We will wage this war for paper to its bitter end…
Before I get to the point, I need to give you a little context. I work at Y Soft Corporation, a Czech company which is one of the leading producers of Enterprise Office Workflows and Print Management. What does it mean? It means that we help employees be more productive by automating things which involve printing and document capture.
People sometimes ask me what will we do, when everything goes paperless. It seems only natural, that a company which grew in printing business (sort of) will try to defend and even endorse printing and paper. I also recently had the opportunity to speak about Digital Transformation in companies at a local IDC event and these two go hand in hand.
I can tell you that our business is not about printing and paper consumption. We can have this argument for hours and hours and in the end, it does not really matter. We are not fighting the war for paper, finding new ways why, how and what to print. We are actually leading the paperless transformation as any sane vendor in this market is trying to do. So does it mean that the case for paper is really lost?
First of all, to understand where we are, we need to measure paper consumption. It is interesting to see, that for example, printer toner - the dust which fuels your printing is one of the most precious and expensive commodities on Earth. Printer Ink or Toner is more expensive than Vintage Champagne or Gold (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/9700365/How-much-did-you-say-it-was.html). While we made some progress, the cost did not drop significantly since 2012. This means that it is not only the cost and impact of paper production that is driving paperless adoption.
You may say as I used to, that nobody has beaten the convenience of reading from paper yet. The innovations in electronic ink and other types of displays, as well as their adoption seem to disagree. However, paper is still a viable way to store information: nobody can remotely crack into it and alter its contents. If stored properly, it does not decay with time (what is the real lifespan of your HDD or SDD?) and is not threatened by power surges or EMP blasts. And if it is Tree-free paper, even better.
I actually believe that we are heading toward a paper-realistic office than to a paperless office in the end. I believe that betting too much on paperless enablers will prove too risky in the long run. This may sound awkward from a geek, but it is technology after all. And it has its problems and dynamics and we should focus on long and mid-term perspectives when storing and archiving information.
Nevertheless, we will fight for being at the forefront of this, not fighting against it.