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“Take Control of Your Paperless Office” Reduces Pulp Friction

As I tear my eyes away from the screen and look around me, I can see three separate piles of unsorted papers, a small table supporting a large tower of unfiled folders, a four-drawer file cabinet almost bursting at the seams, and a stack of magazines waiting to be read and their most interesting articles clipped and added to my growing paper piles. Joe Kissell’s latest ebook, the $10 “Take Control of Your Paperless Office,” couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

The 118-page ebook is a friendly and practical guide to reducing the flow of paper into and out of the typical office, whether at a workplace or in the home. Joe explains how to pick scanners and OCR (optical character recognition) software for digitizing the important papers that come to you so that you can discard them as soon as possible without losing track of their contents. He discusses how to choose the right storage strategy for the digitized files that you create in their place. He also gives useful advice for ways to categorize, locate, and display the contents of your growing digital document collections so that you spend less time searching and sorting and more time getting on with your reduced-paper life.

(But as Joe says in the book’s introduction, he’s not going to tell you to get rid of all your paper, or that resorting to paper for any reason is somehow a moral failure. Paper has many noble uses, and you may choose to adopt all of Joe’s recommendations, or only a few—everyone is different, so by all means, do only what works for you.)

In addition to all of the above, Joe clues you in to these paper-reducing tasks and skills:

  • How to scan or photograph documents you find while out and about—business cards, receipts, menus, flyers, and labels—so that you keep only digitized versions. Joe discusses a variety of mobile scanner options, with particular emphasis on using a camera-equipped iOS device, and he lists similar options for employing Android and BlackBerry smartphones.

  • How to create a digitized image of your signature so that you can create, sign, and share documents digitally, rather than printing them for the sole purpose of signing them with a pen.

  • How to set up your computer to send and receive faxes so that you can avoid using a physical fax machine with paper input and output. Joe describes both using a fax modem and taking advantage of an online fax service.

  • How to use common techniques for reducing paper—paperless billing, online bank statements, and more—and some unusual practices, such as using paperless postal mail services and check depositing services. Joe also gives effective tips for reducing the amount of catalogs, junk mail, and paper that you receive.

This book isn’t just theory—having lived in tiny apartments in San Francisco and now Paris, Joe has been living a nearly paperless life in reality for years.

If there’s any doubt that “Take Control of Your Paperless Office” is the right ebook for its time, while I was drafting this article, I received an email message from my credit union offering me a chance to win an iPad if I “sign up for free, convenient, and secure eStatements,” and outlining practical and environmental benefits of moving from paper to digital account statements. Regardless of the actual environmental benefits of digital account statements—which Joe considers ancillary at best—you can file that tidbit (digitally, of course) under “Synchronicity.”

One last note. Although we usually make our ebooks available for print-on-demand as well, it would be just too ironic to have a Buy Print Book button under the “Take Control of Your Paperless Office” title, so we’re intentionally limiting this title to PDF, with EPUB and Mobipocket now available to all purchasers as well (click the Check for Updates button on the cover or log in to your Take Control account to download the alternative formats).


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Comments about “Take Control of Your Paperless Office” Reduces Pulp Friction
(Comments are closed.)

Firitia  2010-11-17 22:36
«Save paper, save trees», they say.
But how many trees are to be cut down to run the powerplants to make the electricity to run the computers, the scanners, the harddisks, the internet and so on?
In addition once the paper is made no more trees are needed, but the computer record needs electricity every time anew you want to read it.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-11-18 07:17
I don't believe there are any wood-fired power plants. :-)

And of course, the point here is not that paper isn't useful for some things, but that very little paper is actually used for archival reasons. We recycle vast amounts of the stuff every week, and the majority of that is paper we didn't even want or ask for.
Tonya Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-11-18 08:41
I think this is an interesting question, though it may also be one of those huge "it depends" answers. For example, if you receive a receipt in email and then print it on recycled paper on a printer powered by your own solar-powered electrical generator, that has a cost whereas if you print on non-recycled paper using coal-powered electricity that's a different cost. And, if you just keep it on your hard drive, that has a cost, whereas if you delete it, that presumably has yet another (tiny) cost.

However, IMHO the point of Joe's ebook isn't so much to help the environment (though I sincerely hope that overall it does) but to help readers reduce clutter and to more easily find what they need to find. Certainly for people who have a more mobile lifestyle where they move every year or so (i.e. students) or are out-and-about often when they need to access documents, being able to access documents online can be a great convenience.
Tonya Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-11-18 10:43
Chuck Joiner at MacVoices talked to Joe about this ebook... you can listen to the podcast at