By JOEL HANS, Associate Editor, Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation (IMPO)
I’ve always been a diehard fan of the printed page, whether it’s a hardback novel or the glossy pages of a magazine. That passion is a large part of why I’m in the publishing business now. In many ways, there’s nothing better than sitting down with a good book and feeling the pages between your fingers. For many years, I’ve resisted the e-book revolution. “Don’t take my paperbacks from me!” I lamented. “No device will ever be able to replicate that feeling, so just stop trying!”
The irony, of course, was that throughout 2010, I had read almost nothing. Between work, trying to exercise, personal projects, and borderline addictions to video games, it was hard to find time for reading.
But I just got a Kindle as a gift, and I love it. The device itself is about the width and height of a paperback, roughly the same weight, and is about as thick as a pencil, or less. The screen is stunningly sharp and beautiful. Since my eyes are still okay, I’ve shrunk down the type to a size you’d see in your dusty copy of The Brothers Karamazov, and it looks just like print. The buttons provide a sort of tactile sensation of turning a “page.”
Not long after getting the Kindle, I bought Mother Night, a novel by Kurt Vonnegut. Having read four or five of Vonnegut’s other works, I was hopeful. And for literally the first time in my life, I read an entire book in a day. I’d like to say I read it cover-to-cover, but… there are no covers, and that’s exactly the point.
I think I had grown so attached to the idea that printed books were the perfect way to read, that I slowly began to bore of them. Sure, I’ll miss growing out my fledgling library, but for someone who tries to be on the forefront of any technological revolution, it was about time to embrace the digital book. If I stumble on a favorite that I must have a printed copy of, I’ll probably just go out and buy that anyway.
The point of all this is that we all become too comfortable with the way things work now, or the ways they used to work in the past. When we get comfortable, we get complacent. For me, it was the ultimate irony, because I’ve always been committed to staying in touch with technology, no matter how far it went or how old I got.
Don’t think that we’re not going to hold onto print with everything we’ve got, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have an eye on the future. Those present in the vast manufacturing realm, from the plant floor to the distributor, and beyond, are some of the most stick-to-your-guns people out there, and that “pluckiness,” if you will, is why U.S. workers outpace Chinese workers 10-to-one in productivity.
But taking that confidence too far leads to stagnation, which is exactly what I had been experiencing in the last year. Sometimes we have to make a bit of an upfront investment — for me, a Kindle, and for you all, maybe a new piece machinery, automation, or management software — in order to find greater productivity overall.
That is, until I end up downloading that Sudoku application onto my Kindle. It’s only $1.99, so it couldn’t hurt, right?
Are you fan of the Kindle, or are you holding onto your books until your dying day? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.