"Sony Unveils Pocket Size Electronic Book Reader" is the Los Angeles Times headline.  According to Silican Alley Insider the new Apple tablet is a GREAT book reader.  Although Steve Jobs thinks book publishers are incredibly screwed up and he's less optimistic about book sales than he was music sales when he launched iTunes.  And Amazon has sold out its Kindle e-readers since they started manufacturing them two years ago. 

With all these announcements, you'd think everyone knows about e-readers and the market shift happening in publishing – from books to magazines to newspapers.  Even I've blogged about this for months – and the positive impact this has had on book sales as well as Amazon's revenues and profits.  But:

E-reader share (Link to chart and Forrester Discussion here)

Half of all people surveyed in 2Q 2009 still haven't seen or heard about e-readers.

This is important.  Imagine it's 1983, and you weren't aware about personal computers and their benefits – even though the IBM PC was Time magazine's "Man of the Year" in 1982.  We now know that early adopters of PCs developed new solutions for many problems – from analysis to word processing to advertising development to commercial graphics to in-house publishing to communicating via email — on and on and on.  Those who understood this technology early, recognized the shift it demonstrated, had early advantages on competitors.  You didn't have to compete in technology, or be a technology officianado, to take advantage of this computing shift for your advantage.

Today, ereaders are another serious market shift that early adopters can leverage.  Soon newspapers and magazines will be hard to come by, or so thin (due to printing and distribution cost) that their content will be much less than desired.  But ereaders allow you to keep up with journals you've come to trust.  And advertisers need to be prepared to follow them onto this platform – to reach people they otherwise would miss.

If you've quit reading books because you don't have the money to spend (at $20+ apiece), desire to carry them, or the time to read them, ereaders allow you to buy and carry 350 or more books at a fraction of previous prices.  You even can buy pieces of books (chapters for example) that give you what you want.  Think of the shift from long-play albums/CDs to iTunes sales of single songs as an analogy.  You can get the benefits of books without many of the reasons you may have quit reading them.

Would you like a repository of information you can call upon for your daily work?  With e-readers you can carry an entire library, something you'll not do in paper.  Or on your laptop.

Speaking of laptops – this will all be on a laptop you say – so forget ereadersDo you really think we'll all be carrying these 7 pound monsters around in 5 years?  Look at college kids today.  How many do almost all their work on a phone?  They use the computer only when forced to – for typing papers or building spreadsheets.  Laptops are increasingly becoming much more than people want – too big, too heavy, too hot, too power hungry, too short battery life, too complicated, too much software, too many bugs, too many viruses, too expensive.  Laptops will soon be like mainframes.  Look at the trend.  Sales of big screen laptops have cratered as netbooks, with tiny screens, have taken off.  People are moving away from laptops to smaller and easier to use products – like ereaders. 

Why make your salesforce, or customers, or training techs carry a laptop when an ereader will give them everything they need?  They cost less, are easier to keep working, and don't get hindered with personal apps like MS Money that you didn't put on the laptop in the first place but couldn't stop.  Given ereader prices, you might be able to consider an ereader disposable in 5 years.  Literally, you could give a customer an ereader with all the training, specs, history, design elements, etc. of your product the way we now use a brochure.  It literally might be cheaper than a 10 page glossy brochure costs to print and distribute – but with everything they need to design in your product, or operate it, or service it.  Imagine an ereader in your car glove box rather than the owner's manual you never use – but the info will be catalogued, searchable, and linked to the internet so it's always current with service information.

Market shifts affect us all.  Too often we say "oh that shift is obvious, and I'm surprised the current competitors aren't jumping on that."  Then we ignore the shift ourselves.  Competitors that make higher rates of return, and prolong those rates of return, observe these market shifts and immediately build them into future scenarios.  They think about how to use these shifts to improve their competitive position, and create White Space to test the opportunities – even when they represent Disruptive change.  These are Phoenix Principle companies – and the kind you want to be – because they grow more, make more money and have longer lives.

Learn how to spot market shifts and leverge them for your advantage.  Don't end up like GM – out of touch and into bankruptcy.  Read the new, free ebook "The Fall of GM:  What Went Wrong and How To Avoid Its Mistakes."