By Paula Siviy, Business Operations Manager, Xerox Enterprise Business Group

I continue to ponder the trend (is it really?) to go paperless or not. I’m sure part of me is influenced by the actual physical media involved (paper or electronic), but in many ways I find I’m affected by the less tangible interactions.

One of my biggest criteria for selecting digital vs. paper is the context I will be able to grasp from whatever I’m working on. In my business environment, there are times when I’m working on a multi-page, multi-cell spreadsheet where it’s much easier to keep the data in digital form, but I’ll choose to print a critical page or two so I can easily refer to that baseline information. This is my grounding context.

Recently, I found myself making the same distinction for context on a family vacation. My husband, the techno-wizard in the family, was able to download the local maps and travel guides for our London adventure on both his smartphone and tablet and I dutifully trekked off to the local book store to get my handy pocket Frommer’s travel guide. While I primarily relied on my hard copy travel guide and my husband on his e-guides, both versions came in handy depending on the situation. My husband was able to quickly search and find the nearest pub for a quick refresh, whereas I helped plan the full day itinerary. Clearly, the digital versions helped us be spontaneous as we could access information at any moment, but my handy guide book helped provide the big picture.

Although digital map reading can be a context barrier for me, I do think I’ve finally made the transition to step-by-step directions via the GPS or my handy iPhone maps app (I guess I really don’t need to know where I’m going beyond the next turn or two). Yet, I still prefer to see a real, old fashioned accordion folded map to truly get the context of where in the world I really am.

That’s just one example. There are other less tangible interaction elements in the paper vs. digital debate. Literally, do you prefer to flip the physical page of a book or flick it away on your e-reader? Do you type an “x” in the digital checkbox for a tasks completed or derive satisfaction from tearing up that completed to-do list. And then, of course, there’s the search and locate interaction. There are times when a digital search is a lifesaver for finding that misplaced presentation, but there are also instances when I quickly locate a document because I know the last place I touched my son’s permission slip was in the pile on the kitchen counter.

I guess my conclusion for today is there’s a time and a place for both, and a lot of my preference depends on the context. How about you?