The Paperless Society

working in a paperless officeThis article is contributed by Brian Prowse.

You’ve seen the commercials on TV. Everyone sitting around the conference table during an office meeting are using tablets instead of paper.  The message? The paperless office is here.  Trees everywhere celebrate. But is this an accurate vision of the future? Will there ever be a paperless society? Will offices ever be able to make due without a paper trail?

Probably not. Even with smart phones and the cloud that free us to conduct our business anywhere, it appears we will be chained to our printers for years to come. In fact, the use of mobile devices may solidify the future of printing as a mainstay in our business economy. However, if declining newspaper sales are any indication, the popularity of the printed page is taking a nosedive.

The introduction of mobile tablets has brought about a reduction in the amount of printing. However, it hasn’t been enough to cause the printed page’s demise, nor does it look like it will anytime soon. Nonetheless, more people today are as or more comfortable reading from a screen than they are from the printed page.

Unfortunately for trees, many people still prefer to read their documents from the printed page.  As a reference, Xerox states that 40 percent of the documents printed in the office are only looked at once, and then are discarded or recycled. This is a massive waste of resources and revenue, particularly when it is estimated that between 1 and 3 percent of a company’s revenues are spent on printing operations.

Even so, the futuristic vision of where everyone uses their mobile devices to pull up the same document via PDF or by some other electronic format hasn’t materialized.  Typically, even if everyone in the meeting is carrying a mobile device with them, there is a need for the meeting notes to be printed out so everyone stays on task, err… on the same page so to speak.

Another reason printing will be around for a while is that large businesses still prefer to put things on paper. Paper is viewed as a safer form of backup. Large documents are also easier to read and review in print. Additionally, the huge increase in digital content will likely trigger a relative increase in printed material.

The future of paper

It seems that paper will be with us for a while yet. And experts at Xerox see that as an opportunity to change the paper people read rather than attempting to get them to quit using it. As a result, they have come up with ‘erasable paper.’

Erasable paper would be printed on using a special printer. After approximately 16 -24 hours, the printed image would disappear. The ink might also be erased by heating the paper. Using either method, paper which is typically only viewed once and tossed could be reused. Researchers from Nortwestern University are also working on a plastic sheet of ‘paper’ that accepts color printing that also disappears after a set amount of time.

Author Bio: Brian Prowse is a writer and self-proclaimed tech geek. He writes for sites such as that specializes in HP toner cartridges. When he’s not writing or playing around with the coolest gadgets on the market, Brian enjoys travelling and graphic design.

Photo credit: ‘working in a paperless office’ image courtesy of Jisc via photopin cc

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