Smart Document Scanning in the Digital Age: Taming the Paper Tiger (White Paper)

The following excerpt is taken from the Panasonic white paper, “Smart Scanning in the Digital Age: Taming the Paper Tiger.” The complete work can be downloaded for free by clicking here.

Each year the world produces more than 300 million tons of paper. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, printing and writing papers typically found in a school or office environment such as copier paper, computer printouts and notepads, comprise the largest category of paper product consumption.

The average office worker continues to use a staggering 10,000 sheets of copy paper every year.

In 2002 Abigail Sellen and Richard Harper published “The Myth of the Paperless Office.” Their thesis was that we are never going to truly divorce ourselves from paper in an office environment. Additionally, since the introduction of electronic communications, the use of paper has increased. Sellen and Harper give five reasons why paper will continue to be used and the psychology behind it:

  1. Authoring: When writing users prefer to have their references and materials printed around them, perhaps because they can be located within a three-dimensional space and grabbed as needed.
  2. Annotation & Review: When reviewing someone’s work the ability to comment and understand a colleague’s work is easier to do on paper.
  3. Planning: When organizing projects and activities, it is easier to do on paper, perhaps because it is easier to see a larger timeline emerge.
  4. Collaboration: When sharing information in a meeting or in a group, people can annotate and follow the group’s discussion with a shared paper or a shared whiteboard at hand.
  5. Organizational communication: When there is something you need to guarantee others seeing, you print it in paper and walk it to their desk.


In this White Paper, we will attempt to determine a solution for taming the paper tiger syndrome.  More important, with many individual corporations and even entire industries still drowning in oceans of paper, we will show how advanced document scanners—relatively simple, objectively low-tech pieces of hardware—can be deployed to grab that metaphysical paper tiger by the tail, wrestle it to the ground, and keep it subdued today, tomorrow, and far into the future.

Whatever happened to that clean desk and empty in-basket?

Although there is some disagreement on the subject, the phrase “paperless office” first intruded itself into public awareness in the June 30, 1975, edition of Business Week Magazine. In an article therein, an uncredited writer quotes Xerox Research Center Director, George E. Pake, who states boldly, “There is absolutely no question that there will be a revolution in the office over the next 20 years. What we are doing will change the office like the jet plane revolutionized travel and the way that TV has altered family life … I don’t know how much hard copy [printed paper] I’ll want in this world.”

Interpreting Pake’s statement as containing solely the option for zero hard copies, the article adds the fateful phrase … “Some believe that the paperless office is not that far off…”

“The paperless office,” three words that despite defining and describing essentially nothing became the title of numerous books, articles, and theses, and a buzz phrase used by both futurists, such as information technology pioneer and Project Xanadu developer Ted Nelson (“The paperless office is possible, but not by imitating paper”) and traditionalists, for instance library search-system developer Jesse Shera, who called paperless solutions “about as plausible as the paperless bathroom.”

The phrase also resonated with more practical thinkers, such as Bill Gates who, virtually a quarter-century after it was coined, noted “The paperless office … is one of those ‘any day now’ phenomena that somehow never seem to actually arrive. Paper consumption has continued to double every four years, and 95 percent of all information in the United States remains on paper, compared with just one percent stored electronically. Paperwork is increasing faster than digital technology can eliminate it.”