The Demise Of The Pen Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

I am as digitally entrenched as anyone I know. I work in IT, read all the tech news, buy the latest gadgets and apps, and am the neighborhood tech support guy. I love the digital world, but pen and paper are, and will always be, a huge part of my life.

My Twitter feed blew up tonight with links to a New York Times article by Nick Bilton titled "Fare Thee Well, My Pen." Mr. Bilton, it seems, is in love with his finger:

Unlike pens, fingers don’t run out of ink, they’re free and you always have one with you. I use mine to take notes on my phone, highlight books on my Kindle and draw pictures on my iPad. I don’t have to worry about losing this work because, unlike a piece of paper, my digital notes live in perpetuity online.

I, too, use my fingers quite frequently. They are pecking away at a keyboard typing up this post as a matter of fact. And yes, I would be sad if all of my digital notes up and vanished one day. But this digital form of expression is nothing compared to putting pen to paper.

Writing is more personal. It's more passionate. There is more meaning behind it. Writing a daily journal entry is cathartic. Sending a handwritten letter shows how much you care. I find it sad that Mr. Bilton's girlfriend will never find a handwritten love letter on her pillow. Maybe he can send her an email.

From a business perspective, he writes:

Not surprisingly, some pen makers have seen declines in the United States, including Bic, the maker of those iconic plastic disposable pens, which said sales of pens fell slightly last year.

Any reader of this blog needs only one guess as to why Bic's sales are down. Let me enlighten Nick: They make a bad product. There is a reason Microsoft is laying off thousands of people this week. Consumers vote with their wallets, and like Microsoft, Bic has lost touch with what consumers want.

My evidence is purely anecdotal, but from where I sit, the pen and paper industry is as strong as ever, especially for those willing to innovate. Yes, the traditional brick and mortar store has seen a huge decline, but that is not a problem limited to the pen industry. Online retailers are thriving more than ever, pen communities like this and others continue to grow, and new pen and paper addicts are being created daily.

Drew Magary, closet pen junkie, breaks down the entire Bilton article hilariously in a piece called "Asshole Cannot Find Pen; Writes Entire NYT Trend Piece About It", which is worth a few giggles.

I feel sad for Nick Bilton that he will not get to experience the joys of pen and paper for the rest of his life. Maybe I should send him a care package - with a hand written letter.

Posted on July 24, 2014 .