Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
October 13, 2011 8:41 AM

The Main Lesson That Digital Offers The World

True story...

I was making my way through the airport magazine shop and did my usual pit stop by the business book section. I'm usually not all that surprised by which books I find on the shelves. I'm a little bit of a business book nerd and I'm either eagerly awaiting something that is about to hit the streets, or - because of my newspaper and business columns - many book publishers send me advance copies (prior to publication date). To my surprise, there were three new business books that I was not aware of and that I wanted to grab. Just a few days prior to this, I was in a similar situation but this time it was in Frankfurt, Germany. I prefer business books from Europe because you can get the latest releases in paperback (which is much more convenient for both travel and occupying shelf space). I didn't buy any books. In both scenarios, I was travelling (and when I travel, I travel light). The books were all big, bulky and I found myself questioning the value of the content within the books against the pain and hassle of having to lug them around. At the same time, I have both the Amazon Kindle app and Apple's iBooks app on my iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air - all loaded to the gills with books that I am hoping to read.

The physical-ness was holding me back.

Almost 50 books that weigh nothing versus one or two that will suddenly fill my bag... was the purchase of those books necessary? Solution? I fired open my Kindle app and bought each and every book right there. Problem solved. No need to worry about carrying the books around, claiming them at customs, leaving them on a plane, forgetting them in my hotel room, leaving it in the office when I want to read it at home and more. Did I mention that the digital books are often significantly cheaper? Yes, this makes buying books that I used to be "on the fence" about a complete no-brainer.

Digital makes it simple.

You may be grumbling that it's not the same to read a book on an iPhone or iPad. You like the feel, heft and smell of a printed book. You think that I'm lamenting the death of print in favor of digital. This is not the point. Put all of that aside and think about the simplicity that digital brings (it can be books, movies, music, news, connectivity to friends, information at your fingertips and beyond). As I read more and more books - almost exclusively on digital devices - I've learned one major lesson: while I too prefer curling up with a good, physical book, I'll suffer some for the simplicity and ease that digital reading offers me. I like being able to have my books with me anywhere and everywhere. I love highlighting segments and being able to find them all in a simple way. I love reading a page or two of a book during a quick break, whereas before I would not have bothered to lug a book around with me everywhere. I love the fact that all of this literature is right here in my pocket. In fact, I like it so much that it outweighs the emotional struggle that I grapple with when it comes to letting go of print, or the fact that I can't let someone share the book.

It turns out that I am not alone.

The general complaint I hear is that people think it's much harder to read on an iPhone, Kindle or iPad than book ("it's just not the same!"). MediaPost published a very interesting article titled, E-Readers Read More, on September 30th, 2011. Here's the most telling part of the article: "While some lament the introduction of the e-Reader as a death knell for books, the opposite is true, says the report. First, those who have e-Readers do, in fact, read more. Overall, 16% of Americans read between 11 and 20 books a year with one in five reading 21 or more books in a year. But, among those who have an eReader, 32% read 11-20 books a year and over one-quarter read 21 or more books in an average year."

Digital readers buy more books. Digital readers read more books.

It's not a perfect world. For everything that digital brings, comes with it a level of change and discomfort (it happened to the music and news industry, it's happening to the film and TV industry and it's happening to just about every industry in between). While we can always be a market of one, it's important to think beyond our own values. Digital may not be panacea, but there are big lessons that businesses can learn by watching the adoption of e-readers and digital books instead of lamenting the days of yesterday.

It's important to know where we came from, but it's even more important to know where we are... and where we're going.

By Mitch Joel