AT On... Life Without Paper

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Forgive us while we step out of second person.

I'm writing about my holiday wish list: there's only one thing on it, and it's less paper. Blogging is relatively low on the paper scale (though I do keep a healthy supply of magazines and catalogs around for inspiration), but my other job, being a PhD student in Architecture, generates a steady stream of xeroxed articles, summaries, and chapters. Add to that the bills and all other junk of everyday life, and it's a real challenge to stay out from under the avalanche. I've got two five-drawer filing cabinets, and they're both almost full. Considering that I've barely started my academic career, that doesn't bode well for the future.

But thanks to this little wonder of modern technology, I'm thinking I can ditch the file cabinets.The Fujitsu ScanSnap scans both sides of a piece of paper, imports it to PDF, and then performs optical character recognition on it so that you can search within the document... and it handles up to 16 pieces of paper a minute.

That means, following these instructions, with a few afternoons of committed work, I could eliminate 90% of my files... and then be able to actually find things quickly when I need them. (Not to mention that I'll be able to find them anywhere I have access to my laptop.)

So, how is this green? Well, it's 12 square feet of my space freed up for a better use, and less clutter all around. Plus, research has shown that the dust and chemicals associated with large amounts of stored paper has a significant impact on indoor air quality.

The ScanSnap runs $400-$600, depending on where you purchase it and whether you get the Macintosh version. (Want to make my day? It's $586 at Amazon.)

I know this is seriously geeky, but I'm excited about this. Have you made the plunge? What's life without paper been like for you?

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