Print Wildfire Just Needs Kindle-ing
A couple of weeks ago, our e-mail newsletter reported on a Democratic think tank that wants to launch a "Kindle in every backpack" e-textbook campaign, a play off the "chicken in every pot" rally cry. I expected curt, irate letters wanting to know why we seem to be touting the minor setbacks suffered by the printed word.
Why? A short while ago, a few people wondered whether it was necessary to point out that colleges and universities are no longer printing media guides. As you may recall, the schools are making information about their student/athletes and the teams available online, thus saving tens of thousands of dollars in an economic climate that favors even stricter monitoring of outlays.
I don't wish to get into the whole "print was already losing market share to electronic media before the recession" nonsense that has been echoed constantly by the pontificating industry sages. Your response by this point is an exasperated, "no sh*t, Sherlock."
But the truth of the matter is, a Kindle (or whatever e-device) in every backpack is actually a good idea. It's not going to happen anytime soon, not at $299 a pop (Kindle price tag). But a scholastic electronic reader will have its day, when the technology's refined and the e-vailability of educational and literary titles becomes more universal. When you consider the long-term savings that cash-strapped school systems would reap with paperless educational materials, the move to electronic devices is a fait accompli.
Sure, there are some obstacles to overcome, especially the issue of the dog eating your Kindle, i.e., the disaster that would accompany losing the damn thing. They aren't deal-breaking issues. Mark these words...educational texts will be on the verge of extinction in 10, maybe 15, years at most. Frankly, it might not even take that long.
It would be foolish and wishful thinking to believe the U.S. educational system would not avail itself of a technology that would ultimately lead to massive savings. Same goes for colleges and universities. A semester's worth of educational materials—particularly dictionary-sized tomes—can run hundreds of dollars. The affordability of secondary education is already out of control.
A lot of hard-working Americans make their living printing educational books. Men and women far more intelligent than I, the presidents and CEOs of book printers, have been monitoring this situation for several years. They're watching trends and working hard to come up with value adds and alternatives that will enable them to develop a most-favored-nation status with clients.
There is value in recognizing trends that are negative, and knowledge of such trends is essential for planning accordingly. So don't clamor for happy news from your industry magazines. Know thine enemy, even when it's miles away.