Do You Think Paper Will Be Around In 100 Years?

Do You Think Paper Will Be Around In 100 Years?

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Friday, May 16, 2014 - 2:30pm

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A colleague graciously gave me a copy of “On Paper” by the American author Nicholas Basbanes, a work of non-fiction that traces the two-thousand year science and art of papermaking back the source in China. Basbanes makes the eloquent case that although papermaking is commonly not included in the pantheon of the three great inventions of modernity – the compass, gunpowder and the printing press – it is well-deserving of being closely ranked just behind.

From personal hygiene to currency to laws to design plans to great literature to a searing plea for help locked in time…paper’s versatility, durability, transferability, renewability and now, recyclability, has made it a material of immense historical significance. But Barbanes also argues that papermaking and books need to be preserved as more than just a quaint nod to our pre-digital past – they are fundamental to a literate, civilized future.
This is a sensitive question in these digital times, where shiny new phones, tablets, televisions and even eye glasses are celebrated for their ability to connect us immediately, seamlessly, to multi-media content of ever-expanding resolution and volume. But the printed page will always bring an intangible quality to the mix as platform for love notes, thank you cards, diplomas, birth certificates…important documents that announces to the world, “I really mean this, this is important, I want these words to endure.” Sort of the exact opposite of pretty much every text and a good majority of every email you send in a day.
So to answer the initial question, “Do you think paper will be around in 100 years?” my answer would be to ask another question: “What do you think tablets and cell phones and TVs will look like in 100 years?” Point being – the printed page is its own technology, one that has proven to be pretty enduring compared to the neverending succession of ever-newer/faster high tech devices that are so much a fixture of our lives.
This article was first published on our blog Fiberlines: an online space where you’ll get insights about our business and our products, stories about our host communities, and opinion about industry innovation and sustainability trends. Check it out at or follow us on Twitter (@DomtarCorp), LinkedIn or Google+ (+domtar)