Study: Paperless statements won't take over any time soon

In 2017, bank statements and legal notices apparently will still arrive as paper almost twice as often as electronic documents. The slow-but-steady growth of paperless delivery has its upsides -- and one major downside.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
Expertise processors, semiconductors, web browsers, quantum computing, supercomputers, AI, 3D printing, drones, computer science, physics, programming, materials science, USB, UWB, Android, digital photography, science Credentials
  • I've been covering the technology industry for 24 years and was a science writer for five years before that. I've got deep expertise in microprocessors, digital photography, computer hardware and software, internet standards, web technology, and other dee
Stephen Shankland
2 min read
InfoTrends forecasts that 8.6 billion paperless statements will be sent in the United States in 2017. InfoTrends

Statements, bills, legal notices, and other official communications are steadily shifting to paperless delivery, but even four years from now paper will still dominate in the United States.

So concludes a study released Thursday by InfoTrends, which surveyed 2,025 consumers and 267 businesses on the matter. The analyst firm forecasts that paperless document deliveries will increase from 4.2 billion in 2012 to 8.6 billion in 2017, while paper deliveries will drop from 19.5 billion to 15.9 billion over the same period.

Obviously, paper will still dominate our lives for a long time coming. While going paperless isn't a miracle cure, it can offer real benefits. For those who must send statements and bills, paperless delivery can save money in printing and postage costs. For those receiving them, paperless statements take up less room, are searchable, and can be backed up to the cloud to guard against theft or disasters.

There's a reason the United States Postal Service tried dropping Saturday deliveries.

As someone who gone almost entirely paperless, I've discovered a lot of ups and downs. I can attest to one downside of paperless deliveries, though: PDF-downloading drudgery that spoils too much of my life.

Fetching those PDFs from your banks, utility companies, and schools can add a lot of work to your weeks. With paper statements, it's a matter of opening an envelope that arrives with no effort on your part, then filing some paper in a cabinet. With paperless, you must actively log in to a site and fetch PDFs.

Of course, you might conclude your bank can be trusted to supply such documents if you happen to need them later. Personally, I prefer to have my own records and have used them many times for actions like establishing residency and managing taxes.

For me, all the downloading is a pain. I just counted: I have to download 22 statements each month and another seven each quarter. Those come from 21 different companies, each with its own username, password, schedule, and sometimes dual-factor authentication doodad.

Sure, that's a #firstworldproblem, but the more paperless we become, the more it will become everybody's problem.

Correction at 3:48 a.m. PT The USPS has only proposed to drop Saturday deliveries.