So, last month I travelled to one of the big conferences in my field. The copies of my own handout weighted about 5 pounds; on the way back, I took another 5 pounds worth of other people's handouts. This was the case for pretty much everybody else. This seems kind of wasteful for a couple of reasons.
- When I got back home, I ran the handouts I had collected through the scanner, backed up the files in Dropbox, and put the handouts in the recycling bin.
- The conference organizers offered the possibility of making handout pdfs downloadable from the conference site prior to the start of the conference.
In fact, a couple of people (including one of the keynote speakers) told me over a coffee break that, if it was up to them, they would forgo paper handouts altogether and just provide a pdf that people can download and look at during talks. This is something I agree with, if only because it makes post-conference storage and retrieval way easier (also, pdf handouts are awesome when you are sitting in a talk by a 23-year-old grad student who is under the delusion that older people can read 10 pt text comfortably).
Question: is there any reason, other than force of habit, to keep on distributing paper handouts? Technology is not an obstacle, I think, given how these days everybody brings a laptop or a tablet to conferences.