“CAN YOU PRINT IT OUT?” NO.
“Can you print it out?” is a question that belongs in the last century.
People ask this question a lot. They want to receive a paper manuscript, not an email attachment. Never mind that printing a manuscript is going to be a waste of anywhere from 100 pages to 1000 pages of paper, depending on the length of the work in question, how it’s spaced, and whether you printed single-sided. Never mind that it costs money (don’t even get me started on Kinko’s).
I used to think it was how “things were done.” Of course this editor wants 400 pages to arrive at her office in a heavy envelope via courier. It’s more legitimate. And it’s hard to read off a computer screen.
Well, no more. Let me assert a few things:
- It’s not that hard to read off a computer screen. I read a friend’s novel on my Blackberry a few months ago, as well as quite a few short stories. I also read 30+ TV scripts on my Blackberry this spring. And I’ve read numerous novels on my laptop, several recently. Friends’ novels and downloaded novels, like the Strugatskys’ Roadside Picnic. And, oh yeah, I spend like all day on the internet, or at least looking at some kind of screen–and so does most everyone else. Sorry, guys. Not a good excuse anymore. If your eyes are really, truly so sensitive to… pixels or… backlighting… that you can only read toner affixed to printer paper, then it’s on you to print out something that’s been emailed to you.
- It’s less convenient to lug around a manuscript than it is to transport your laptop, iPhone, iPad, or Blackberry. Two of those things fit in your pocket, and you’d be carrying them anyway. All four of them are, you know, a single object. A manuscript is ~400 individual flimsy things all in one floppy, bulky, unstable heap–perhaps bound by a rubber band, or contained within a bulging envelope or a clunky cardboard box. Is that really easier for you?
- It’s obnoxiously wasteful to print manuscripts. You have no excuse.
This goes for magazines that require print submissions, too, but that sort of goes without saying–we know they’re dinosaurs. Are there even any left? What I’m really talking about here are agents, editors, and friends.
I realize the logical endpoint of this whole argument is the death of print publishing as we know it. Am I fine with that? I’m not sure. But I’m getting there. In the meantime, just stop asking people to print it out for you.