By Richard Romano on January 17th, 2013
Via BoSacks in the Twitterverse and on The Facebook Machine, Deborah Corn—who has been on the front line of the #Paperless 2013 contretemps (I suppose everything requires a # in front of it these days*)—addresses concerns that the printing industry is simply whining about the whole thing:
Google isn’t attacking anyone in the print, or paper industry, for that matter. This campaign is about office paperwork. It makes us seem like Luddites coming off so defensive!
It’s not a question of being defensive or of being Luddites. Personally, I have over the years reduced my use of paper, and not in all cases with any kind of long thought-out deliberation. Here are just three examples off the top of my head:
- I used to print Google Maps pages when driving to unfamiliar locations; now an iPhone app or GPS devices get me where I’m going and I still only occasionally get lost. Nothing to do with the environment or saving trees; it’s just more convenient. Also, too: the Elvis voice that you can import into the Waze GPS app is all kind of awesome.
- When I work on print projects, I proof copy predominantly on screen and exchange PDF proofs electronically. Have done for years. I do this not to protect the environment, but simply because it is faster and more convenient than overnighting or messengering hard copy proofs. Now, I do catch more errors when I print out proofs and read the hard copy, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on who has to make the corrections and how amenable they are to my comma-chasing.
- Whilst I have not officially signed up for any kind of paperless billing (I am happy to help keep some transactional printers in business), I do access statements and invoices online and pay most bills electronically. I do this not to save trees, but to save postage, and to save time, as electronic bill-pay is faster and more convenient, at least for me.
And so on. That all said, I still do use paper for a lot of purposes; I prefer to do crossword puzzles on paper, and you’ll have to pry printed books out of my cold dead hands (I really should do something about my poor blood circulation), but I confess that, more and more often, a lot of what I used to use paper for can be replaced by something electronic. Again, this has nothing to do with questions or perceptions of sustainability; it’s all about speed, convenience, and, like any media choice, personal preference.
Here’s an example. I am on the Board of Directors of the Saratoga Film Forum, my local art movie house (for which, by the way, I produce a bimonthly printed newsletter and maintain the Website; we are a cross-media organization), and the other day, several of us on the Board attended a tutorial session on the new database program we are using to manage our mailing list and memberships. Like most nearly 20-year-old databases, ours requires a lot of cleaning, de-duping, removing members for whom the end credits have rolled, so to speak, updating addresses and phone numbers, and so forth. Some of the Board members—over a certain age (i.e., older than me; I was the youngest person in the room, which should tell you something…)—preferred to print out the database and go through hard copies of the records looking for dupes and verifying information (“We need a few phone books,” was one comment, which amused me), even though it was demonstrated how easy it would be to clean up the records electronically. Again, no one broached the environment, just how they preferred to interact with content.
We all have our own media preferences, spawned from habit, comfort, and other factors.
The point is, we are not Luddites, and fighting back against Google is not a case of whining, but of setting the record straight, of countering misinformation:
If it matters to you that auto makers can’t make up how many miles per gallon their cars get and slap it into ads, or that cosmetic companies can’t make claims and then use retouching to show results, or that airlines now have to include all of their “hidden” fees in pricing, this situation is no different, and there are laws against it.
Exactly. It’s about truth in advertising, if nothing else. There are myriad reasons to not use print, just as, yes, there are myriad reasons to use print. Let’s just be clear about what those real reasons are.
* From the Going Green Font of Useless Knowledge (so to speak): what is now called a “hashtag” and is also referred to as the “pound sign” (except in Britain, where, obviously, that would be £), and in the dim and distant past was called the “number sign,” has also been called an “octothorpe” or, variously, “octatherp,” the latter of which is supposedly the proper spelling, at least if telephone patent documents constitute any etymological authority. Supposedly, the use of the word “octothorpe” (et al.) to refer to this thingey (#) was coined as a joke by Bell Labs engineers at the same time the asterisk (*) was referred to as a “sextile.” We thought you’d like to know.