When I was a carefree, world-traveling digital nomad, with no permanent address or mailbox, it was fairly easy to be paperless. I had few commitments, and little contact with people or organizations who found it necessary to bestow piles of printed matter upon me.
Now that I’m a homeowner with a child, being paper-free has become more of a challenge. In the past two years, paperwork has been flying at me in all directions: from mortgage statements, to home improvement invoices, to medical records, to school info, to utility bills that aren’t available electronically (I like to keep the latter to track water and energy use).
For the most part, I need the information, not the actual paper upon which it’s delivered. My minimalist filing system served me well in the past—I’d accumulate a year’s worth of bills, statements, etc., and scan what I needed at the end. I was also pretty diligent about scanning miscellaneous papers as they arrived. But with a two-year-old at the center of my attention, that’s not happening anymore; I just don’t have the time to scan individual documents with my slow-as-molasses flatbed scanner. My file box was beginning to bulge, and I realized that in order to keep up, I’d have to optimize the process—in other words, scan many more pages in the minimal time allotted.
I finally took the plunge and invested in a sheet-fed scanner, the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500. Regular readers know that I don’t do product reviews on my blog—I only mention items that I’ve purchased myself, and that have enhanced my minimalist lifestyle. So rest assured that Fujitsu has not provided me with any product or compensation—I shelled out 425 of my own hard-earned clams for this. (I have, however, used an Amazon affiliate link above; meaning that if you decide to buy one, a few dollars will go to support this blog and minimalist community.)
So, disclosures out of the way, how do I love thee, my little Fujitsu? Let me count the ways. You’re small: 11 x 6 inches, folding down to the size of a shoebox. You’re fast: 25 pages per minute according to the manufacturer, and I have no reason to doubt it. You never jam: your space-age roller and sensor thingy means I can feed you a healthy stack of paperwork without ever having to pry you open and extract a wrinkled mess. And finally, your software works beautifully with my Mac (which is more than I can say for my old flatbed).
I’m not one to splurge on gadgets, especially pricey ones. In fact, I have an aversion to expensive items in general, and rarely spend $425 on anything (I’d much rather have Nothing to Steal). But after six months of ownership, I’m pretty much in scanner love. I whipped through my backlog of paperwork in a few hours, and am now once again on my way to being as paperless as possible. Woo-hoo!
Bottom line: if you have more time than money, such a scanner is probably not necessary. But if you have more money than time, it could prove a worthy investment. (For the record, I tried to find a used one, to no avail–but now that it’s been out awhile, you may have better luck.)
So now I’m feeling ambitious, and looking for ways to leverage my new scanning superpowers. I have about a dozen books I’ve been carting around, from move to move, because they’re either out-of-print or hard to replace, and unavailable in electronic form. I would love, love, love to disassemble them, feed them through my scanner, and turn them into ebooks (my sincere apologies to all the booklovers who are cringing right now, but even as a writer I have no attachment to the printed page—see Why I Love Ebooks, Part 1 and Part 2).
The big question being: is it legal?
My impression is that it would fall under Fair Use: by destroying the hardcopy to make an electronic one, I’d essentially be trading one format for another (ie., I’d still end up with one copy, which is what I paid for). It would be solely for personal use, so there shouldn’t be any economic impact on the copyright holder (particularly if an electronic version isn’t even available).
Furthermore, in my internet research on the topic, I came across a company called 1DollarScan that offers this very service. I would imagine they’ve done their due diligence on the legal aspects; if publishers took issue with such scanning, they’d have been hit with a lawsuit by now.
Still, I’d like to be sure. Are there any lawyers who can weigh in on the legality of bookscanning for personal use? Inquiring minimalist minds want to know…
And on the broader topic, is anyone else striving to be paperless? Please share your strategies, triumphs, and tribulations in the Comments!
(This post is part of my “100 Possessions” series, in which I explain why each item I own deserves a place in my minimalist life.)