Are you ready for the revolution? The consequences of books going digital are probably bigger and sooner than you realize.
At a committee meeting eight months ago I talked about the demise of the post office and the newspaper "boy" being just around the corner. A friend responded that I would ultimately be correct, but it would take 15 years. As new software programs, including Windows 7 and Chrome OS, and scores of hardware devices, such as Alex and Nook, roll out, I suspect my friend is beginning to appreciate that the electronic reading tablet will soon be as common as the pocket calculator. In situations similar to this, my old boss, Jim Brinkley, President of Legg Mason Wood Walker, had a fondness for saying that he did not know the exact outcome, but that "economics wins."
The economics of delivering an electronic book versus the physical delivery of a book is not a contest. The total cost of electronic delivery is a small fraction of the cost of physical delivery. The neatest thing is that a copy of the book that has been delivered electronically has been saved for additional use time and time again. This "cloud copy" gives the reader several powerful opportunities. For example, books downloaded to Nook readers can be lent to a friend for up to 14 days and readers can read on a device at work and then pick-up where they left off on a different device at home. Students no longer have the excuse that they left their book at school/home.
The Vook is another interesting innovation. The Vook is the combination of video and text. In many situations, this is powerful. For example, the history student, reading about man's assent to the moon, might click on a link to watch the event.
In the near future, teachers will give reading/writing assignments and then monitor the progress of each student as they read and view the assignment and as they make their outlines and then write their "papers." No more asking Billy if he has done his homework. Instead, the teacher will know exactly where Billy is in the process, even checking in with Billy's progress with homework. The students finished with assignments might be offered any number of other "vooks" to enjoy.
The "game is changing." The idea to appreciate is that low cost and ease of electronic delivery changes what is delivered, when it is delivered and when a response is delivered. The student will be able to turn in his assignment immediately. Even better, the student might be given the opportunity to review his earlier work late in the year and to modify it based on what he has learned during the year. The teacher can become a collaborator, helping the student complete a very nice "finished product."
An employee, preparing a presentation, will be able to share the unfinished presentation with associates for feedback. Productivity will be enhanced as the finished product is likely to be a better product, finished in less time.
One might correctly argue that employees already use computers to enhance productivity. My favorite comparison is that Internet 1.0 is like the Model T automobile. The Model T was a small improvement over the horse and buggy and it changed the world. But it was during the second half of the product growth curve when better vehicles shrunk supply chains and drove down costs around the world. The internet that most of us use today is a good tool, but mobile, anytime delivery, is like putting a Cadillac in a Model T world.
Soon, one organization after another is going to feel "the great pull". Schools, businesses and churches will discover that they do not need to "push" electronic delivery as a cost saving method, but that their "customers" are demanding electronic delivery.
Over the next two years, the masses will upgrade their "phones" to internet connected readers. Organizations will soon face a new response: A significant number of recipients of paper newsletters will be turned-off by the producers' lack of sensitivity to the environment. The "customers view" of wasted ink, paper and delivery fuel will "rub-off" as a negative.