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iPad helping folks go paperless (but other devices can help too)



Environmentally-aware blog GreenerComputing has reported on a couple of companies saving trees and money by using iPads for printed material instead of paper. While the environmental savings can be debated, the monetary savings appear substantial. Sounds good, but I also see the iPad is stealing yet another device’s thunder.

The first organization they profiled is TV station WXFL in Albany, GA. By using iPads instead of paper scripts, they calculate a savings of “$2,000 a month in printing, paper and repair costs”. That sounds about right to me. Remember, it’s not just the paper, but the costs to keep up those complicated printers. As for environment, a commercial copier/printer can easily weigh 500 pounds. Even a dozen iPads paired with a much smaller copier/printer would consume considerably fewer resources.

Next they looked at investment firm SageView:

SageView expects to save over 12,000 pages of paper per quarter through the use of the iPads. CEO Randall Long told me he expects that the company will eventually end up with 50 iPads or so (about $25,000 worth of iPads), but will recoup those costs within 3 months.

Presumably an investment firm can accurately calculate the return on an investment like this. Maybe they’re padding it a bit to make themselves look good, but sounds like they could upgrade annually and still be saving money. I’m convinced, but maybe that’s because I’ve already been convinced by a similar argument about the QUE ProReader, a business-centric eReader.

Yes, we’ve been talking for years about using tablets to go paperless, but the QUE ProReader took it to the next level at CES. Instead of printing documents, they asked us to “QUE” them to their ultra-light, touchscreen eReader. It’s a pricey device, but I believe it offers a clear advantage in its niche, above the iPad in some ways. Lack of color on its e-ink display is a key drawback, as is its narrower set of functionality, but it’s lighter and designed specifically for going paperless with document transfer and markup capabilities.

While I’m not suggesting they dump their iPads for the QUE (which is sold-out anyway), I do think these companies and others going paperless would benefit from looking into multiple and/or mixed solutions. Love that the iPad is getting people to go paperless, but depending on your needs, another option may be better.



  1. Nameless

    05/25/2010 at 2:11 pm

    The biggest appeal of Tablet PCs to me is just that: going paperless. At least it’s finally starting to catch on with the iPad.

    Next up: the academic market. I can’t wait for all those schools to ditch the bulky, heavy textbooks already.

  2. ChrisRS

    05/25/2010 at 4:30 pm

    The iPad is a good motivator for going paperless. The inconvenience of printing will make the user more accepting of teh paperless paradigm. i.e. “here, I’llo print you a copy. … NO. … Wait. … You don’t really NEED a copy; you should embrace going paperless.

    Regarding SageView, the numbers look like:
    For first 6 iPads (say $3,000)

    $3,000 cost recouped over 3 Months (one quarter)
    ———– = $0.25 per page
    12,000 copies per Quarter

    Estimated lease maintenace and consume able cost, 5 to 10 cents pre page, more for color. This make sence, but the same can be done with netbooks, etc.

  3. Eric

    05/26/2010 at 5:00 am

    Um, why is it that the iPad gets the billing on this one? I’ve been using far less paper for the past 7 years, since I purchased my first tablet. In fact, I don’t even have a printer at home and rarely use the one at work. I can also tell you that I’ve used only 5-6 legal pads in the same 7 years…sometimes, a student just wants to keep a copy of your work.

    While I love my Macbook Pro, my iPhone and think OS X is really fantastic, I don’t believe Apple or the iPad deserve any award for making a good version of a device that has been on the market for years…albeit a different interaction method and, IMO, a less useful version of that device. But, sadly, the media will not remember all those years of tablet use by the GBM crowd, just as they don’t remember that Sony invented the mp3 player.

    • Sumocat

      05/26/2010 at 6:33 am

      “Um, why is it that the iPad gets the billing on this one?” — Because the two companies profiled are using iPads to go paperless. Also, I did mention that we (as in the Tablet PC community) have been using tablets for several years to go paperless.

  4. R.Hurst

    05/26/2010 at 2:23 pm

    I don’t see how it will help in the academia.

    . The iBook app, like the Kindle app, is a disappointment. They have absolutely no respect for books. That makes them unusable for students and professors, since you can’t refer to a page number – they’re meaningless. I’m not saying they should have used the scholarly standards throughout, like Bekker number for Aristotle’s work (although that would be awesome), but they should have used whatever hard copy they based their version on, at least. Just a note where there’s a page break with a page number on the sides. That would help things. What you’re going to say now, p. 37 on the iPad and page 65 on the iPhone?

    What I think they did is to get, say, a Gutenberg project plain text file and then just cut and paste into their zip like format. I wonder how a concrete poem will look like with all that care . Would it hurt to use a scanned .pdf, what format do they use at Apple? I thought Page Maker was big This should be simple as of now, for instance Google is doing it, Amazon store can display some of the books actual pages with the intended published format, why can’t the ipad/kindle use this, instead of plain text? Mind you, this happens even with paid books, not only with the free classics.

    To give you a real example. Wife bought a vampire book (New Moon, S. Meyer), page 8 on the iPad was actually page 3 on the actual book…funny thing is, when you turn it sideways into widescreen format, page 8 turns into page 10…

    That is disappointing. How do you assign papers? How do you verify if the students cite in context? Do you have to own the kindle, the dx, the iphone, the ipad, the tablet version to check for all possible page changes?

    That’s ridiculous.

  5. Brett Gilbertson

    05/26/2010 at 6:13 pm

    Sorry to be a bore, but the iPad that i’m writing this comment on is a very poor excuse for a paper alternative… It’s a 1way system without ink. Ok, fair enough if you can’t afford a real tablet then this might be your first half step.

    Hopefully apple will follow ntrig’s lead and develop a digital pen for iPad to make this work. My feeling though is that the hardware is too underpowered to make it a realistic alternative to paper though.

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