Submitted: The Two Sides Team June 3, 2012
GreenBiz has an article about the currentand futurestate of the so-called paperless office, the quixotic attempt to rid our lives of the printed documents that clutter our lives, desks, and filing cabinets.
By Richard Romano on May 15th, 2012
GreenBiz has an article about the currentand futurestate of the so-called paperless office, the quixotic attempt to rid our lives of the printed documents that clutter our lives, desks, and filing cabinets. Weve ambled down this road before, but I was intrigued by the release of a new Send to Kindle Mac app (there is a version for the PC that was released a few weeks earlier) thatas the name indicatesadds a send to Kindle option to a documents Print dialog box which will then sync the document to a Kindle e-reader. (I cant speak for the PC, but the Mac OS has long had a Save As PDF option, which I use to send documents to my iPad.)
The GreenBiz article also identifies other software options that help reduce and eliminate home/office print jobs.
As I have said many times before, the environmental benefits of reducing or eliminating print and paper are not especially clear, and are often rather dubious, but the danger is conflating other benefits of reducing print and paper with environmental benefits:
Although Noonan says more and more universities do have committees interested in the environmental benefits of saving paper, the first order of business is saving time and money. To wit, the University of Oregon saved $200,000 by eliminating paper course/faculty reviews (and scanning costs/labor). The University of Washingtons online admissions system helped it avoid having to send 30,000 pieces of mail.
If there is a drive toward a paperless office (or, more likely, a more modest less-paper office) its being driven by cost, convenience, and de-cluttering, and not so much by green concerns. And thats fine. Chacun à son goût. (Studies have found that even people who opt for paperless billing often end up printing out the invoices themselves. So, basically, the cost of printing has been shifted from the invoicer to the invoicee. Clever of them, eh? I think of this as a hidden fee so I still refuse to choose paperless statements.)
Are we inching closer to a paperless office? I doubt it, but:
According to the GreenBiz State of the Paper Industry 2011 report, total paper consumption in North America declined 24 percent between 2006 and 2009, and per-capita consumption of paper in North America dropped from more than 652 pounds per year in 2005 to 504 pounds per year in 2009.
The tipping point may be reached thanks to tablet computers. If the paperless office has been a pipe dream (with potent stuff in that pipe), perhaps that has only been because the options have been less than satisfactory. Remember the cardinal rule for any disruptive technology, as Dr. Joe and I discussed in Disrupting the Future: it must provide a better experience for the user than what it is replacing. Electronic documents on a PC may not have cut it, but files and apps on tablets? Maybe:
In a recent Forrester Research survey of IT decision makers, 93 percent expected their administrative professionals and knowledge workers to consume or create content on tablets by 2013, and its becoming increasingly more common for companies and institutions to supply employees with a tablet of some sort.
Again, think of this as a way for businesses to cut costs, not save the planet.