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Gordon R. Meyer
The not so hidden cost of paper
I recently heard two stories that may put another nail into the coffin of printed, paper-based documentation. First, it's said that Canada is considering a levy on products based on the amount of packaging that needs to be trashed or recycled. The person who brought this to my attention predicted that it will put even more pressure on companies to reduce the amount of paper "in the box" because it will increase the per-unit cost of goods. By providing documentation in electronic format, less paper is used, so the levy will be either avoided or diminished.
The second story comes from a content management system vendor. I'm told that a new US Navy Frigate was discovered to be several thousand tons overweight. In order to reduce that weight, the Navy has mandated that shipboard documentation be provided electronically. Yes, there is apparently enough weight savings in nearly eliminating paper manuals to make the ship significantly closer to spec.
I haven't researched these comments to determine their veracity, so believer beware. But even if they aren't true, the cultural values and attitudes they express does not bode well for those who cling to the "good old days" of printed manuals.