To Print or Not To Print

It was a number of years ago that I stopped printing out copies of my books, for a couple different reasons. My storage space was, and still is, minimal, and I thought the space I’d need for future manuscripts could best be used otherwise. Ecologically, my print-outs could be viewed as a waste of paper/trees; after all, I had the original documents on computer and if I needed a hard copy, I could always print one at some future time.

This last notion turned out to be a big mistake.

I’ve run into a streak of bad luck with files saved on the computer or flash drives lately. Did you know that flash drives and external hard drives have a life expectancy of about 5 years? An IT person who’d helped me when my digital camera ate all my photos had warned me of that, probably about 5 years ago, but I didn’t listen then, and I’m sorry now. I’m having files go corrupt on me right and left. And then there’s file content that has just disappeared. I’d done a complete edit of a book and was going to take one last look at it before I uploaded it to KDP. I opened the file, and nothing was there. That was okay, I reassured myself, because I save things to more than one place in lieu of printing anything. I had it on a flash (only it had disappeared there), I had it on the hard drive, and I had it on an external hard drive.

Only I didn’t.

All three files were there by name, but were completely blank when I opened them. I ran searches, hoping I’d find the files mis-saved somewhere, but nothing ever showed up. And I didn’t have a hard copy. Fortunately, I had once taken my flash drive to work to use that computer to do something and had saved a copy of the file there. It wasn’t an edited version but at least it was a copy I could use to start over. If I’d had to rewrite that book, I don’t think I could have done it. As it was, it probably took me six weeks to redo the editing/rewriting I’d already done.

I had another file that went corrupt in a strange manner; most of the file is there, but there are big gaps in it just containing computer gobbley-gook. I’ve printed out what text I have, but I haven’t had the heart to see if I can recreate the missing portions.

Then, just this week, I turned on the computer, ready to do my writing for the day. I went to the end of the file of my WIP and something was wrong. I’d had a stellar day the day before and produced far beyond my usual word count.

Only now it wasn’t there. Seventeen pages gone.

I held my breath as I closed that file and opened the file on my external hard drive. The pages were there! Big sigh of relief.

All this has started me rethinking going without printing a manuscript and trusting the computer to have it there and waiting for me. I’m even thinking along the lines of printing my output on a daily basis, because if I have a case of a full or partially disappearing manuscript again, at least I’d have a way to reproduce it. Yes, it would be a pain to have to retype it into the computer, but far less of a pain than having to recreate it from scratch.

There’s got to be a way I can make up that paper use ecologically. Or maybe I already am. E-books don’t use up any trees, after all.

So consider printing to be on the safe side. And keep track of how old your flash drives and external hard drives are. Apparently the IT guy did know what he was talking about.

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