E-content as a standalone technology is transformational, because it eliminates the cost, time and other resources required to get content from the human mind into shareable media. Since the masterful invention of the printing press in 1440, content has been consistently delivered in printed format. Today we have seen the transformation to electronic media instead of the printed page. This makes it easier, faster, cheaper and more collaborative to create and share content.

According to Google's Eric Schmidt, there were only five exabytes of data created between the dawn of civilization and 2003, with most of that being created since 1440. To help you keep the volume of content in perspective one exabyte equals one million terabytes of data. While that may seem like a lot, it is now estimated that man creates a zettabyte of data every year (zettabyte being one billion terabytes), and that number will continue to grow. E-content by scale alone is therefore transformational and will change the very nature of how we acquire the right information at the right time. Creating, storing, indexing, searching and using a zettabyte of e-content is still challenging with today’s technology, but it is possible and will become commonplace in the near future. On the other hand, printing the equivalent of a zettabyte of content would require man to manufacture a stack of books that would reach from the Earth to Saturn — almost 800 million miles of books. Simply impossible!

E-content is also about freedom. It is a technology that transforms creation, storage and use of information from a formal, costly process controlled by organizations, to individual, real-time, dynamic content creation. Anyone can now produce a book, a research paper, a blog, a video, a movie, and more. E-content does for publishing what the PC did to information technology by making it available to the masses.

The world has a hunger for information. No matter how many TV shows and movies are produced, the sale and circulation of books and magazines continues to grow. People are creating content to be read at an every increasing rate, and e-content allows for the unrestricted creation and circulation of content. So the concept and practice of reading and writing remain the same, but the process is revolutionized by e-content. The barriers to getting a book on the top readers’ lists are gone. Like smartphone apps and Facebook members, e-content has the potential for viral growth rates. A new writer could publish their first book and post it to the web and find that a million people have downloaded it two days later, and if it is an awesome book it could have a billion downloads. E-content not only enables everyone to be a publisher but it allows an author to go from complete obscurity to bestseller overnight.

Let’s look at one slice of the transformation as an example of the revolutionary nature of e-content. A top ten public library today has somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty million items in their collection, one hundred branches, and a budget of around two hundred and fifty million dollars. They probably move about thirty tons of books between branches per month to get the right book to the right person on the right day. That is a lot of logistic, time, labor, and money just getting the item to the end user. Now let’s shift to the e-content world of the future. Open source, “public libraries” or more appropriately, e-content service centers will in just ten years contain five hundred million items and the concept of a branch location for item delivery will be replaced by every device from a computer, to a smartphone, to an e-reader. There will be no budget directly related to the collection or the circulation of the collection, and rather than moving thirty tons of items between branches to get it to the right person at the right time, it will all reside in a virtual collection of e-content service providers around the world and be instantly accessible to anyone, anywhere.

© 2013 Jack B. Blount

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