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A Paperless Future?

In writing a blog about the convergence of media and technology, there are so many places to start. I’ve chosen to start with one of the oldest media known to man, paper.

In the 60’s, talk about the future paperless office was all the rage. With computers, paper was going to go away and everything was going to be electronic. As a recent column in The Economist observed, "the global consumption of office paper more than doubled in the last two decades".  It turned out that it was not enough to have the technology, the people who were using it were printing out more things than ever. Not to mention the older, technophobic bosses who had their e-mails printed out by their assistants to read on the train, scribbling their responses back rather than actually use email. They go on to point out that the use of paper in the office is just now starting to wane and is a function of the sociological change of the younger generation growing in responsibilities.

This last point is exemplified by a recent strip in the daily comic, Zits. Having a teen age son, this comic strip has always resonated with me. Check out the strip from last week with two kids twittering to each other and one telling the other that he’d heard that kids used to write notes on paper and secretly pass them around in class, BT (before twitter). 

So, will paper eventually disappear? Will we all go out and buy Kindles or something similar? 

I don’t think so. As a person who embraces new technology, I still like the feel of some things in magazine form. And as I feel my 18 year old represents to some degree "the test market of the future", I appreciate that he still looks at magazines, even though most of them are game and music pubs.

For the last few years I’ve felt that the work that Anoto is doing with digital pen and paper will keep paper alive. I look forward to the day when my physical magazine has digitized paper. The dream is that we’ll be able to check off information in a box on the ad page with our digital pen and get the information in our email next time we log on. Whatever happens, it is going to be an interesting ride.