Disadvantages of Paper Instruction Manuals

Why paper instructions suck!

 min. read
September 20, 2021

They take up space. They’re confusing to read. They are easily torn, cost a lot of money to print, and harm the environment.

These are just some of the disadvantages of paper manuals. As we advance further into the information age, individuals, businesses, and public institutions are embracing digital infrastructure and migrating to a more sustainable paradigm. Paper printing is slowly becoming a thing of the past – some might even call it obsolete – as we increasingly carry out our activities on the screens of our devices.

They take up space

Manuals take up space, especially if you’ve been collecting them from everything you’ve bought that came with paper instructions. They could be a few pages long, or they could be entire books. Either way they are inconvenient, not to mention easily misplaced. How do you keep your instruction manuals? Do you keep them in a large, well-ordered filing cabinet, taking up half of a room? Buried in the depths of a forgotten drawer, never to see the light of day again? Or are you like me, and throw them away after a single use?

They are very confusing to read

Have you ever read an instruction manual back-to-back? I don’t think anyone has. They are extremely confusing to read, especially if they are text heavy, and come in multiple language formats. What would you prefer? A hundred-page booklet printed in tiny font in black and white, or simple images and bullet points? Digital instructions are easier to read and more convenient to use.

Higher cost to create

One of the drawbacks of paper manuals is the cost that comes along with them. When you factor in the cost of tons of paper, numerous industrial printers running 24/7, gallons upon gallons of ink, and a team of human supervisors, the cost for companies to create paper instructions continues to outweigh the benefits. It just isn’t worth it anymore.

They’re terrible for the environment

At a time when environmental consequences are of increasing importance, paper manuals present both a problem and an opportunity. Companies must cut down hundreds of trees, employ labor, and run equipment to process each tree into paper only to produce boring, convoluted manuals. On top of this, most consumers end up throwing away instructions after a single use, making mass printing of instructions even more wasteful. All of this can be avoided by investing in digital instruction manual software, increasing the effectiveness of instructions and the efficiency of operations simultaneously, while also eliminating a source of harm to the environment. With such incentives in mind, why not make the change?