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The Myth of the Paperless Office Hardcover – 2 Nov 2001


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 246 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press; First Edition edition (2 Nov. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262194643
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262194648
  • Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 2 x 23.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 690,208 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

If you wish to read anything at all on office management, read this book. -- The Guardian, 26 November, 2001

This is a book that all managers should read...It explodes the paperless myth, and highlights the strengths and weakenesses of electronic paper-based systems. -- New Scientist, 10 November, 2001

an excellent book. -- The Economist 21 December 2002

About the Author

Abigail J. Sellen is a cognitive psychologist at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories in Bristol, UK.

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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jan Erik Frantsvåg on 31 Aug. 2003
Format: Hardcover
In this slim volume Sellen and Harper analyses what functions paper have in modern offices, and how digital media functions differently from paper - making paper a useful tool if it's properties are understood properly. They rely heavily on the concept of "affordance", meaning that the physical properties of an object gives it functional qualities that offers different opportunities in different situations.
An important book giving me - at least - new insights into how paper can collaborate with other media to make the office function better.
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1 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jan Erik Frantsvåg on 31 Aug. 2003
Format: Hardcover
In this slim volume Sellen and Harper analyses what functions paper have in modern offices, and how digital media functions differently from paper - making paper a useful tool if it's properties are understood properly. They rely heavily on the concept of "affordance", meaning that the physical properties of an object gives it functional qualities that offers different opportunities in different situations.
An important book giving me - at least - new insights into how paper can collaborate with other media to make the office function better.
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
In praise of paper? 12 Mar. 2004
By Harald Groven - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
There are copious amounts of research on how people interact with computers or machines. However, there is very little research on all the hidden features of paper. "The Myth of the Paperless Office" brings attention to how office workers actually organize their information needs. In many ways, it's probably a pioneering work in computer usability, even though it doesn't specifically deal with computers, but rather anthropological research on the use of paper in organisations.
This book can be very useful for anyone. Especially for designers of computer systems that wonder why people still stick to yellow labels and printouts, even its technically "inefficient", compared to a digital solution. Its also recommended reading for bosses that plan to implement a "clean desk policy", or employees that are wondering how to get around clutter on their desks.
For an excellent review of the book, read the article "In praise of clutter" from The Economist Magazine (Dec 19th 2002)
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Interesting but outdated 22 Mar. 2010
By Robert Dubose - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What a difference 8 years makes.

In 2002 it looked as though the authors were correct: the paperless office had been a myth. Technology had increased paper usage rather than decreased it. Many office workers still preferred to read and work on paper rather than screens.

But about the time this book was published, the "myth" started to become true. Per-capita paper usage in offices started to decline. In my experience, most office workers have switched from paper-reading to screen-reading in the last six years. And they have switched to screens for many of the tasks that the authors argued are better suited to paper reading. The difference is new technology. For instance, the authors argue that knowledge workers prefer to review, work, and collaborate on paper documents. As a lawyer, I found that argument to be true in 2002 when text-based programs did not include useful tools for collaboration. But developments since 2002 in programs such as MS Word and Adobe Acrobat have made it much easier to do tasks such as collaborative editing on a screen instead of paper.

Selen and Harper's argument does remain relevant and thought-provoking in one important respect. They explain the unique functionalities of paper to argue why paper is better for certain tasks. In the last 8 years, some technologies have been started to compete with the functionalities of paper. But some tasks remains more useful than screens for some tasks. Selen and Harper's arguments at least give us the analytical tools to think about whether certain tasks are better suited to paper or computers today.

This book was ground breaking in 2002. As a lover of paper, books, and libraries, I wish Selen and Harper had been right. I would be interested to see an updated edition that addresses the usage of paper today. But as technology has advanced, the argument of the current edition has become outdated.
A terrific analysis of the opportunities and limitations associated with paperless initiatives and business processes. 13 Sept. 2014
By Rafael Moscatel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This bold and insightful analysis by two Microsoft employees into the psychological and practical reasons why certain business processes continue to rely on paper remains relevant even a decade after its publication. The book is especially helpful for records and information governance consultants more intent on providing their clients with a true understanding of the nature of their processes than selling them software solutions driven by buzz phrases including "The Paperless Office." Companies should certainly move toward imaging and digitization when feasible but the best solutions always require a sophisticated approach to rebuilding processes that recognize both opportunities, limitations and human nature.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I don't love it, but you might. 7 Dec. 2010
By Mandi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this in an archival history course. It would probably be most interesting to you if you: a) really love paper/ are a records manager or b) are interested in late twentieth-century corporate office trends.

The greatest thing about it, to me, was that it was written clearly and concisely. Their major points are clearly presented in the introduction. What follows in the bulk of the book elaborates on these.
16 of 30 people found the following review helpful
What the UK media say 3 Dec. 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
New Scientist, 10 November, 2001
This is a book that all managers should read...It explodes the paperless myth, and highlights the strengths and weakenesses of electronic paper-based systems.
The Guardian, 26 November, 2001
If you wish to read anything at all on office management, read this book
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