The Paperless Office, like The Flying Car, is one of those technological icons of the future whose ascendancy, no matter how much time passes, seems stuck in the future; but I reckon offices without paper are going to become more common more quickly than cars that fly. Indeed, we do seem to be printing fewer digital documents, to the extent that at least one unhappy paper manufacturer is trying to persuade people to print more [via Slashdot]. This trend is, I suspect, more a result of better display technology than a response to concerns about waste—and hard-copy printing will, I expect, decline further as cheap, full-colour e-Ink readers increase in number and fall in price.
Mr Williams makes his money from selling paper, so his interest in this is obvious, but many more of us benefit, for other reasons, from businesses continuing to waste paper. For the rest of us, the rise of digital paper isn’t without a downside:
Printer and copier paper retain the nice, long fibers that make the best recycled toilet paper. But a resurgent Chinese economy and domestic waste reduction efforts are cutting the available supply of the good stuff, said Jeff Phillips, executive vice president of operations at Seventh Generation, a major recycled toilet paper manufacturer.
“The cost of office waste paper has skyrocketed (more than doubled) in the last six months primarily as a result of China reentering the market,” Phillips wrote in an e-mail to Wired.com. “There has [also] been a reduction in availability due to more offices trying to reduce paper consumption and through the use of electronic media.”