Pushing Paper Out the Door

Pushing Paper Out the Door : many families may be closer to entering a paperless world than they realize. Paper-reducing technologies have crept into homes and offices, perhaps more for efficiency than for environmentalism; few people will dispute the convenience of online bill-paying and airline e-tickets.

“Paper is no longer the master copy; the digital version is,” says Brewster Kahle, the founder and director of the Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library. “Paper has been dealt a complete deathblow. When was the last time you saw a telephone book?”


As noted elsewhere, Brewster Kahle's comments as cited here are both, well, silly. Last time I saw a phonebook? Yesterday. For some purposes in some situations, they still work very well.

Paper dealt a complete death blow? That doesn't even make sense--and improved efficiency in packaging and other areas really doesn't imply that paper is going away. Paper--largely as packaging but also as a conveyor of print--has been used in a lot of areas where it was less than ideal but the only available method: Like a hammer in an impoverished toolkit, it was the only tool. The addition of more tools that are better for many purposes means that we may waste and use less paper (just as we may use the hammer less often), but it doesn't constitute a "complete death blow" for paper, any more than screwdrivers constitute "complete death blows" for hammers.

As to the actual story, with some family (most likely in my community, given the place of employment) making a big deal of not using paper in the household at all, including hiding a bunch of books out in a shed...it's hard to keep a straight face long enough to comment on that. Now, if they managed to eliminate all uses of disposable plastic and fossil fuels, that would be interesting...a lot more interesting than going to great lengths to avoid using a renewable resource like paper. (Hmm. I won't even comment on sanitary issues...and the relative environmental impact of using and washing cleaning cloths in all cases where paper towels might also be used, in a semiarid climate like ours...or maybe the family's only avoiding paper as a print substrate?) (I"d mention "locavorism," but in Mountain View it's actually pretty easy to dine entirely on stuff grown within 100 miles, if you don't mind giving up chocolate and coffee.)

HI! I spend so much time on the Internet that the whole world appears to my in little boxes and windows. I desperately need to spend two weeks on an island with no electricity getting drunk.

Here's the state of Telephone Books, the last time they were delivered to my house:

Day One:

Day Two:

1. Doesn't Chicago have paper recycling? We'd sure never trash an unwanted phone book...
2. Can't you tell the phone company to stop delivering those mounds of unwanted books?
3. As long as you're not saying "and this is what everyone does"--well, more power to you.

"Doesn't Chicago have paper recycling?"

Chicago has a failed recycling program that was instituted by our wonderful mayor in order to head off a real recycling program.

"Can't you tell the phone company..."

Tell the phone company? What country are you living in? We're back to the "Ringie-Dingie" Days of Ma Bell.

In any case, they arrive unrequested all over the city. This happens because that's the way it has always worked. There's been no adjustment to the fact that no one has any use for these relics. And that's the point of my comment (and not the shameful state of recycling in Chicago).

"There's been no adjustment to the fact that no one has any use for these relics. "

And now you know how many people see libraries...

My wife works for a company that makes phone books. EVERYONE SHOULD LOVE PHONEBOOKS!!! er, at least everyone should love the phone books produced by her company.

More and more I see the same thing written about the future of libraries as I see about the future of phone books.

It's lucky that you are the administrator of a huge blog about libraries then, right?

Man, you need to quit or lighten the hell up.

ha! add to that I run a business that hosts library web sites! Doesn't make my long term view any brighter.

I Probably won't do either. I like librarianship too much, and too many librarians don't seem to think there's anything wrong.

Blake, I knew you were in the pockets of the Phone Book Industry!

Their strangle-hold on our nation has got to stop!!!

This morning on the kitchen table, when I was franticly flipping pages looking for Drain Service to unclog my sewer main! On-line phone directories exist, but paper is STILL easier and faster to use when desperate. Pbbbbbbbbt!

Subscribe to Comments for "Pushing Paper Out the Door "