Welcome to the New, Completely Paperless World

After 80 years of making deals with colored funny money, Monopoly has finally modernized with the elimination of fake bills and introduction of credit cards and electronic scanners for transferring funds. In many ways, Parker Brothers is simply catching up to the way the world does business in the digital age. But they also may have seen the writing on the paperless wall.

While print publishing still comes to terms with the clunky print-digital balance, a slew of electronic readers is making the decision to forego paper easier.

It starts with Amazon’s second iteration of Kindle, the wireless reader that allows users to download newspapers, blogs and more than 240,000 books. A number of big electronics players are entering the e-reader business to compete with Amazon, particularly Sony whose version features a touch screen and illumination for low-light reading. Hearst has also invested in the technology and is preparing to introduce a digital reader. Even book retailer Barnes and Noble has jumped into the market with their recent purchase of e-book retailer Fictionwise for $15.7 million in cash.

Fascinating as the burgeoning industry has become with corporate players, the real innovators may be a couple of smaller European-based companies. The first, Plastic Logic, recently introduced its own version of the basic e-reader design that is slightly thicker than a sheet of paper. The touch-screen display is made primarily of transistors on plastic and could revolutionize the medium. Another European venture, iRex, offers a digital reader on to which you can "print" your documents for digital viewing further eliminating the need for paper.

And newspaper publishing is certainly seeing the dawn of a paperless age, even if it's arriving as a last-ditch move to avoid the recession's pinch. The biggest daily publication to soon fold will likely be the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, whose parent company Hearst has said it would go digital if they are not able to find a buyer. It’s a fate that has already befallen the hundred-year-old Christian Science Monitor. Throw in the earmarks from Obama’s stimulus plan to digitize government and newspapers and board games won’t be the only things missing paper.

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