I support all efforts to cut down the massive use of paper; There are loads of paper means of communication that could be turned digital and luckily many already have.
Yet a lot of their paper ancestors remain because some people favor the physical form over a non-tangible piece of data.
An e-mail instead of a handwritten letter is something all of us got accustomed to, but informative communications like gas/water/electricity bills often still arrive in paper forms. I think it isn’t a bad thing to keep a physical copy of agreements and contracts you’ve made with these companies, but for all other notifications; e-mail me or put it in a ‘My account’!
The rise of the tablet could (or should) speed up the disappearance of the physical newspapers,magazines, glossy’s and folders. There are already nice digital examples of a physical magazines, like VIVA on the iPad, which offers added interaction to enrich the reader’s experience.
I used to have subscriptions to various magazines in the past and I often saved every one of them, for future reference. I usually ended up (regretfully) throwing them away, as they would start to take up too much space. In such a scenario the advantages of a digital copy speaks for itself, but there is also the benefit of being able to digitally search your magazine collection for keywords, instead of having to bury your head in a pile of glossy paper.
And as for books; It might be just my attraction to minimalism, but the ability to store dozens of them on a tablet or e-reader beats any stuffed, space-consuming bookshelf. Ordering a book via your tablet or e-reader and start reading instantly beats going to the bookstore. I lot of people would disagree with me on the tangible versus non-tangible form of a book, stating that the physical form adds something to the reading experience. Well for me it adds unpleasant reading in bed, annoying page turning and, after finishing the book; space. ‘Content is king’ is appropriate here. And as for displaying cover art; a Retina display probably won’t let you down.
Payslips and bank statements are two kinds of communications that have lend themselves perfectly for a ‘digital only’ form. And it does make bookkeeping easier.
For people who have variable working days and times I should also mention the convenience of digitally accessible plannings, instead of the paper tables and schema’s that you have to make paper copies of or jot down in your agenda.
Paper folders with sales and discounts from local retailers arrive in my mailbox every few days. In Holland you can put a sticker on your mailbox saying that you do or do not want to receive these unaddressed folders. Luckily some sites and nice apps for the tablet offer these folders available in digital forms.
The digital boarding pass offered by some airliners is an alternative I applaud but haven’t used yet; I simply never considered it. But since my printer is currently out of order (and the price of ink cartridges is not motivating me to buy a new one) I’ll try it the next time I take to the air.
While many means of communication may be turned completely digital, I expect that birthday cards and Christmas cards might still be around for quite a while. From what I hear, a personal handwritten and stamped card is considered more valuable than a digital card from the many online e-card services, like Hallmark. Yet it is only a matter of time before licking stamps and envelopes will be a thing of the past.