This is interesting. Back in the ’90s it was said that “all things that can be digital will be digital,” which makes perfect sense in an Internet world. “Bits” are “weightless” while “atoms” are not. There are few marginal costs in their production, they’re cheap and easy to ship, they can often be sold without the usual intermediaries, and information (text, photos, audio, video, and movies) can easily be converted. It would be the “democratization” of information where anyone could be a publisher, movie producer, or rock star, with direct access to audiences.
And, of course, in a large way, we’ve seen this come to pass, with blogs, YouTube, and social media leading the way. But not without some consternation, eg: Napster, which led to lawsuits against music consumers, the decimation of newspaper revenues, and Hollywood’s foot-dragging as it clings to antiquated business models.
And now we’ve learned that, at least for Amazon’s Kindle, digi-books are outselling paper ones. This should not be surprising as we’ve already seen the same shift from physical products to digital in the music industry. But it’s telling that consumers prefer digital in a growing way across all media. The prophecy is coming to pass.
But also telling is that such conversions are not always consumer-driven. Online banking, digital tax filing, medical records, and other services are also increasing because businesses understand the economies that digital provides. Whether consumers like it or not (think of humanless phone menus and automated customer service: “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that …”), we’ll see more of our lives converted to digital. This conversion of daily life is especially true with smartphones connecting almost everyone relatively cheaply.
If you are looking to leverage these advantages for your business, remember to look past the bottom line. Implement digital in ways that benefit, better yet, delight your customers, as Amazon has done with the Kindle. And beware of “economies” at the expense of the customer experience, which is the other side of the digital two-edged sword.
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