Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Going 'paperless'

image I prefer to read longer articles (even blog posts...) on paper. For instance I read Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan articles. Our corporate library allows me to read those articles in hard-copy. Of course the librarians have access to the digital sources of these magazines, but I don't.

What I usually do is browse through the magazine and make copies of the articles I want to read (or I think are interesting for my colleagues). In this way I can read them when and where I want.

When I read articles I usually write comments in the sidelines and highlight what I find interesting and important to remember. These marks are very important to me. So important that I would archive the hard-copy of the article in binders. At least until recently. If I could get my hands on a digital copy I would file that one on my computer with the comments.

Over time I've collected many articles and found that I hardly reuse those articles in my work. Filing them is hard and therefore retrieving them when I need them is too.

So recently I said to myself: Let's get rid of those hard-copies and scan all those articles in. This is quite easy because I work for a company that develops copier-printer-scanners. The scanners have a document feeder so I don't have to scan page-by-page. The scan is automatically emailed to me in pdf (but is not OCR-ed...).

When I get the pdf of the article I trust the scanning process has gone OK and don't check that. I rename the filename by typing in the title, the author(s) of the article, the source it came from and the date. Because Windows wants me to put the file in one folder (I'm using XP) I also add some 'tags' to the filename (by simply adding extra text in the filename) to be able to create intersections over files and folders.

This is working out fine for me. And I'm finding I'm reusing older articles more often now. When I'm asked to look into something I start by search my desktop and collecting the info I already have. Then I move over to my bookmarks (- wouldn't it be great if you could merge bookmarks and files? -) and finally search the internet.

I'm curious what you do with your paper documents. Do you also scan them? Or do you file them in a binder? Do you reuse those documents often? Please share your best-practices!

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