The Writing's on the ... Facebook Wall?
Relax, doomsayers: the pen isn't going anywhere. After a brief spell of panic among the literati—spurred on by the rise of email, and text messaging, and a little thing called Twitter—it appears the impending "death of the written word" was a false alarm, an overreaction to an Internet culture that demanded its communication be delivered in 140 characters or less.
Sure, maybe the long-form, handwritten letter is a thing of the past, but books and magazines are still around, if in different or changing forms, and pen sales are good—very good. Writing instruments remain the second best-selling promotional products behind apparel, and according to the BBC News article, "Why Are Fountain Pen Sales Rising?", fountain pens, those bastions of antiquity, actually saw an increase in sales in 2012.
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"Technology has advanced rapidly in recent years. Pens may be used less frequently, but they are still a must-have item in everyday life," said Kevin Xiao, vice president of Ontario, California-based Atteff International. "You may not need to use a pen to write a long letter, but you'll still need it for writing a Christmas card, or for filling out a form, or to sign for a document."
And so it is: Technology has not rendered the pen useless so much as it has simply shifted the pen's primary uses. The Gutenberg press. The typewriter. The status update. All of that stuff revolutionized the way people wrote and communicated, but none of it was able to kill off pen-and-ink. Instead, pens simply filled the niches.
This is truer now more than ever. Online banking has reduced the need for paper checks, but every bank branch still has a majestic kiosk of Technicolor deposit and withdrawal slips. Smartphones offer apps for jotting memos, but you can write out three sticky notes before your app even loads. Classrooms are increasingly allowing laptops and tablets for note-taking, but try passing a "Do You Like Me? Yes or No" note through email. (It's not nearly as romantic.)