"Images on electronic screens have always been harder to read than those printed on paper."
So begins the interview article on Prof. Lorne Whitehead's development of a new form of electronic paper in the Dec. '03/Jan. '04 issue of American Democraphics magazine (online for subscribers only). Whitehead's advance is said to be "whiter looking than any previous reflective electronic display" and has "the appearance of an image on paper, runs on less power and can be viewed under a wider variety of light conditions."
The problem of screen resolution certainly remains a major reason why information technology has not displaced print-on-paper for capturing, displaying, and transferring knowledge. The article asserts that this new e-paper has "no known problems yet" as its developers work toward bringing applications to market. But by focusing on current technologies like e-book readers, PDAs, and laptops, it fails to address another fundamental disadvantage of electronic displays: the inability to display information side-by-side to allow comparisons and relationships to emerge. For more on the advantages and disadvantages of paper vs. electronic devices, read Sellen & Harper, The Myth of the Paperless Office (MIT Press, paperback ed. 2003).
This debate is important to lawyers as communicators and to their KM programs, since the "solution" providers continue to push technology-centered packages. Shouldn't we start with how humans think, learn, communicate, and draw on their knowledge to solve problems, rather than asking what can the latest gizmo do?