Over the last decade or so, the volume of paper arriving in the house via the post has steadily diminished: I've taken the opportunity to shift to electronic billing as soon as it's become available, which covers much of the regular influx. (Sutton Borough Council, Sutton and East Surrey Water... there's a programme here and you need to get with it.). The mass of junk mail diminished to almost nothing when I joined the Mail Preference Service. I get local news via RSS, so could cancel the local paper, if only Al would let me (working on that). And the startling number of leaflets from local pizza / kebab / Indian / Chinese delivery outlets are easily stopped with a sign on the letterbox, although I'll probably have to get permission for that too. I used to think the offer vouchers that came attached were worth having, but even that element has gone the way of the internet now.
Nevertheless, the kitchen still has piles of paper building up at an alarming rate and the attic has I don't know how many ringbinders full of years of filing. The children are a big part of this: they generate pictures at a startling rate - hard to throw away, even if you do so surreptitiously - matched only by the propensity of their (separate) schools to send home all sorts of guff on a daily basis. Increasingly, this is a problem not just for the mess of it all but in actually finding what you need.
So... the technology to convert this stuff to an electronic format has been around for yonks - I have a flatbed scanner upstairs that's seen good service for many years. But flatbed scanners are good for quality photo/transparency scans, no good for volume - take far too long, I'd never bother. And converting everything to a digital format requires that it's easily located. If Al can't find it quickly, without having to go to a PC and constructing boolean searches across a well-considered taxonomy... it's not going to happen. Until a few years ago, this is what it would have taken. It almost goes without saying that, wherever the electronic versions live, it needs to be secure and resilient - notwithstanding the fact that, if my house were to go up in flames, all the paper would go with it. There's something about digital encapsulation of stuff that makes you want to back it up multiple times, just because you can.
Suddenly, all the stumbling blocks have disappeared. The critical arrivals that can make this work?
- Mobile devices: Al and I both have iPads and iPhones, not to mention a scattering of PCs around the house
- Pervasive connectivity - allowing access to the data from anywhere, not just in the house
- The emergence of cloud services, bringing resilience, text searchability, easily implemented taxonomies and sharing across users. Step forward Evernote.
Which leaves the upfront paper -> PDF question. Bitten the bullet and invested in one of these:
I'm surprised at just how much you have to pay for a sheet-fed scanner, but I suspect it's much like the early days of home printers: There isn't quite (yet) the demand that has driven the cost down to the point that it becomes trivial - I have a Samsung colour laser in the attic that cost rather less than this device. Nevertheless, I think it's worth the money - fast, capable of 20 sheets at a time, full-duplex - scans both sides at the same time - and lots of control of the output format. Critically, it can scan directly into Evernote.
Spent a fair bit of time researching this decision and found a number of people who've invested in the P-215 (or its predecessor) with the same intent. Critically, they all seemed to have established a workflow that makes this easy - once a week or so they dump all the paper through it whilst they're doing something else. Works for me.
Oh, one other critical investment that I needed to make: