Take a peek into the stationery cupboard of any office and you will be confronted with shelves groaning under the weight of paper, pens, envelopes, paperclips and a 1001 other office ‘essentials’ that we just can’t do without. Or can we? Do we really need to scribble down doodles during a meeting, do we really need to stuff a multitude of papers into a cardboard file and do we really need fistfuls of pens, highlighters and Post It notes? Could we do without it all? In a few years time could stationary be a thing of the past? Or will we never make stationary redundant? Back to the future
Arguably stationery is already redundant. After all, with the invention of tablet PCs and ultra-portable laptops we don’t really need to use pen and paper but we still do.
And what about the humble pencil? Apart from sketch artists the writing was on the wall (pun intended) for the pencil when the biro began to be mass produced in the 1940s. Yet they still lurk in desk drawers and stationery caddies across the land.The Paperless Office
As a concept it’s the Holy Grail for many. But an office without paper is something that is still as far away as it was when it was first espoused fifty years ago. Ironically copier giant Xerox is credited with coming up with the term ‘paperless office’ in the 1960s.
And, as long as we write on paper, we will still need everything in the stationery cupboard. Paperclips and staples to keep things together, notebooks to write in and folders to store print-outs, invoices and statements not to mention cartons upon cartons of biros and even eraser topped pencils.Keep Taking the Tablets
But with the inexorable rise of technology surely the days are numbered for fully stocked stationery cupboards?
Laptops, smartphones and tablet PC’s must eventually kill off pen and paper. Easy to carry around a tablet PC can used in meetings for taking notes, recording audio and taking snapshots of the whiteboard. And of course the presentation itself can be shared by Bluetooth with all in attendance.
Anything pen and paper can do a tablet can do too. But even better.Symbiosis
But do we really need to choose between stationery and technology? Are they really such unlikely bedfellows?
Instead of trying to make stationery redundant maybe we should focus on just using less? Stop printing out emails (it kind of defeats the object) and reduce paper waste (does the world really need to use 400 million tonnes of paper a year?). Digitise files and records without keeping paper duplicates and save on paper, ink, staples and folders. Use less pens and save on plastic waste. Why not use the speed and convenience of technology to reduce our use of paper and reliance on stationary?Maybe not just yet?
Of course we still need stationary and can’t yet phase it out completely. It’ll be a while before we see people roaming around a supermarket with a digital shopping list instead of a hasty scribble on the back of a used envelope.
And, despite all our best intentions, printing out emails and filling notebooks with streams of consciousness is still a normal reflex. For now at least.In the Year 2020
So, will we still be using pen and paper and all the other items tucked away in the stationary cupboard in 2020? The answer is unequivocally yes. But will there ever come a time when we don’t use pen and paper and stationary cupboards are a relic of a bygone age? Will we really make stationary redundant? Again, the answer is undoubtedly yes. But it certainly won’t be any time soon.