Go Paperless Cold Turkey?

As a writer and a photographer with clients in the publishing industry, you might imagine that paper and magazines are my love. You are quite right, indeed, I still enjoy the first time I open a freshly printed magazine or book, inhaling that unique smell of glossy printed paper, the slight resistance from the page signifying you are indeed the first person to open that particular page. Geeky, isn’t it? Sitting down with a glass of red wine, uninterrupted, to read a publication I’d looked forward to seeing was and still is one of my personal pleasures. Even as a writer and photographer, I still enjoy reading and viewing work by others on subjects such as aviation, automobiles and fine architecture. But in future, the ceremony will be less of inhaling the scent of print and more of giving my iPad screen a ceremonial wipe with a camera lens cloth to remove fingerprints. You see, I’m going cold turkey on paper and going paperless with Evernote.

Thinking about it, ‘cold turkey’ is the wrong phrase. In fact, I’ve had a desire to “go paperless” for many years. Way back when PDAs first hit the marketplace, I was there to buy a strange device, shaped like a diary and with a non-qwerty keyboard that I still have around the place. Then I moved on to the Psion devices, remember them? A slim (for the time) and satin smooth device with a clever folding hinge mechanism that housed the Double A batteries and a grey scale screen that was unreadable in sunlight. Still, at least you could back up the data to a Windows PC or connect it to a printer using a cable. Very techie and cool. Then came a Compaq with a little stylus and yet more clunky syncing software. But the biggest worry all that time, both for myself and others was, “what happens if it fails?” Or more likely, when. Data backups were dog slow and unreliable, data never really synchronised correctly, leaving you with imports into Microsoft Outlook that were utter gibberish. Clicking the Sync icon induced a raised heartbeat and perspiration for several minutes akin to watching the docking of a space capsule. Paperless? Too risky.

So the biggest hurdle to really going paperless has been twofold. Firstly, until the last few years, the devices didn’t exist that communicated with each other and made sure that your data was always available in a practical way, plus on a device that was actually practical to work on for any period. The of course the second hurdle was that you had to sometimes share documents and information with people who didn’t share your ambitions to ditch paper. It is probably only within the last 18 months that a true paperless existence has been practical that is effective and integrates seamlessly with both your own working life and that of others.

I also think we are fast approaching the point where people are not only accepting that buying digital publications is not just OK, but also desirable. Additionally, the readership accepts that not everything in a digital world must be free, that just because you didn’t receive it on a printed page, it doesn’t mean that it has less value.

Starting Out In Paperless.

going paperless with evernote and iPad - Making paperless a reality?

iPad – Making paperless a reality?

iPad acquisition was probably the inspiration. For the first time I has a device that was small, slim, portable, that I could digest content on easily and that I could rest on my lap without having the blasting of MacBookPro fans and that burning sensation on my left thigh. But for working on? Probably not. Well, possibly a little… Actually, quite a bit…

I began to use the iPad far more, but not really considering 100% paperless as an option. Paperless crept up on me from behind. The next step was Evernote, probably the biggest stride forwards for anyone wanting to access data across multiple platforms. Evernote just works, simple as that. And it’s free. Whether you’re a Mac or Windows user, Android, iPhone, windows phone, Blackberry, it matters not. Evernote has a version for them all, they all talk to one another and everything, well, just works, really. If you’re reading this and considering going paperless, Evernote is your must-do first step.

As my Evernote archive grew, I began to broaden my reach. iBooks proves useful for those PDFs of instruction manuals you sometimes need. Some of my favourite iPhone apps were upgraded to the HD iPad version, including Weather Pro, the geeky Plane Finder and the very useful The Photographers Ephemeris.

The next two items on my paperless list (by now I’d recognised it as a possibility) were two hard-to-kick habits. First was to stop printing out my work to scribble edits on. I was one of those writers that still liked to see a 2000 word feature printed out on good old A4 from an inkjet to proof read and doodle on. It took time, but I’ve pretty much managed it.
Secondly, I looked at my printed publication buying habits. A creeping sub-concious thought has always been, “If I buy the digital edition, am I missing out on something in the printed version?” I bought editions of some regular publications both in print and the same issue digitally. They both had appeal, but I could live without the paper. Job done.

I’ll write more about some of the other applications and devices that are helping me become 100% paperless in some of my future posts, but meanwhile, if you’re interested in going paperless, I can help you fast track a lot of stuff simply by directing you to the excellent blog of Jamie Rubin, an Evernote ambassador who’s blazing a paperless trail ahead of us all.

Finally, I wrote this post on my iPad on an app I’m trying out called iA Writer. Eldest son having loaned my MacBookPro to watch Skyfall DVD last night and it being half term at college, him still in teenager and in deep sleep mode this morning. IA Writer is a deceptively useful app, at first glance seeming nothing more that a text editor. In fact, it boasts a very useful enhanced iPad keyboard and like the best apps, there’s a desktop version and a simple method of syncing your work.

If you’re Going Paperless, please share your thoughts below, I’d like to hear them. Indeed if you’re a Defender of The Printed Page, please chime in with your thoughts also. I still love killing time at airports browsing the international magazines you don’t normally see. But I certainly don’t miss heaving them all in a thin and bursting carrier bag to the departure gate.



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  1. says

    Well, for starters I’m writing this from my new iPad Mini – the first device I feel comfortable consuming magazines from. And instantly my favourite web browsing device. (I bravely & unsuccessfully tried going paperless a long time ago with an Apple Newton MessagePad !)

    I still feel magazines don’t really take digital publishing seriously. In the automotive sector, It’s the car manufacturers’ publications that are leading the way, curiously. Monthly mags still regard it as a necessary appendage rather than the main thrust of their existence. If I had to pick a digital only publication that inspires, try http://www.imbikemag.com a mountain bike mag.

    Paperless: I’ll be looking at your Evernote recommendation. My “office” (ie laptop) is as paperless as I can get it, but some major international companies won’t accept an emailed PDF invoice, despite emailing out purchase orders, statements and paying via BACS.

    • Neill says

      Hi Tim,

      You’re right about magazines not taking digital seriously, there are very few that are actually good to read on iPad. Funny thing about PDF invoices, never had a problem.

      Apple Newton? Showing our age there… :-)