in my 30s
2.7.2008 11:47am
autolykos:
Further to mugwump's point above, if Ms. Marcus or her employer don't think it's worth $213 to purchase a printed copy of the budget (and she's the one actually using it), why is it worth $213 to the American taxpayers?

There are good arguments for government expenditures that answer this question (incentivization of conduct, market failures, collective action, etc.). As far as I can tell, none of them apply here.
2.7.2008 3:27pm
Frietag (mail):
I've never been a "hard copy only" person, but lately I've begun to think that the book is here to stay. There are some cases where it's more convenient to have something physical -- something tactile -- to hold and touch. It makes it easier to remember if it's a dull subject, for me.

The other day I ran across an interesting quote about books by William Gibson. (Author of Neuromancer and overall, well, let's just say he is a very far-seeing fellow.)

From an interview with the Washington Post, that is very easy to find online:


"People are still asking me about the death of the book,' Gibson responds, "and yet here I am and every day I go out to the biggest bookstores that have ever existed and are doing the most business daily of any bookstores in history.

"It's the oldest and the first mass medium. And it's the one that requires the most training to access. Novels, particularly, require serious cultural training. But it's still the same thing -- I make black marks on a white surface and someone else in another location looks at them and interprets them and sees a spaceship or whatever. It's magic. It's a magical thing. It's very old magic, but it's very thorough. The book is very well worked out, somewhat in the way that the wheel is very well worked out."
2.8.2008 2:05pm