A paperless society

That’s what computers were going to give us, remember?  It didn’t exactly happen that way.  I used to do billing for a medical office, and the boss required hard copies of everything – so every paper claim had to be copied.  We billed Medicare electronically, and you’d think that might be paperless, but no – each single claim generated 3 pieces of paper.  We were killing more trees billing electronically than we were with paper claims.

I think as people start getting more used to using computers, and therefore trusting them and their backup systems more, we may be getting closer to paperless.  Part of it, too, is that younger people (like the students at the college where I work) expect things to be online.  For instance, we have handouts that we give students as guidelines for doing their works cited pages for research papers.  We print out a couple of reams per year.  We also have the handouts available on our web page as a linked Word file.  For the past year, I’ve made a real effort to show and tell the students about the link rather than give them paper copies.  Most of them seem fine with that. 

I also make a real effort to not print things out for myself.  I don’t have a printer at home, so that makes it easier.  I do all my banking online and pay almost all of my bills online, and I don’t print any of that out.  My mom would probably think that was dangerous, but it doesn’t worry me.  Maybe it should??  I think relying on the USPS is the most dangerous way of handling my finances!

I have to say, though, that I still have trouble reading long articles online.  If something consists of more than a couple of pages, I don’t get as much comprehension of it from reading online as I do with paper.  I think that’s probably generational too; since I didn’t “grow up” reading online, I never got good at it.  So if I have several articles that I’m working with on a subject, I’ll usually print them out.  I am going to start using both sides of the paper, though.

When it comes to books, a lot of our students, even younger ones, prefer paper to electronic.  Our library print collection can’t grow much more than it is, because we don’t have much more shelf space.  We get more e-books all the time, and it’s a real benefit to have them, because that way, our students at all of our branch campuses and our online students have access to the same material that the main campus students do.  The e-books get used more every year – but as of now, we still get much more use from our print books.

I don’t know anyone that has a Kindle; maybe reading an e-book from it would be more comfortable than reading from a monitor screen.  Until someone else in the office gets one first and I can try it, though, I think I’ll stick with print books.  I do get them from libraries rather than buying them, so my old-fashioned reading habits don’t add on to the dead tree census.

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One response to “A paperless society

  1. Great analysis of the move to paperless. I have a Kindle. Reading from it is virtually (ha!) the same as reading from a paper book. The books are also less expensive and can be searched “on the fly” over the whispernet, which is basically the cell phone signals. It’s a great device for me because I travel so much. I can tote plenty of books in the space of a paperback. And yet… I still write with fountain pens on paper for the first draft of my novels. Like you, I’m on my way. Check it out at http://www.bentpage.wordpress.com. Thanks.

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