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THE MYTH OF THE PAPERLESS WORLD

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 22, 2012

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)

For a society bent on becoming paperless I find it rather amusing that sales at corporate giant International Paper Company actually increased from $21.9B in 2006 to $25.1B in 2010. It doesn’t sound like the demand for paper is diminishing, does it? In reality, printing is being offset from one party to another. To illustrate, the many community and civic newsletters which used to clog our mail boxes have been replaced by PDF files which are commonly e-mailed or downloaded from web sites. People print them in part or in full as opposed to the publisher, thereby transferring publication costs to the consumer.

Financial institutions were quick to jump on the bandwagon. Most, if not all banks in this country have abandoned printing and mailing monthly statements thereby forcing the consumer to print them instead. Reluctantly, they’ll still mail you statements if you must have them, but they desperately want to get out of the printing business. The government has followed suit. Whereas taxpayers used to get their IRS booklets and forms through the mail, now the consumer is expected to download and print it themselves. No wonder the United States Postal Service is going broke, there is nothing to mail anymore.

Our company has maintained a post office box for a number of years now. In the past we could count on receiving at least 100 pounds of junk mail annually, but this has dropped off substantially. Now we barely get a post card. Instead, our e-mail queues are overloaded with spam despite the blockers we have in place. If we find an ad for something we are interested in, we’ll dutifully print it (not the retailer).

Perhaps the two biggest areas of e-paper is in travel reservations and retail sales. For example, airline tickets in the past were printed and mailed to you. Now, the consumer is expected to print them instead. The same amount of paper is produced, only you are paying for it. Retail sales are no different; the consumer must print a receipt if he is so inclined, not the vendor.

When you walk into an office supply store, one of the biggest items commanding your attention are the skids of stock paper available to you. Somebody must be buying all this paper, and most likely it is the consumer as opposed to businesses who have it delivered directly to their offices. Aside from paper sales, the sale of printers, cartridges, and paper shredders are also doing well, thereby indicating a robust print industry is still alive and well.

The transition of printing costs directly impacts your cost of living. Sure, paper is relatively cheap, but the cost of printers and ink cartridges add up over a year’s time. Going paperless may reduce the costs of the organization producing the documents, but it certainly adds to the cost of the consumer, such is the price of progress I guess. No wonder sales at International Paper is increasing unabated. Maybe the folks at Dunder-Miflin are on to something after all (from NBC’s “The Office”).

So, is the world really going paperless? Ask International Paper.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to “THE MYTH OF THE PAPERLESS WORLD”

  1. […] Source Article from https://bryceisright.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/the-myth-of-the-paperless-world/ […]

    Like

  2. Tim Bryce said

    An S.F. of West Chester, Ohio wrote…

    “So true!”

    A J.D. of Columbus, Ohio wrote…

    “Well I don’t travel very often–so maybe one airline ticket every two years? I can afford that. Work reimburses me for ink, toner, paper etc., for printing my on the job requirements–no problem there. As for online statements, I actually print them into a pdf file. I select print–then Print into PDF function on my computer. I rarely print anything onto paper, not even personal stuff. I also homeschool, and there is printing involved sometimes there (they send all workbooks–so not a lot of printing) and for that I don’t mind. The only thing I do print is a few coupons. And since the Sunday paper is now $2.00 or $2.50—it isn’t worth to buy it to get a bunch of printed coupons, 90% of which are useless to me. That said— I do see what you mean–about passing the buck to the consumers. Just because I don’t happen to print much, doesn’t mean other don’t print EVERYTHING (at the cost of ink these days–how can they afford it?)”

    A J.P. of Toronto, Ontario wrote…

    “Good article. One central theme emerges: the computer and electronic communications revolution has NOT reduced the over-all demand for paper, rather the contrary. This result is counter-intuitive, and was not I think predicted by the futurists of the past. As Robert A. Heinlein once observed, ‘The future ain’t what is used to be.'”

    An A.B. of Oxford, England, UK wrote…

    “Computers were suppose to be the CURE-ALL. BE-ALL: remedy for all ills : panacea · to paperless society, and PAPER says, How’s That Changey Thing working out? It isn’t! and PAPER says Miss Me Yet?”

    A J.S. of Arizona wrote…

    “In some ways I think computers just increased the need for paper with all the new information available, neat charts and reports to print out and pass around at meetings, display, etc. I note the need for better, faster, collate/sort and staple copy machines increased at the same time we were going paperless with PCs, LOL! I suppose in many ways some paper was no longer needed, but avenues for more increased.”

    An A.L. of Geneva, Switzerland wrote…

    “Great article. I’m glad somebody pointed it out.

    I would like to add that many people keep printing the e-mails they receive, just to read them offline. Sometimes a couple of time, because they lost the first copy, or they used it as draft paper for some notes during a phone call. This is in total opposition to the original concept of e-mail. Let’s face it: an e-mail is 100% made of recycled electrons. This is extremely ecological compared to any type of paper (even recycled one, which has to be somehow whitened with solvents before it can be used). The list of printing abuses could go on forever, I prefer to stop here.

    BTW, thanks for your columns, not just this one. I always follow you with interest.”

    A J.T. of Michigan wrote…

    “I’m taking the moment to concur with your assessment of the paperless world. I think you put it very well. I’ve started using the small external drive to store the reports that are of some importance in an effort to curtail the printing and storing of paper documents. I expect to expand on this and hopefully in time I’ll eliminate the dependence of paper documents. I spoke to you before about the ‘cloud computing’ and at the time your advice was to stay away from it. Well, I have had no problem staying way but I can see in time we may well be forced or corralled into the use of just such document storage. Just how long will there be a ‘Don’t show me this again’ window?”

    A B.H. of Boulder, Colorado wrote…

    “I suspect the NOOK and KINDLE sales as well as the iPad and other similar products are beginning to become more popular, and when we finally get to the point that “BOOKS” are more popular on these devices than in your hands, we might be on the tipping point for truly going paperless.”

    An M.B. of Clearwater, Florida wrote…

    “I sure can relate to this one!

    1. The “I showed up at work, what more do you want….now where’s my raise?” generation is now doing all the clerical jobs, and they make so many mistakes (and issue no apologies for them), that I have to make phone calls on every 3rd bill we recieve and take names and save them on the papers with the errors so I can prove the resolution, in case they make another mistake next month.

    2. As my husband says, if cars behaved like computers, we’d still be riding horses. I have to keep a paper backup of everything important, and a huge file of alphabetized user names and passwords to all the sites that we have used, use now, or may use again some day. I need a paper back up of my email address book because people change their email addresses so darn often that I can’t be backing it up on discs every five minutes. Good old paper and pen is faster.

    3. Our CPA requires me to send him paper business bank statements monthly. I can’t afford them, since the bank charges plenty for them now. So, as you said, I must print them myself and fax them to the CPA.

    There’s more, but you get the point. That’s why you wrote the article!” 🙂

    A J.S. of Skidway Lake, Michigan wrote…

    “This is spot on, Tim. More companies are changing their policies to shift the work onto the consumer. When I was dealing with the car insurance company after both our car accident and my dad’s, I downloaded, printed, filled in, copied and mailed many documents. I also took the pictures of the wrecked cars. I began to wonder exactly what the paid employees do to earn their paychecks with me doing all the work. I even asked a company rep that very question and she took offense. The truth hurts. In retrospect, I realize I should have billed the company for the work I did. Just the photos I took, printed and mailed should have been worth $500. Printer ink has become so expensive! The last time we bought a printer it cost $28, including both black and color inks. It is actually cheaper to buy a new printer with ink than to buy more cartridges.”

    An A.M. of Wisconsin wrote…

    “I don’t think we will ever be paper free! But I do like paper, some time I miss writing and will sit down and purposely hand write letters and lists. It is so easy to get sucked into technology and computers.”

    Like

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