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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