Hardware

10 reasons why e-readers make sense in the enterprise

E-readers aren't just for avid e-bookworms anymore. See why Jack Wallen believes e-readers hold considerable value in the business environment.

E-readers aren't just for avid e-bookworms anymore. See why Jack Wallen believes e-readers hold considerable value in the business environment.


In case you haven't heard, e-readers are making an impact. They've been around for some time, but only now (thanks, in part, to Amazon's Kindle) are they being taken seriously. The e-readers' biggest fan is the avid reader, but this doesn't have to (and most likely won't) be the case for long. Enterprises should start deploying e-readers to certain staff/users. Why? There are many reasons -- several of which directly affect the bottom line.

But why, exactly, should your company adopt e-readers? Here are 10 good reasons for the switch.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Cost savings

I figured I would start out with the eye opener. The average e-reader (one that would make sense in the business environment) costs under $300. Let's say you want to purchase five of them for upper echelon staff. That's a total of $1,500. The average cost of a box of multipurpose paper is $35. So you would have to go through 42 boxes of paper to recoup your e-reader investment. That's 210,000 sheets of paper total, or 575 sheets of paper a day for one year. You also must figure in other costs in this equation: Delivery costs, ink/toner, printer wear/tear/repair, energy used by printer, downtime when printers are not functioning, etc.

Although it sounds like it would take a long period to recoup the cost of the e-reader devices, you know how upper management eats through reports - and they don't have the luxury of waiting for a printer to be repaired. Besides, by the time your company is ready to take the plunge and purchase e-readers, the average cost of the device will have dropped. Not only that, many e-book editions of books are cheaper than the standard editions. O'Reilly books are always cheaper in e-book form.

2: Greener business

No matter where you stand on the issue, you know businesses waste tons of paper yearly. This paper is either recycled or tossed. Although recycling is a noble gesture, even the act of doing so contributes to the problem. Someone has to pick up (or drop off) that paper to recycle. And the recycling plants use up energy and give off pollution in the process. You can avoid a good deal of this by employing e-readers. Distributing all of your company paper work, documentation, meeting pamphlets, etc., via files that can be used on an e-reader only makes sense.

3: Space savings

Cluttered desks are not only a sign of a cluttered mind, they are also a sign of a less-than-efficient worker. If you were to measure the space taken up by printers and printer paper, you might be surprised at how much space you would gain back by eliminating them. But it's not just about space. Removing clutter around the office improves efficiency and morale. Think about how often you hear workers complaining about the condition of the work environment that is directly affected by the clutter derived from printers, printer tools and accessories, and paper.

4: More efficient workers

How many of your employees are paper jugglers? And how much of that juggling causes less efficient work? Imagine your employees having all their paperwork, memos, meeting notes, and handbooks in one portable location? This would lead to less lost work, better organization, less mess, and less time wasted sifting and sorting through stacks of papers. And more efficient workers directly affect bottom line. Meetings could be more efficient as well. Imagine your employees coming to meetings and being handed an e-reader with every piece of necessary paperwork ready for them, instead of distributing stacks and stacks of paper. Some e-readers also allow for annotation, which would enable employees to take notes.

5: Increased professionalism

Imagine what handing out e-readers at meetings could do for your image. If you're a company that depends upon its image to stay ahead of the competition, how better to impress your clients than by having all your information on an e-reader instead of a folder with the traditional paperwork? Not only will this impress clients, it will allow you to protect your intellectual property when you get your e-reader back at the end of the meeting. No client will be able to walk off with your information or steal your work or ideas. Besides, modern business is done at the speed of data, not the speed of a paper and ink.

6: Staying in the know

Some e-readers allow you to download newspapers, magazines, and blogs wirelessly. (The Kindle 2 does this very well.) This provides an outstanding means for your users to stay on top of current events and trends, while at the same time having company data, documents, and other resources conveniently in the same space-saving device. Yes, this can be done with a laptop -- but with laptops, there are added issues you don't have to deal with when using e-readers. Remember, the e-reader is a single-minded device, so your employees will be using them only for the task at hand.

7: Higher morale

There are times when a company needs a boost in morale. Handing out e-readers, even if they are for work, will give a short-term boost. The e-reader is an outstanding tool that can be leveraged to keep employees on task and happy. By allowing your employees to use these tools for their own reading, as well for managing company documentation and information, they will see that you not only value their work, but you're also concerned about their mental well being. This is critical to employee retention. And although an e-reader seems like a small offering, it will go a long way to make employees happier, better workers.

8: More documentation on hand

Imagine having an entire library worth of documentation ready for your employees to use on a single server. No more having to dedicate office space for a library or spending critical dollars on multiple copies of books. Instead, purchase an e-book and make it available for all of your e-reader-ready employees. This wouldn't just apply to purchased books, either. You could also provide in-house documentation for all your e-reader users. In certain situations (and if you have the technology in place), users could have access to your documentation on the go.

9: Reduced eye strain

It has been proven (and I can attest to this) that e-ink technology leads to far less eye strain than reading from a standard PC monitor or laptop screen. When employees spend the vast majority of their day reading at their desks, their eye health will benefit greatly if they can spend a portion of that day reading from an e-reader. The average person can spend much more time reading safely from an e-reader than from a monitor. This helps boost morale, along with productivity. Less eye strain leads to fewer headaches. Fewer headaches leads to more productive employees.

10: In-house publications

How often do you invest time and money on having large documents bound together for ease of use? With e-readers, you don't have to outsource this service. It becomes an in-house job that can be done quickly and easily. Not only are you saving money. When you "publish" in house, your employees will get the documents they need much faster. No more waiting for the bound copies to arrive from the publisher. No more having to unpack and hand out heavy books. No more waste. You are your own source of documentation, publication, and distribution.

Brave new e-reader world

You probably never thought you would see the day when e-readers could be a possibility in the enterprise. Well, that time is coming, and you can be ahead of the curve by making this investment. Just make sure you do your homework to find the e-reader that serves you and your employees best.

Have you thought about deploying e-readers in your enterprise? Is this something you would like to see happen? If so, chime in and let your fellow TechRepublic readers hear your thoughts.


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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

13 comments
Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

makes sense IF we ever get e-readers using files that are not locked down into being sub-quality documents through badly formatted files that make plain text a rtf look great. An e-reader that renders basic html perfectly will be perfect for what you mention here, sadly there are no e-readers that do that properly yet. But many of the new tablets do.

bart001fr
bart001fr

These e-readers are so portable, both in size and weight that they would be walking out the door with every visitor and employee. And the company's sensitive documents in them would cost your company its corporate life. I don't see the paperless office coming for the next 50 years. Corporations, big or small, have too much to lose to let their contracts and other correspondence walk out the door. Give me an encrypted device that bricks itself and explodes the memory when it is taken off the premises and maybe it will start to be okay. But I'm not holding my breath.

Gsenoj
Gsenoj

In an enterprise, there certainly are more considerations than just eye-strain, saving paper, and desk clutter... One of the main things that I've been tasked to look into is: does encryption exist for any of these e-readers? With today's increasing risk of breaches, NO ONE gets a mobile device in our enterprise without some version of encryption. If it can't handle encryption, we don't even consider it.

SerrJ215
SerrJ215

Almsot every one of your points is vaild, except the fact you are putting E-readers Vs Paper. I can not see the utility in an enterprise on spending $300 per person for a tool that allows you to read, but not edit, mark up, or email documents, when netbooks are only $350? If you do look at it hard and in this economy, E-reader vs laptop. Laptop wins by pinfall and submission. I understand the usefullness of electronic books, and I support them but I cannot support a uni-takser like an E-reader. Especally since a laptop or Netbook could do the same thing and a hell of alot more. Look beyond the idea that they look like to cool P.A.D.D.s from Star Trek the E-reader does not look good to me. I also do not think they will make it in the enterprise until they can do alot more then just read, or the price tag comes down below $100.

Datacommguy
Datacommguy

You can do the same things with a flash drive which will usually work just as well on most computers you end up working on. I have a bundle of info, tips, specs, etc, on a flash drive - along with quite a few tools - that are often used on trouble or service calls.

LouCed
LouCed

When I was a support pearson, I used to download all my tech notes to my PALM device and use it as a reader. I do not understand why I need a "reader Device", when for a few bucks more I can get an I-Paq PDA. Also, a lot of folks, even avid readers, hate reading from e-lectronic devices. I think you have a good idea that the hardware is not quite there for.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

1) What format do e-readers accept? PDF? 2) How am I getting company content into the e-readers? USB stick? I'd hate to have to walk around loading all these readers. Do they have client software for 802.11 a/g/n wireless networks? VPN? 3) You mentioned books. Can I purchase one book and have it loaded it on multiple readers at the same time? 4) From point #6 - "...the e-reader is a single-minded device," Does anybody want a single purpose device these days? Aren't e-readers already moving beyond their original purpose and beginning to incorporate some features from media players and cell phones? Some non-question comments, numbered after your points: 4) Desk space savings. I can save even more it I drop both printer and e-reader, and view reports on a LCD monitor. We banned desktop printers outside of HR years ago. 7) Morale boost. I wonder how many of these relatively expensive morale-boosters would go unused by those employees who don't have any use for electronic toys, or who get frustrated because they won't bother to read the instructions, or don't read recreationally or professionally in the first place. You can toss a whole lot of Friday pizza parties for $300 per reader. 8 / 10) The downside of moving your documentation to an e-reader format is you lock out those employees, customers, vendors, other stakeholders who don't have a reader. Now you have to maintain two sets of documentation, one in e-reader format, one in PDF for the rest of the world. (Assuming the e-reader format isn't PDF; see my first question.) Where I work, those with laptops usually bring them to meetings. While there is the possibility of distraction, the ability to access our MRP system and the Internet outweigh the potential inattention issue. If people aren't going to pay attention, they find a distraction anyway. (I doodle.) I can also see a couple of disadvantage. One is the inability to view multiple pages side by side to compare content. Also, the last time I checked, paper was larger than most e-reader screens. My big question: for appx. the same price, why get an e-reader instead of a netbook? It seems to me most of the advantages you list would also apply to a netbook, with more capability for the money.

toadforce
toadforce

Having just bought an e-reader for personal use, I think they do have some potential in the workplace. Ask yourself why do we use all this sophisticated technology at our desk, but when we are called to a meeting, we suddenly step back a couple of hundred years and start shuffling papers around? Some people bring copies, some don't; Some organisers bring copies for all which results in duplication. An e-reader for all would bring us back to the 21st Century. The downside is that you can only view one page at a time and moving between documents requires a few clicks. But then, as always, we adapt to use new technology if it brings real benefits, so meetings may proceed in a more ordered fashion to counteract those difficulties.

minstrelmike
minstrelmike

The points are all valid but if folks already have a laptop, why can't they get their memos there, maybe via e-mail? A Blackberry isn't very useful for typing large reports and you cannot do spreadsheets, but you can certainly read any memos and reports anyone wants to generate. You can do the same with a laptop and also generate your own reports and memos and stuff. Since an eReader doesn't replace a laptop for doing 'work,' then all it is is a reader and most workers do far more than read on the job. You can make all the same cost savings right now without buying a new machine if your users have laptops.

LouCed
LouCed

Is that I can read it on the bus.

motie38
motie38

Most of the respondents to this article failed to recognize one of the primary points you made, which is the reduced eye strain. That alone makes the e-reader option worth looking at(pun fully intended). Add to that the increased screen size vs. a PDA, and correct page orientation vs. a netbook/notebook, I think it's a win. My only negative comment is in regards to point 8. You said "purchase an e-book and make it available for all of your e-reader-ready employees." But you still have to purchase a separate copy for each e-reader, or some mechanism needs to be put in place to "check out" the book from your electronic library, and purchase enough copies to handle the number of simultaneous readers you expect to have. I don't believe those mechanisms are in place yet. Another positive I can think of though, is easy deployment of a corporate book-of-the-month club. Many good companies have or at least should have a monthly recommended book, that helps the employees become more goal oriented and think about ways to enhance their own, and the company's performance. A company that does that would make up the price of the e-reader in a few months with the savings on the e-books. That said, I think the iPhone wins for now, because it's easy to add an e-book reader app to it, and of course it functions as a phone, and you can deploy other corporate applications to it. It doesn't solve the eye strain problem, but it has too many other advantages. What I would like to see is an e-book reader with full PDA capability. Other PDA apps would benefit from the increased screen size and reduced eye strain. However, I think e-ink technology isn't quite there yet. It seems the e-readers are stuck printing a full page at a time, and are still somewhat slow at that. They don't yet have the ability to update just a portion of the screen, which prevents them from being able to handle more general purpose applications.

spdragoo
spdragoo

If you're using your time on the bus with your PDA or E-reader to read company-related materials, then a) make sure corporate policy allows you to take the documents out of the office (electronic version or not) and b) make sure they're paying you for the time you're on the bus, since you're apparently "working". But if you're just talking about reading a novel/personal magazine/local newspaper on it while riding the bus into work, that's not "job-related"...which is the point of the discussion (i.e. enterprise or "job-related" use of e-readers).