Going truly paperless

The hardest part of going paperless is getting everyone to stop mailing you stuff.  Even when you tell American Express Merchant Services that you want everything by email, they still send a paper annual report.  There are still a few service providers that don’t even offer e-billing.  And you still have to fax signed contracts, right?


Take a snapshot of a document, upload it to Evernote.  They store it forever, for cheap, and they scan images for text, which you can then search from your computer or iPhone.

This is the end of physical files.  After 3 months of use, I have found Evernote’s text recognition to be almost perfect.  I type in “American Express,” it finds all the related images I’ve uploaded, and I can look at images of original documents.

Contracts?  Counterparties email them to me, I print, sign, photograph, and email back.  Evernote keeps a permanent searchable archive of the original signed document.  Again, no physical files.

At first, I used a Canon Digital Elph camera to capture the documents.  Would have preferred to use the camera on my iPhone — Evernote offers iPhone software — but the iPhone cam cannot focus closer than 3 feet or so, so it seemed useless.

Until today.  I put ordinary reading glasses in front of the iPhone camera.  Physics is physics:  reading glasses correct farsighted cameras just as well as farsighted humans.  I tried it, and it worked beyond expectations.  Now it’s a one-step process:  photograph a document with iPhone, and it’s stored and searchable at Evernote, forever.  Done.

Of course, it is cumbersome and un-hip to hold grandpa’s reading glasses in front of my phone.  Turns out that accessories maker Griffin has solved this problem with the Clarifi — an iPhone shell with built-in macro lens.

This, together with more obvious things like e-billing and Skype, permit true total business mobility.  For all you know, I’m writing this from Barcelona…

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