The slow walk off a cliff

Last month I was in the Strand bookstore and bought two books by Haruki Makamuri, What I Talk about When I Talk About Running and The Wind Up Bird Chronicle.  When I got to the register, I was surprised how strange it felt to physically buy a book in this digital age.

A few weeks later I was in Hudson News at the San Francisco Airport.  There with the other best-selling books was Michael Lewis’ The Big Short which I’d seen in probably 30 other store windows and thought about buying.  I figured with a long flight ahead and the knowledge that my laptop would die before I got to New York, I may as well pony up for the book.

But it cost $27.95 in hardcover.

Though I’d only read ONE book on my wife’s Kindle and I don’t own an iPad, suddenly I felt my iPhone burning a hole in my pocket.  I looked The Big Short up on the two free apps I have on my iPhone (iBooks and the Kindle app), and it was available in both places for about $10.  And on top of that I had the realization that NOT owning the printed hardcopy of this big, bulky book was a plus….along with the prospect of saving 2/3rd off the cover price.

So I downloaded it.

One of the toughest nuts to crack is figuring out which trends, which behaviors that seem so engrained actually have the ability to turn on a dime.  Think iPhones in a Blackberry world; Google search in the days of Yahoo; ebooks today; money transfer through phones in Kenya; texting; wearing seatbelts; smoking; digital photography…

The examples that move fastest are all digital, but wholescale transformation happens all around us.  Reading primarily printed books (or printed anything) is going to seem quaint in 10 years’ time.  And how long, do you think, before every book comes with a free ebook download?  Before you feel like you’re missing out when you read a magazine, because you can’t click on the photos?  Our kids will hear you talk about this stuff the way I heard my parents talk about black and white TV.

The ultimate opportunity for leverage is to spot or create things that slowly, quietly, unexpectedly, have the potential to go from “that’s crazy” to “how did we live without it” on a dime.  And most of the hard work happens during the “that’s crazy” part of the curve, which requires more than vision – it requires mettle.

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