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The Paperless Paper Revolution

25 Oct 2008 | | 7 Comments

The biggest problem with the implementation of the Paperless Office is that we tried to run before we could walk. That is to say, we tried to go paperless, before we had a compelling alternative to paper.

I think you’ll all agree that lugging around an awkwardly sized, and piping hot, laptop everywhere you go, just isn’t practical. And if it ain’t practical, it ain’t going nowhere.

In fact, it’s quite unreasonable and unrealistic, to ask someone to desist from using paper entirely —  including paper books — given that the experience and convenience of dealing with paper is far superior.

The good news however, is that the winds of change are beginning to blow through our homes and offices, and we’ll soon be able to change that “is” to a “was”. Why am I so confident? Well a number of reasons really.

Electronic Reading Devices

Given the recent onslaught of a new breed of electronic reading devices — the Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, iRex Digital Reader, Readius, Astak Mentor, BeBook Reader and Cybook G — it’s reasonable to assume that these companies think that e-book reading devices have a bright future. Indeed it looks like they are on the verge of engaging in a battle that resembles the early PC wars for the hearts and minds (but mainly cash) of John and Jane Doe.

Battles aside, this is great news. The more competitors in the market the better. Hopefully this hot competition will produce the electronic reading device that seals the deal — a device so easy-to-use and convenient that it makes reading a paper book feel positively outdated. 

Electronic Paper and Digital Paper

Devices like the Kindle and Sony Reader are great, but they aren’t enough. In order for paper to be completely replaced, we need to save a replacement that closely mimics its properties. That’s where e-paper and digital paper come in. Unlike electronic reading devices, electronic paper and digital paper are attempts at replacing the real thing. In general terms electronic paper attempts to mimic the look of ordinary ink on paper, while  digital paper attempts to replicate the action of writing on paper.

Imagine a sheet of e-paper that for all intents and purposes looks like regular old tree paper. It’s lightweight, it’s bendy, it’s durable — except, it’s different. Not only does it let you write, by hand, as much as you want — when you get to the bottom of a page you just have to virtually flick on over to the next page — but it also lets you load up previously saved documents. It’s a briefcase, except it’s as thick as a sheet of paper.

We aren’t quite there yet, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. The Plastic Logic Reader is one example — in a recent BBC article they looked at how Plastic Logic is leading the charge in coming up with a paper killer.

The e-Generation

Some argue that the move to less paperless world is a generational thing. That it will only be achieve when the YouTube generation, who presumably aren’t as attached to paper books, grow up and take the lead. Maybe this is the case, but I also think that even baby boomers will want to make the switch in a few years, when the technology catches up with our needs.

For me, the switch to paperless paper is inevitable — and if you think that we’re still going to be using paper in 2020, like we currently do, then I — well I just don’t agree with you. It’s true, old habits die hard, but this habits days are truly numbered.

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  • Ian P. Christian said:

    Thanks for the article. You’re right that eInk isn’t quite the same as paper, obviously. It is however the best that we have right now on the market. It’s certainly going to be interesting to see how well this industry plays out in the next 2 years. You link to an article ‘who needs a kindle, when you’ve got an Eee PC’, I can only assume that the poster hasn’t seen eInk in person. I didn’t understand the hype till I actually saw one, the screen is amazing. I have a review including a 10 minute video of the BeBook in action on my site, which hopefully might help people to get a feel for them. Having said that, I urge people not to form a full opinion of the devices till you have actually held one – go find a local store that sells any of the devices and see the screen. One you’ve done that, buy the BeBook, cos it’s the best there is at the moment 🙂


  • Rowan Hanna said:

    Thanks for putting together the video. I hadn’t seen the BeBook in action before that. It looks great, and so does eInk. The next few years will be very exciting…

    Re: the ‘Who needs a Kindle when you’ve got an Eee PC’ article was mainly highlighting the qualities of sub-notebooks like the Eee PC, which can potentially be used as e-book reading devices, if you don’t mind reading of a computer screen.

    On another note, I think that we’ll continue to see a divergence between electronic reading devices and laptops over the next few years, but as computer hardware continues to be miniaturized, we’ll see these sort of devices converge once again into super devices — there’s only so many devices we can carry around after all.

  • Rowan Hanna said:

    Bits, a NY Times blog, looks at a paper-like computer display that Hewlett-Packard and Arizona State University have created.

    This is the sort of thing that will ultimately replace paper as we know it today.

  • Plastic Logic Reader Prototype 2 Demo’d At CES 2009 said:

    […] the release of the Plastic Logic Reader and other devices like it. In my opinion they will make the paperless paper dream a reality. Just have to wait until 2010. Hmm. Related PostsDemo of the Plastic Logic electronic […]

  • Digital Documents - a blog with an electronic document theme | Debenu Blog said:

    […] The Paperless Paper Revolution This entry was written by Rowan Hanna, posted on October 26, 2008 at 7:13 am, filed under News and tagged benubird pro, digital documents, Document Management, e-books, electronic document blog, electronic reading device. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « Need A Good Personal Document Management Solution? Benubird Pro Mentioned In The Financial Review » […]

  • Gressey Bryant said:

    Mr.Hanna the electronic paper comment regarding developing epaper to look like the real paper (pre-printed and made from pulp) you purchase, I have developed the technology you speak of in your article above. Please go to my website and test your reality and see if my Paperless Paper technology meets the standards you site in your article. Website: http://www.inxcelepaper.com send me your comments.

  • Rowan Hanna (author) said:

    Hi Gressey,

    Do you have a trial product that can be downloaded?

    – Rowan.

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