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Can't Do Without the Stuff

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The "paperless office" remains one of those catchy ideas whose time hasn't come. So far, the trend is running in quite the opposite direction. And little wonder, when you look around your office at all the new machines that eat through reams of the stuff. A study by the PaperCom Alliance (which arrived via fax, naturally) finds use of paper increased last year in "every major category," including office papers, newsprint, envelopes and direct-marketing materials. Consumption of"communication papers" rose 5.3 percent overall in the 93 countries covered by the research. Over the past six years, the rise totals 25.9 percent. While one might suppose the rise of the Internet would cut into paper usage, the report says the opposite is true. "The biggest boost in paper consumption is coming from e-commerce companies that use direct mail, catalogs and print advertising to build brand awareness and increase sales." The trade group cites various reasons for the popularity of paper: It's inexpensive, portable, easy to read, etc. But its list omits what may be the foremost reason: It's emotionally satisfying to throw out a piece of unwanted paper—far more so than deleting a computer file. The little trash-can icon on your screen doesn't measure up to the real thing. Pictor International/Picture QuestWood River Gallery/Picture Quest