on Aug 3rd, 2009 in Strategy & Public Policy | 18 comments
 
It wasn’t too long ago that digital audio players such as iPods and MP3s revolutionized the music industry. Now, almost a decade later, the same sort of revolution is occurring in the publishing industry with the introduction of electronic reading devices such as the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader. Electronic reading devices allow users to download digital versions of books, newspapers, and magazines. The devices are mobile, and some offer wireless capabilities. Now, newspaper and magazine publishers have another option besides the Postal Service to reach customers. Will electronic reader technology become a more effective method to deliver newspapers and magazines? Will this technology be the answer for the survival of newspaper and magazine publishers or the demise of the mail house and printing industry? A recent study stated the number of business to business publications offering digital editions and total subscriptions have increased over 300 percent from 2006 to 2007. In addition, consumer publications offering digital editions and total subscriptions have increased over 200 percent from 2005 to 2007. However, Periodicals mail volume has steadily declined since 2000, and for the past few years, the Postal Service’s Periodicals class revenue has failed to cover its costs. The electronic reader option offers newspaper and magazine publishers a less expensive way to reach readers. In addition to the thousands of digital books available for download, today electronic reader users can buy monthly subscriptions to The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and other major newspapers all for around $10 a month. These publications can be downloaded automatically to the electronic reader overnight, so at breakfast, it's available to read. Some electronic readers require synching and downloading using a personal computer, while others offer wireless downloads. Electronic reader technology also provides the ability to cut, paste, and email articles, and to clarify words through built-in dictionaries, which makes the electronic reader more compelling as a news delivery mechanism. The technology is still being developed but in the future could possibly include color and touch screen interaction. The technology also saves paper, although it consumes electricity. Right now, the only drawback is the price; electronic readers sell for about $299 to $500. So what do you think?
  1. Do you think the Postal Service’s Periodicals mail volume will be further reduced by electronic reader technology? What about other types of publications such as catalogs?
  2. At the current prices, would you purchase one of the electronic readers?
  3. If you own an electronic reader, do you subscribe to a newspaper or magazine?
  4. Would you subscribe to a newspaper or magazine if you owned an electronic reader?
  5. Is there a way the Postal Service can use electronic reader devices to its benefit to increase revenue?

This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

18 Comments

The newspaper business could save themselves by taking their product offline. They hurt themselves by putting it on there to begin with. They have only themselves to blame.

Sometimes change isn't better. Look at all the business's going under because of all the "changes"

This is the way everything is headed regardless of how quickly the periodicals businesses adopt it. The eReaders were first generation. Next came the mobile eReaders with electrophoretic displays and Internet connectivity. The third generation is in production over in Japan with color displays. The fourth is now being developed in eastern Europe and will become a hybrid cellphone, eReader and Internet device.

Based on typical adoption rates of new technology, discounted by the state of world economies and the consumer spending trends, there is a decent chance that a fifth generation or beyond type of device is going to be in the hands of 60% of those on mobile devices today by 2020. The form factor will be no larger than your cellphone today and will expand to full laptop viewing screen size, assuming we will be using electrophoretics still. There's no telling if there will be some other game-changing technologies which change the output view.

Regardless of what year it happens by, knowing the existing technology and growing interest, we need to plan now how we adapt our products and services to still be a value add to our customers during and after the transition, and to position the Postal Service for the next wave of technological progress.

Rich Epstein
Chief Enterprise Architect

The Postal Service doesn't seem to care about change, just about having people change their opinions of USPS.

With mail volume down due to email, why not have the Post Office provide SECURE email?

Bulk email addresses could be sold for ad revenue, and new gadgets could be created. Similar to eBook readers, what about a replacement for a mailbox - an eMail box. People could opt to have gadgets like these at their houses, with varying features depending upon user preference.

I have been a career USPS employee for almost six years, but nobody pays any attention to ideas or concepts that they cant get something out of for themselves.

Don't believe me? Check the eIdeas program, where I have been talking about email for years.

There are a few issues to address with new ideas: (1) what is our value proposition; (2) are we permitted to get into that business; and (3) does the reward match the risk, and are we willing to take the risk?

In the case of providing secure e-mail, this is not new as an idea and has surfaced and has been vetted before. Likewise, offering secure e-mail is clearly non-postal as a result of the Postal Reform Act of 2006. The only way we could offer it is if the PRC adds it to the list of approved products or if we've secured a federal partner on behalf of whom offering such a service would make sense.

There are clear business and regulatory reasons why we're not in a lot of businesses today. The merit of an idea alone is insufficient to justify our foray into that business. Answer these three questions and we'll talk about a business model and so on.

Rich Epstein
Chief Enterprise Architect

Perfectly on point.
Many of the ideas offered simply don't fit into our regulatory context. At some point the survival of the organization lays solidly in the hands of our regulators and Congress. Given the parameters of PAEA most of what the organization can do on its own simply glosses around the edges.

I feel sad that a whole way of life could be gone, but things change and are lost all of the time. There are tons of things that I do not know about, and when I hear about some different things used to do it is pretty cool. I would think it is already having a pretty big effect because of all of the predicted U.S. Postal Service buildings closing. Here is a chart and other information about this here:

Oops, I forgot to post the link(:
http://yovia.com/blogs/kimberly/2009/08/03/the-us-postal-service-is-closing-down-at-many-locations/

I believe in Moore's law. Although, it's under pressure
from economic anomilies.

However, holographic technology is my prediction for
next gen reader's.

The physical assets required for this technology, from the prototype's I've envisaged, are without question
less than ten year out. And, a wee little ancillary benefit just happen to be a nearly zero micro carbon footprint.

There are a few issues to address with new ideas: (1) what is our value proposition; (2) are we permitted to get into that business; and (3) does the reward match the risk, and are we willing to take the risk?

1) Obviously no value. Lets all just toss around terms and hope the economy improves and raise the stamps to $1.50 each

2) Are we permitted? You tell me. Does anyone ask....hmmm I would if it were my job... i am a mechanic.

3)Nah, no reward could match the inevitable risk of becoming completely obsolete, a burden to taxpayers or dissolved into little private entities that will do whatever they want.

Maybe the merit of our continued foray into $7 billion + net loss each year is worth sitting around and doing business as usual. If Congress could be contacted about prepayment for retiree benefits, i a speculating that they could be contacted about other things as well. I guess that's why I am a mechanic, and i don't have a fancy title or high salary.

I'm going speculate a response here...

Dude, the Post Office can monopolize any business they
want! Provided, they can create a balanced financial
statement annually. For example, since they support
the largest ground transportation fleet in the domestic business footprint, they can pretty much define the US DOT "SAFTEA" appropriations.

Now let's examine this hypothesis one step further.

They're existing business model can be utilized for
nearly every U.S. highway transportation energy plan.
Simply engage the life cycle of each transportation
asset in the USPS fleet, it's energy consumption algorithm, and it's 2030 carbon consumption model.
Now, simply employ a similar computation to it's existing facility assets infrastructure.

Not roket science by any means.

But, like the AT&T monopoly, it will reveal that this piece of our domestic economic footprint is no longer sustainable.

Uhhhh...like I said, why not change what USPS does to adapt. Your response just supports what I said. Being a big monopoly isnt in the equation. Simply offering the services the public needs and will use IS. I wonder how well companies like PAGE NET , you know, they sold pagers...I wonder what they look like today when you can get a no contract camera phone for about twenty dollars. business as usual, no matter how you try to hide it with number crunching and reports is nonsense.

Try telling people c'mon, please dont drive your cars, ride our horses...you used to...and we have a lot of them...jobs depend on it , okay friends?

So.... how much longer will it be before the Postal service undergoes a partial colapse due to lack of funds to pay bills?

Has anyone in congress taken a serious look at the numbers?

I worry that health care reform is detering law makers from more vital things like a dependable postal service into the future.

Chris,

Actually, in answer to your question;
Post from Brainstorming Ideas Pt 2.
July.......

OK Here goes. Don’t get offended by the accusation
of you’re ignorance of government process. It’s complicated, and, I hope you all follow through.

And, I already know my sick pay balance identified below, is AS SAFE THE SUN COMING UP Tomorrow.
But, the USPS continued existence is definately
on the ropes.

Now, I’m a techy currently working in transportation, so to set the tone, my answers to poll questions are
reflected as such.

Question 1. Introduce Non-traditional Postal Services, i.e. web based, IP, wireless lan/wan etc., intelligent transportation net, similar to other noted comments provided in Brainstorming 1.

Question 2. Develop Web Based digital mail (Charge new fees for new technology services.

However,

I’ll bet my sick pay balance, only 1% or less know answers to the following questions. And, to assure accuracy, and prove you’re not peeking,

1. Who is the Chair of the committee?
2. Who are the ranking members?

Be honest with yourself.

1. First ask yourself to name the Congressional committee members that represent the USPS’s future, and the districts they are from and which one presides in you’re district.

2. Ask 50 USPS people you work with simply to name
the Congressional Committee these members belong to.

The Congressional Committee members who decide the USPS’s fate!!

I can categorically state that magazine subscriptions, for one, are actually on the up so this technology is not having an impact as yet and personally I can't see it happening for a long time.

Yes of course electronic reader will have big impact on postal service

This site raises a few good points, I believe the postal service will definatly be downsizing due to such devices as the kindle and the apple ipod. Why order a magazize thru the mail when you can download it wirelessly?

While I love my Kindle and look forward to getting the new Kindle Touch I have yet to give up reading paper copies of things.

Some call me a dinosaur (Dr. Gary North) but I still love to get my glossy Flight Journal magazine via USPS and page through it on a Sunday afternoon, looking at pictures and reading the stories.

Reading electronically with a nice Kindle Touch Cover is easy and comfortable, to be sure, but I even still love the smell of the magazine when I unwrap it.

I hope the USPS can stick around and be profitable.

I have no problems automating our postal services, as long as the mail will be secured and will not be falling at the wrong hands. There nothing wrong on trying new ways to make our mail delivery faster.

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