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This Is Why We Won’t Be A Paperless Society Anytime Soon

October 08, 2020


It’s been over 40 years since the concept of a paperless society was outlined by F.W. Lancaster. Among other aspects of a paperless world, Lancaster’s concept included the idea that “librarians will, in time, become information specialists in a deinstitutionalized setting.”

The reality of today’s public libraries very nearly fulfills Lancaster’s vision. You can now borrow, read and return a library book without touching a scrap of paper.

But in other aspects of society, particularly in business, we are far from being a world without paper. In many ways, like purchase receipts and shipping packing slips, it is difficult to see how all paper documentation will disappear, and in other ways, paper is making a comeback.

3 Reasons Why We Won’t Go Paperless Too Soon

One of the problems of the promise of a paperless society is that it can take the emphasis away from document management initiatives within a company. One example is document storage. After all, why bother too much with it if paper is disappearing, right?

Except paper isn’t disappearing as we expected, and here are a few reasons why.

  1. Document Retention Schedules – Even if we were miraculously able to eliminate all need for corporate documentation today, we still wouldn’t be paperless for a long time. Document retention schedules, which require keeping documents for a minimum amount of time, mean that large numbers of paper documents must be kept for many years, especially legal documents which may need to be kept for 10 years or more.
  2. Paper Planners & Journals – If you want to see how popular paper journaling has become in recent years, Google “bullet journals”. While personal journals may not pose a massive threat to corporate data security, journals used to track a workday, the paper notes used to record meeting points, and paper planners and schedules, all pose security risks that businesses must continue to be vigilant about.
  3. The Convenience of Paper – If you were to begin looking at ways of eliminating paper from our everyday lives, the paper receipt from a purchase might seem like an easy target. Why not just fire off an email after each purchase and avoid all those delays when the cash register runs out of paper. Except consumers don’t want to give everyone their email and it’s still a technology that is notorious for sending information to the wrong place.

    Similarly, the aforementioned packing slip seems redundant in the age of barcodes and RFID technology. Except we still haven’t reached a point where digital technologies can be used by end-users to reliably identify the contents of the ever-increasing number of packages that criss-cross the globe.

To learn more about data breaches, both digital and paper-based, check out our article “How Data Breaches Affect Companies”.

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