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Funeral for briefcases: management training company donates e-books

March 6, 2012

Liza van Wyk

A Johannesburg training company will give away hundreds of Kindles over the next three months to encourage executives and professionals to make the switch from paper and to read more.

AstroTech, in giving away Kindles, pre-loaded with course material to delegates attending a public courses from March to May forms part of a global revolution in publishing. This year Amazon Kindle will sell 26. 2 million – or R14 billion worth - of units, which will fuel the sale of some 751.5 million books (worth R9 bn). And that’s just one e-book supplier. This year the market for e-books will top R364 billion and soar ever upward.

In 2011 Amazon sold a mere 17.5 million Kindles and 310 million books - which gives an idea of how the market for words and ideas is exploding.

AstroTech CEO Liza van Wyk says, “I’m addicted to my Kindle. I now read more often and more widely. Ours is a knowledge and skills expansion company, I thought that if an e-reader has such a profound impact on me –what impact will it have on our delegates? And on the quality of the work they produce? Innovations in e-books and Kindles means that we can give delegates course materials wirelessly or by cloud.

“We are giving away the Kindle Keyboard 3G, it’s more expensive (to us, there is no extra charge to the courses) but we wanted delegates to have connectivity as soon as they received the device and to ensure that when they got home they also had connectivity. The keyboard also makes note-taking easier. Instead of delegates carrying clunky course materials it will be on their Kindle among their library of other books, newspapers, study material or journals. And of course, it’s environmentally friendly.

“We’ll give out a few hundred Kindles to participants on 26 different courses ranging from Emotional Intelligence, to Finance for Non-Financial Manager’s, Business Contracts and SLA’s and Business Communications and Report Writing. After the course the delegate can sit at his or her desk, with a small Kindle next to them clicking to pages they have bookmarked. It’s faster and neater than wading through pages in a manual.

“The serious professional now carries his or her library. This is the death of the briefcase. South Africa is tracking the wave of e-reading and publishing, we’re helping take it a notch further.”

“In the future we won’t buy a book or newspaper for the quality of it’s content, we’ll buy based on how much time it takes to read it,” Van Wyk said. “This doesn’t mean that people won’t read quality, they’ll buy it packaged into time related bite-sizes. A significant trend in the United States is essays, research papers and short stories that are sold with the average amount of minutes to read them, so a person with a 20-minute commute will know it is enough time to finish that article.

“We are not yet doing that with our training material but we are trying to stress that knowledge has no geography. A Kindle allows our delegates to subscribe to a newspaper in India, buy a research paper from a Hong Kong professor, read an essay by an Arkansas writer, or training modules from our South African training group.”

So acute has the Renaissance in Reading become that in the United States, which offers book-streaming through a cloud is now contesting video streaming for popularity. Subscribers can, for a monthly fee of around R150, have unlimited access to books, magazines, newspapers, essay, research papers or training manuals. “South Africans,” Van Wyk said, “Need to read more and with greater sophistication. A friend told me that on a recent trip to the United States she noticed that 95 percent of those traveling in subways, trains, or busses were reading from e-readers like Kindle. How often do you see South Africans absorbed in a book? Not enough for us to achieve the ideas that propel global competition.”

Citi analyst Mark Mahaney has said that Kindle-related revenue is now 10 percent of all Amazon revenue - it sells 105 e-books to every 100 paper books. “Smart businesspeople use smart technology,” Van Wyk says. In 2008, Twitter had four million users, this month (March) it’s 500 millionth user will sign up. In 2008, Facebook had 50 million users-nowhere near today's 845 million. “As a training organisation part of our mission is not just to teach, but to show and to coach. And in the future? Who knows, maybe those in our training rooms will be in the minority as others ‘take class’ while interacting from their smart phone, “ Van Wyk noted.

One of the fastest growing areas in learning technology is that of game-based learning and simulation with real life scenarios. This is used by the U.S. Army to prepare their troops prior to war zone entry to prepare entrants to the job market, ensuring they understand how to interact with people, products, processes and systems.


Funeral for briefcases: management training company donates e-books - Skills Portal