When the Sony Digital Paper concept was first unveiled, it sounded as if it might have valuable applications in the publishing world, in which pen-on-paper editing is still a necessary evil (benefit?). But on closer inspection, it looks like we’re more likely to use Digital Paper as a casserole-warmer.
First, a little background: while most editing is done onscreen these days, directly in Word or whatever editing software one prefers, page proofs (the full-size pdfs of designed text that are one step away from printing) are still checked on paper, so that the proofreader can spot design and printing gaffs as well as text issues. The proofreader will manually mark up the proofs – with a blue pencil, if you must know – and then the publisher will input the changes into the digital design file, most often Adobe InDesign. If you think this process is ripe for streamlining, you are absolutely correct, and not only because posting a 600-page manuscript by overnight express is hella costly.
Enter the Sony Digital Paper tablet, which is basically a pdf-only e-reader that can be scribbled on. Doesn’t being able to mark up digital pdfs and then email them to wherever they need to be sound exciting? Cost- and time-saving? Life-saving?! Of course it sounds great, but it doesn’t look like Digital Paper is going to deliver.
Clocking in at a ridiculous $1,100 (£660), Digital Paper is insanely overpriced for the average consumer – let alone the business model – and it’s doubtful that anyone would chose it over a tablet half the price with double the capabilities, such as the iPad, Galaxy and every other tablet on the market today. In the publishing world, freelance editors who haven’t enjoyed a wage increase for over twenty years (don’t get us started) would all of sudden be expected to hand over a month’s pay for a device they could only use for one thing. And even that one thing has limited capabilities, because Digital Paper is A4-sized, which means it could only be used to edit books with pages A4-sized or smaller. Many migraine-suffering editors will agree that the E-ink display is an obvious plus, but when the alternative is paper, E-ink loses its legibility advantage.
Maybe someday a lone group of rogue editors will band together to integrate the paper and digital aspects of editing, because Sony definitely hasn’t. And when that day comes, we hope they use an enormous floodlight with a book-symbol as their calling card.