Thursday, March 21, 2013

Digital Dislocation

The WSJ today reports that Scholastic Corp, will have a wider fiscal third quarter loss than expected.  The primary reason, according to the article, is the fall in sales of the Hunger Games trilogy, which Scholastic owns.  But

Scholastic also said it was stung by delays in educational-product purchases as school districts turn more to training and digital investments. 

Well, of course.

We upgraded the workstations at our office last week, and included in that upgrade are dual monitors for each station.  (A few of us had them already.)  This greatly facilitates our digital document production and research.  We expect to move or renovate our offices soon and hope to convert a great deal of our paper files to digital as we do so and not to retain future paper documents as they (decreasingly?) come in the front door.  This may be old hat to most business by now.  However, remember that we are lawyers and lawyers are deadly about innovation.

There have been battles between the FL legislature and our court system about funding the bureaucracies in each county known as "the Clerk's office."  There were serious state employee lay-offs following the Great Recession and lots of complaining from court staff and delays is the local "Clerk's office."  But now the court system is well into email court filing, digital record retention, and the use of the internet for all sorts of functions.  Would that system have moved in this direction without the recession?

I bought a new book on Amazon the other day, Steve Piefer's A Dream So Big.  The spread between the Prime hardback cost and the cost of the Kindle edition is only about $2.  I used to prefer the hardbacks, but now I am evenly divided over the issue.  For a book like this one, I would have bought the Kindle edition.  (What stopped me from getting the Kindle edition is that for the second time my cheap Kindle broke down.  Next stop, I think, is the smaller iPad.  Carol has made great use of her iPad.)

A big box of paper documents just came into my office, documents that I must review today.  My knee-jerk reaction is, "I don't want to see this box cluttering up my office and my file cabinets.  Put them in digital format.  Give me a reader that works."

I trust someone is working on a profoundly robust back-up system.  We have what we have, but the economy-wide race to digital worries me (and I'm sure a lot of other people) about the national interest in this respect.

Thirty-one years ago, when my dad reached age 70, he bought an IBM PC for his home office.  A new insurance product, adjustable life, had arrived on the market, and one needed a computer to understand and sell it.  (The insurance companies developed that product in response to the economic recession in the late 70s and the rampant inflation that followed it.)  He didn't hesitate to adopt both the tool and the product.  (He continued working until congestive heart failure finally retired him about age 80.)

Brave new world.

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