Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Digital Revolution, Part 1

I have a lot to say about the digital revolution in books and why I think it's a good thing.  For this initial installment, I want to point out that mass-digitization of books will expand readership.  A LOT.

To start with, I suspect there are millions of people in the U.S. who cannot easily get to bookstores, afford to pay for new hardcopy books, or have room to store books.  That doesn't mean they are non-readers.  A lot of them are simply reading online content or used books or library books.  You can reach this audience with digital books, and make a profit doing it since there are no printing costs.  Perhaps more importantly, the online world allows you to target marketing efforts to the right readers with a precision and efficiency never seen before.  I'll talk more about this in a later installment, but now let's move abroad.

Have you been to Japan lately? Here is a wealthy developed country of people living in itty-bitty little spaces. They love their content, but they really love all things compact. They watch live TV on their cell phones. Digital books fit their lifestyles infinitely better than bulky hardcopies.

Now how about rural India? Not too long ago, someone on NPR said that cell phones have done more to raise people here out of poverty than thirty years of government social programs.  Cell phones allow geographically isolated farmers to check prices at different markets in real-time and make the best decisions about their crops.  I think there are not many bookstores or libraries in rural India, but where you can have a cell phone, you can have an e-reader.

Step back and look around the globe, and we are talking about literally BILLIONS of people who can be reached now who could never be reached before.

Now before you pummel me with the yeah, BUT gripes I want to remind you that I am not finished.  Come back tomorrow for even better news.

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