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“There is Also the Fact That Paper is Awesome”

by Craig Roth  |  September 19, 2016  |  Comments Off on “There is Also the Fact That Paper is Awesome”

OK, this time we’re finally going to be doing away with paper in the office. The end of paper has been trumpeted for decades, but this time – if you believe The Wall St. Journal (“Why the Paperless Office Is Finally on Its Way“) – it’s finally going to happen.

But even the author has to acknowledge that paper is tough to beat:

“There is also the fact that paper is awesome. It is the only input and display technology we have that weighs almost nothing, costs pennies, is readable in almost any light, and doesn’t require an internet connection. It is the epitome of portability and durability.”

This “Lego Movie”-esque analysis is a good summary of what digital text is up against. Sellen and Harper had already caught onto the undying “affordances” of paper (what it provides that digital representations cannot) in their seminal book “The Myth of the Paperless Office.” Incidentally, the book is available in paperback or Kindle format, so place your vote with your credit card! A Cliff’s Notes type of summary is available here.

As much as I enjoy reading in many digital forms, I have to side with Sellen and Harper. Use of paper will decline, but getting much below 50% of its high point is unlikely.

My reasoning is that people don’t have to choose. This isn’t a presidential election where one must win and the other sulks away. Digital and paper-based texts each have their advantages and disadvantages; users have their preferences of where and how they like to read. Publishers of books, bills, and documents can hedge their bets – like the publishers of “The Myth of the Paperless Office” do – and leave the choice up to consumers.

Add all those reasons up and you’ll see it is a bit too early to plant a cardboard tombstone in the ground just yet.

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Category: cloud-office  content-creation  digital-workplace  information-work  

Craig Roth
Research VP, Tech and Service Providers
7 years at Gartner
28 years IT industry

Craig Roth is a Research Vice President focused on cloud office suites, collaboration tools, content management, and how they are being impacted by digital workplace and digital business trends...Read Full Bio

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