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Book Recognized by IEEE

The Myth of the Paperless Office a "Distinguished Literary Contribution," IEEE says

April 1, 2003

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Researcher Abigail Sellen and her co-author have won the IEEE Award for Distinguished Literary Contributions Furthering Engineering Professionalism for their book exploring why the paperless office has never come to be.

In The Myth of the Paperless Office, Sellen and co-author Richard Harper say that despite the fact that the paperless office has been heralded for more than 30 years, the use of paper has actually increased.

After studying the use of paper by individuals and organizations, they argue that paper will continue to play an important role in office life. After all, it is light, flexible, easy to use and allows people to compare numerous pages at once, something that is extremely difficult with electronic documents.

So, they say, rather than pursue the ideal of the paperless office we should work towards a future in which paper and electronic documents can be used together to get the benefits of both. The book looks at ways in which we can design technology to do this effectively.

In a after the book was published in November 2001, New Scientist magazine described the book as something "all managers should read . . . It explodes the paperless myth and highlights the strengths and weaknesses of electronic paper-based systems.''

And the reviewer at the UK newspaper, the Guardian, wrote, "If you wish to read anything at all on office management, read this book."

The IEEE award is given for outstanding contributions through literary efforts to the advancement of the professional objectives of the IEEE.

"I think the award reflects the fact that the book has hit a nerve," said Sellen, who works in HP's Bristol (UK) lab. "It shows there are lots of us grappling with new technology, and lots of us who feel a bit guilty about not letting go of our paper. Judging from some of the email we’ve had, the book provides vindication, especially for people with really messy desks. We argue that you ought to be proud of your clutter."

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