PaperBecause: A Paper Industry Astroturf Defending Paper

How prescient! I just wrote that the dead-tree book is dying and a tipster sent us in this charming little site dedicated to the joy of paper – funded by a paper manufacturer, one of the biggest in the world.

Domtar is the “largest integrated producer of uncoated freesheet paper in North America and the second largest in the world based on production capacity” and business, thus far, has been good. Like buggy whip manufacturers, however, the writing is on the wall – a great deal of the paper they spew out will soon be replaced by bits.

While most of that information, including the lip-service to sustainability, is false, I don’t envy Dotmar’s position. They are a massive paper conglomerate and their bottom line is being attacked by a free newspaper app you can download for iPad. Their best customers for centuries are now, slowly, turning away from them. That said, the website is a ham-handed attempt (one example bit of advice “Senior Executives prefer print…A resume is a summary of your professional career, not a blog about what you had for breakfast.” That’s why they’re called Senior. Duh!) by an entrenched industry to keep making money.

Read their mission statement:

Domtar is committed to the responsible use of paper. We’re also committed to communicating paper’s place and value to the businesses and people that use our products every day. Paper is a sustainable, renewable, recyclable, plant-based product that connects us in so many ways to the important things in life. Great ideas are started on paper. The world is educated on paper. Businesses are founded on paper. Love is professed on paper. Important news is spread on paper.

Businesses aren’t found on paper unless you count the antiquated filing systems required by some lawyers. Love isn’t professed on paper anymore – it’s expressed by Facebook status updates and YouTube videos. Important news is definitely not spread on paper, that much is clear since they decided to create a website instead of a publish wonderfully-printed 500 page book dedicated to the value of paper from the middle ages to today on expensive paper. I’m not being facetious. I’m being realistic.

I love me some paper as much as the next guy. In fact, I love paper books so much that I’ve been buying my son a few selected tomes in hardback or paperback just so we have them down the line. But friends I’m here to tell you that our book collections, impressive as they may be, will be as quaint as our parents old vinyl collections to our kids. I remember going through my Dad’s vinyl, picking out a bunch of great albums (he basically turned me into a Dylanophile and a Beatles fan, thus ruining my chances of getting a date in high school), and recording them to tape for easier listening. This is how my son will treat my book collection – an antiquated media with a great deal of value that will spur him to find the authors I loved as a youth in e-book form.

In the 19th century, everyone thought whale oil was the fuel of the future. It only a took a few years for the the sperm whaling industry to dry up. The same will happen to a number of entrenched industries in the next few decades including paper, petroleum, and hard disk manufacturing. It’s not a question of whether we like the soft, warm glow of spermaceti over the harsh, unwavering electric light, as PaperBecause is trying to suggest. It’s because electric light makes economic and cultural sense. Change comes fast to those who least expect it.