The Digital Age: Back to the Future with Paper

Don 002-5x7_pp

The one thing I have always been in my professional career is someone who cares about the environment.  As you work in publishing for a number of years, you see that we are a fraternity of professionals who know that our products can have detrimental side-effects for the planet, so we weigh these issues in the balance as we make our choices on where to print, how many to print, how much paper to use in filing and invoicing and what vendors carry forth our own concerns for bio-responsible resource usage.  Sometimes the road is long and difficult when cost stipulations are thrown into the equation.

When I first walked into my new position as Production Manager in 2004, there were file cabinets everywhere with production folders.  Each folder contained contracts, purchase orders, specification paperwork and invoices from the vendors who worked on the project.  When a project completed, we would receive an invoice that would be in paper form mailed to us from the individual vendor that was seeking payment.  These invoices would then be copied into duplicate, triplicate and sometimes quadruplicate copies so that all departments that needed to see the copy would have a copy on file.  When a title was going through the manuscript to bound book process, we would receive pdf files that would be loaded for us onto our ftp (File-Transfer-Protocol) site, and then they would be printed out on our copier and shipped out via overnight mail to authors, proofreaders and indexers.  We were generating a very large carbon footprint.

As I have stated before, I am a tech guy and love gadgets.  The Book Kahuna also loves his planet because, where else can we go?  Right now no other planets are receptive to having us, so we have to make due where we are.  I’m also not a proponent of global warming or climate change political dogma, but I believe that being a good steward of the planet and the resources we have for the generation that succeeds us is the only right and fair way to live on this biosphere.  Leave the planet as you found it, but make good use, in an environmentally friendly way, of the resources that are here for the betterment of all.

I started by having all of the production paperwork generated electronically.  Everything was stored in a folder framework on our server.  Each person in my department had a file, and could add folders to the file when needed for the new titles they were working on at any given time.  Invoices were sent to us via e-mail, where they were converted from their original format to a pdf.  I worked with the IT department to get everyone in my department the full version of Adobe Acrobat to insert text codes for our accounting department.  I incorporated digital signatures into the invoicing process so that a completely coded, signed version of the invoice was e-mailed to our Accounting Department.  If accounting needed to make a copy of the invoice, then there was only one piece of paper generated as opposed to 4-7 copies previously.

When we received pdfs (Portable-Document-Formats) of page proofs from our vendors, my staff  e-mailed them or loaded them onto the ftp site on our server for the authors, proofreaders, and indexers.  If the author or proofreader found any errors that needed to be corrected, we suggested they only print the page being corrected and mark it up.  If they had access to a scanner they could scan it and e-mail it back to us.  They could also fax the pages, although we tried to get auhors/vendors to send the pages overnight mail if that was the only way available rather than making another copy.  There was a conscious effort on my part to reduce paper in my department by a geometric proportion.

If you are going to use a digital product on your tablet like Evernote, why do you need a paper-based notebook as an accessory as well?

Hey Doc, let’s get the DeLorean ready to rock and roll!




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