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Why We All Need to Switch to Metric Paper

By now, you know that I prefer the Celsius temperature scale over Fahrenheit, Standard Time over Daylight Savings Time, 24-hour timekeeping over 12-hour clocks, and the Metric System over English measurements. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I support yet another common-sense standard that everyone should be using: Metric Paper.

What is Metric Paper?

Metric Paper is simply a standard sizing system for paper. The benefit of Metric Paper over the Letter/Legal system we use in America is that it not only conforms to the Metric System, but it is also much easier to properly size images and documents up and down to fit different sheets of paper. The following video clearly and visually explains exactly why we need to switch to the straightforward and elegant solution of Metric Paper:

Why Hasn't America Switched to Metric Paper?

Through my research on other superior systems of measurement, I have learned that trying to convince Americans to switch to something just because it's "better" is useless, since most people will simply continue to use whatever everyone around them is using. They argue that "it's too hard" to retool paper factories, printers, and documents. However, all of these arguments are unfounded. I will explain why these arguments fail to hold up under scrutiny in the sections below.

The American Thing To Do

I previously mentioned that the most common argument against switching to Metric Paper is that no one else in the US uses Metric Paper. "If no one else is doing it, then why should I?" goes the common thinking. However, this argument has two main problems.

To begin with, this argument is essentially hypocritical. "If no one else is doing it, then why should I?" Well, why do you cut your hair differently than others? Why do you wear different clothes, drive a different car, and listen to different music than others? The American Ideal of freedom and individuality would argue that being contrary to popular culture is the best reason for doing it. Why should anyone in the US care about what everyone else around them is doing? You could argue that we should start using Metric Paper just out of spite to other Americans who are following the status quo like sheeple. And yet, we all do things because others are doing it: we use the toilet, make calls on a mobile phone, and breath oxygen. In fact, when it comes to Metric Paper, everyone else actually is doing it! The United States is clearly in the minority when it comes to a unified paper-size standard. Most of the nations in the world use Metric Paper. It would actually be so much easier for Americans to conduct global business and trade if they jumped on the bandwagon that everyone else is already on. Imagine not having to create two versions of everything---one for an American consumer and one for a global consumer. Imagine being able to easily copy and resize documents without any cropping or stretching! The rest of the world has already achieved this state of paper bliss. If everyone else is doing it, then why wouldn't we want to join them? Why are we so concerned about switching to a system of paper that the rest of the world already uses? Apparently, the concern about switching to Metric Paper is that Americans stubbornly insist that we shouldn't do what everyone else is doing, 'cause it would be "un-American" to "give in" to peer pressure. But that means that they don't want to do what everyone else is doing, which means they should switch to Metric Paper in order to be different from other Americans. So they contradict themselves. Which is it---do Americans prefer to do the opposite of what the rest of the world is doing, or do they prefer to do exactly what everyone else is doing? Either way, they end up at Metric Paper.

Finally, this argument is extremely lazy. "If no one else is doing it, then why should I?" Well, this argument effectively suggests that the only reason for doing something is if you absolutely, unequivocally, without-a-doubt must do it. However, most Americans are proud of their work ethic. They are proud of the things they create, build, and do on their own initiative. We should switch to Metric Paper, if only to prove to the rest of the world that Americans aren't hopelessly sedentary. If, however, Americans are indeed extremely lazy and proud of it, then this, too, provides an extremely strong argument in favor of switching to Metric Paper. If Americans wanted to expend the least amount of effort possible when creating printed materials, then they should do so on Metric Paper, making it unnecessary to create a second version for a global audience. Just as it takes a little bit of work to find the TV remote in order to save a lot of work later on, Americans should switch to Metric Paper in order to save a lot of work later on.

The Military & Technological Argument for Metric Paper

It is conceivable that someone might argue that using a different size of paper might give us a military advantage during a war, because it would be more difficult for enemies to scan or print stolen or intercepted documents, since our document sizes wouldn't match their scanning and printing equipment. However, this is not actually true.

If you take a closer look at almost any printer, you'll see that it is specifically designed to handle a wide variety of paper sizes. This is because the companies that manufacture these devices do not want to have to make different models for different countries and different use-case scenarios. They prefer a one-size-fits-all printer. This is also why the scanning tray on most printers is also much larger than a typical 8.5x11-inch Letter-size sheet of paper.

Now open your favorite digital document editing program and look at the printing options. Software such as Microsoft Word has for years shipped with the native capability to format and print on a variety of different paper sizes, including Metric Paper.

Finally, consider the manufacturing plants which produce American sizes of paper. These plants have no incentive to switch their production equipment over to Metric Paper while demand for their existing product remains high. However, if users were to begin to purchase Metric Paper in significant quantities, these companies would eventually switch to keep up with demand. This is very similar to the transition from incandescent light bulbs to CFLs and now LEDs. No one argued that we should keep using the inefficient older generation of light bulbs simply because we had manufacturing capability. Instead, people switched to the more efficient light fixtures and manufacturing processes kept pace. Therefore, one should not use manufacturing plants as a reason to keep using an outdated paper sizing system.

In addition, the American use of a different size of paper may actually create a military disadvantage, since cursory glance at a document printed on Letter or Legal paper would instantly give away which country the document belongs to. Consider for a moment that American codebreakers during World War II had an advantage over the Japanese codebreakers because we could decode Japanese while they couldn't decode Navajo. It didn't matter what size paper the coded messages were printed on, it was the coded message that counted. Therefore, it's what's on the paper that matters, not what paper it's printed on.

The LEGO Builder's Argument for Metric Paper

Allow me to provide just two practical examples of why we need to switch to Metric Paper. As our first example, I will use the LEGO Group. People all around the world enjoy building with LEGO bricks, and it's not hard to see why: the creativity and possibility they unlock is practically limitless. However, most people need instruction manuals in order to build the LEGO sets they receive. Almost all new LEGO sets come with a physical, printed instruction manual. However, many used sets are bought and sold without the accompanying instruction manual. This is the case with many of the LEGO sets in my personal collection. At some point in the past, the instruction manual was lost, torn, thrown away, recycled, shredded, or simply destroyed. Thus, it becomes necessary to visit the internet and download a PDF of the original instructions. Because the LEGO Group is based in Europe, its instruction manuals are all designed and printed on A4 Metric Paper. Likewise, the digital instruction manuals are also designed for printing on Metric Paper. Any attempts to convert or resize the instruction manuals to Letter or Legal size often result in stretching or cropping the instructions, which can negatively affect a builder's experience. This is a perfect example of why Americans, who purchase a large share of the LEGO Group's plastic production each year, need to switch to using Metric Paper. Unless we do, LEGO enthusiasts will continue to experience headaches while attempting to find and print instruction manuals for their used LEGO sets.

The Gamer's Argument for Metric Paper

As my second practical example of why we need to switch to using Metric Paper, consider games. Specifically, I'm referring to board games, card games, and role-playing games. Before the pandemic, people who regularly played roll-and-write and role-playing games were familiar with having to print out or copy many sheets of paper for each player from a digital document or a master rulebook. The pandemic brought this experience to many more gamers, as it became difficult to acquire physical copies of games. Therefore, many people began downloading print-and-play versions of games, which allowed them to print their favorite games at home. One such game that I began playing during quarantine is called Unfair. It's a captivating card game that pits players against each other in a race to build the best theme park. The game is infinitely expandable with additional expansion decks of cards, and I began playtesting a new set of cards in late 2020. However, the game designer released the print-and-play card sets on Metric Paper to cater to the game's international audience. When I attempted to print the cards on Letter paper, the cards printed too big and ended up getting cropped off. As a result, the cards were unusable and I wasted all of the money I had spent on fancy full-color printing. Game designers already work hard to create great games and immersive art; they should not have to create two different versions of their games just so the United States can have a version compatible with their outdated English paper sizing system (by the way, Britain has switched to Metric Paper, abandoning the system they gave us!)

The Economic Argument for Metric Paper

While most Americans cannot agree on which size of paper to use, they can all agree that they do not want America to fall behind the rest of the world in technological or economic superiority. However, that is exactly what is happening because of our failure to adopt modern paper sizes. American audiences will increasingly be left out of the global marketplace as manufacturers decide not to spend the extra money to make exclusive versions of products just to cater to American eccentricity. Even if you don't want to switch to Metric Paper for its own sake, I'm sure you can switch to Metric Paper for the sake of America. And if you can't even do that, then do it for your children, your grandchildren, and their descendants. Companies that fail are companies that fail to innovate. Likewise, countries that fail are countries that fail to innovate. America is failing right now because global competition is stymied by our outdated systems of timekeeping, measurement, and paper sizing. Are you okay with that? If you are tired of doing what everyone else in America is doing, start using Metric Paper right now; you'll be glad you did.

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