Great Debate: The paperless society: Are we there yet?

Moderated by Lawrence Dignan | November 21, 2011 -- 06:00 GMT (22:00 PST)

Summary: Everywhere you look, where paper once thrived it now doesn’t, argues Chris Jablonski. Counters Chris Dawson: We're not there, and there's no excuse for it.

Chris Jablonski

Chris Jablonski

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Not there yet

Christopher Dawson

Christopher Dawson

Best Argument: Not there yet

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

Where did all the paper go

Chris Jablonski: Sorry folks, mashed tree pulp is going the way of the dinosaurs in a world where digitization has a tyrannosaurus-sized appetite. 

Everywhere you look, where paper once thrived it now doesn’t. Cash is increasingly a number on a screen, airlines push online check-ins, people send e-cards, and companies manage hard drives in lieu of filing cabinets.
 
E-readers like the Kindle, tablets like the iPad, and other devices are reshaping all corners of the publishing industry. Consumers are fueling a meteoric rise in e-books and other content accessed via digital subscriptions. Meanwhile, eHealth is pushing medical records to computers, vastly cutting out paper waste. 
 
It won’t stop there. Everyday, we learn about new e-paper technologies that mix the qualities of paper with the interactivity and durability of touchscreens. For traditional paper, this is the final nail in the coffin.
 
Like a stealthy ninja, technology that displaces paper-based communications are now diffusing throughout society, largely unnoticed. One day...voila, we’ll look around and ask, “Hey, where did all the paper go?”
 

We're dismally far from being paperless

Chris Dawson: A paperless society? Really? Despite the ubiquity of the iPad, the evolution of the smartphone, and the emergence of a $199 tablet designed specifically around buying and consuming digital, rather than paper, content, we're dismally far from being paperless. Newspapers abound, magazines that should long ago have moved online line the shelves at bookstores, and my kids still come home with paper notices from school. 

Sure, print media are struggling, but they should have been dead years ago. A local prep school came under fire on the national news for converting its unused library into a heavily used media center and the catalogs and junk mail that fill my PO Box make great firestarters on these chilly New England nights. Even ThinkGeek sends me paper catalogs.
 
No, we haven't gone paperless yet. And, quite frankly, on the eve of 2012, this is an utterly unacceptable state of affairs.
 
 
 

Talkback

46 comments
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  • RE: Great Debate: The paperless society: Are we there yet?

    [b]CAN[/b] we go paperless?

    Yes. Absolutely. No question about it. We have the technology. We have the ability. I do everything possible to keep everything I do paperless.

    [b]ARE[/b] we paperless?

    No. We're not. I still have to deal with a lot of paper from people and companies that, to this day, refuse to put their stuff online. I still have to deal with printing, scanning, and *shudders* faxing.

    We are the most technologically advanced civilization in the world - why do I still have to deal with stubborn people who demand paper? And why are businesses of any description still using faxes?

    It's 2011, not 1991. Get with the program, people. Let me be paperless if I want X(.

    We [b]should[/b] be a paperless society, but sadly we're not. Not there yet :(.
    CobraA1
    Reply Vote I'm for Not there yet
    • RE: Great Debate: The paperless society: Are we there yet?

      @CobraA1 It's called freedom. Quit trying to impose your hatred of paper on the rest of us. I don't want to need a device and power source to read, when all I need is a printed page. PERIOD. Get over it.

      I"m for "Not there yet, and hope we never will be".
      Techboy_z
      Reply Vote I'm for Not there yet
      • RE: Great Debate: The paperless society: Are we there yet?

        @techboy_z

        Why not? The fact is that sometimes, people need a kick in the butt to stop being wasteful (ala with the CFL vs. incandescent debate) with energy, resources, etc.

        We need to start realizing that non-hard copies of stuff are usually good enough. Just printing them out or handing them to a judge makes them legally admissible in a court of law, so that throws one common argument against going paperless out the window.
        Lerianis10
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • RE: Great Debate: The paperless society: Are we there yet?

        @techboy_z It's not hatred, it's efficiency. Paper wastes space and wastes time.
        CobraA1
        Reply Vote I'm for Not there yet
      • RE: Great Debate: The paperless society: Are we there yet?

        @Lirianis and Cobra: Efficiency? Doing my reading electronically wastes more energy than reading my paperbacks. I don't have to recharge my books for a reread. And I don't have to mine metals and make plastics for a new computer/tablet/e-reader every couple years. You should be made aware that trees are a renewable resource and printed copies that last decades are much lighter on the environment compared to the materials for your e-reader, the power to build it, ship it, and continually use it.
        Techboy_z
        Reply Vote I'm for Not there yet
      • RE: Great Debate: The paperless society: Are we there yet?

        "Doing my reading electronically wastes more energy than reading my paperbacks."<br><br>With a proper eBook reader using electronic ink, a single charge lasts a month or more. You'll likely use less electricity reading a book on a Kindle than producing a book in a printing press.<br><br>And I wasn't talking about efficiency in terms of electrical use anyways, I was talking about it in terms of productivity. I can be far more productive with electronic devices than with paper.<br><br>And I really wasn't talking about ebooks anyways - I don't even own an ebook reader.<br><br>"You should be made aware that trees are a renewable resource and printed copies that last decades"<br><br>99% of what I do on paper doesn't need to last decades. It's mostly just procedure stuff that I wish would go away anyways.<br><br>"are much lighter on the environment compared to the materials for your e-reader, the power to build it, ship it, and continually use it."<br><br>Can you back this up with facts?<br><br>As far as the materials go, I plan on recycling, should I get an ebook reader.<br><br>As far as building it and shipping it goes, those are one time costs. Not to mention books have shipping costs too! You need to ship EVERY BOOK. With an ebook reader, you only need to ship the device. The books are downloaded, not shipped.<br><br>As far as using it goes, a proper ebook reader using electronic ink uses only a tiny bit of electricity.<br><br>Not to mention that I'm not talking about books and e-readers anyways. I'm talking about forms, procedures, checklists, etc. Productivity stuff.
        CobraA1
        Reply Vote I'm for Not there yet
    • RE: Great Debate: The paperless society: Are we there yet?

      @CobraA1

      If we have to ask, then we're not
      Fat Albert 1
      Reply Vote I'm for Not there yet
  • RE: Great Debate: The paperless society: Are we there yet?

    It's a good thing that it hasn't come to pass.

    Once it happens it will be the "beginning of the end" of our civilization.
    All it would take is one "once-in-a-100,000-years" solar storm and we can kiss our electronic data goodbye.

    Allegedly NASA has reels of magnetic tape, which have data on them, but nobody can retrieve the info because the machines that could read them are all gone.

    Show me a 2000 year old HDD, which still has readable data on it and I might change my mind.
    lehnerus2000
    Reply Vote I'm for Not there yet
    • NASA and paperless

      When the Apollo era J2 engines were built, all the data was stored on paper (mostly lost), punch cards and magnetic tape. The new Space Launch System uses a modified J2-X engine. Necessity, ingenuity and panic and do a lot to overcome obstacles. <br>Our government and military as well as many businesses from banks, aerospace firms, newspapers and manufacturers invested heavily in computers back when they took up whole buildings. Even though they have data on old material those entities still operate just fine (except for the government part, but that's a different discussion).<br>Can we go paperless, yes... will we, no.
      Unkk
      Reply Vote I'm for Not there yet
  • Long live PAPER

    Not everyone can afford the technology to go paperless. That's what gives the printed media sources alive. Long live PAPER!
    bonespiel@...
    Reply Vote I'm for Not there yet