"If you wish to read anything at all on office management, read this book." Guardian UK "The authors approach their subject with academic rigour, observing real organisations to find out how people like to work." Financial Times "The case for paper is made most eloquently in The Myth of the Paperless Office..." Malcolm Gladwell The New Yorker
Over the past 30 years, many people have proclaimed the imminent arrival of the paperless office. Yet even the World Wide Web, which allows almost any computer to read and display another computer's documents, has increased the amount of printing done. The use of e-mail in an organization causes an average 40 percent increase in paper consumption. This text aims to explain why people continue to use paper in the digital age. In "The Myth of the Paperless Office", Abigail Sellen and Richard Harper use the study of paper as a way to understand the work that people do and the reasons they do it the way they do. Using the tools of ethnography and cognitive psychology and drawing on original case studies in a diverse set of organizations, they look at paper use from the level of the individual up to that of organizational culture. Sellen and Harper show that there are many important lessons to be learned from organizations that have tried to "go paperless". One is that putting new technologies in place doesn't necessarily reduce the amount of paper used. Rather, it may simply shift the point at which documents are printed out.
Another is that organizations may pursue paperlessness for the wrong reasons. They may want to get rid of paper simply because it is a symbol of the old-fashioned past, rather than an ineffective technology. Looking closely at paper use also shows why many existing digital technologies are inferior to paper for certain key tasks. For example, current e-books show that designers have paid little attention to the need for people to navigate through, mark up and work across multiple documents as they read. Looking at paper use suggests innovative ways forward for digital reading as well as for other technologies. Until such time as digital technologies can provide equal or better support for many of the tasks that are central to "knowledge work", the future for paper continues to look bright. Rather than pursue the ideal of the paperless office, the authors conclude, we should work toward a future in which paper and electronic document tools work in concert and organizational processes make optimal use of both.