Ebooks as digital handouts for conferences (an idea for the near future)

May 8, 2009

in Ideas, Tools

Photo from Popsci.com by Lauren Aaronson

Photo from Popsci.com by Lauren Aaronson

In a near future, ebooks could have an important role during conferences as they could serve as an interactive “digital handout”, avoiding attendees carrying hundreds of printed pages with them and providing advanced search functions for consultation after the event is over.

Amazon has just presented the Kindle DX ebook reader and everyone is crazy about it. It is a step in the right direction, being it slim and having a big readable area, but still too “closed” for uses other than the one envisioned by its creator. The same happens with other players on the market (like iRex or Sony) but I think the situation will evolve very fast in the next years… for good.

What could be the future role of an ebook reader in a conference environment?

I think that ebook readers could become a useful instrument for conferences, imagine the following scenario:

You arrive at the venue, and after the registration process a hostess invites you to pick up an ebook where you will find the event’s handouts during the day (some speakers don’t want to give the material that accompanies their presentations in advance). If you have your own ebook, the hostess will help you configure the wi-fi connection so that you can receive the data broadcasted during the event.

The ebook is contanined inside a cute folder branded by one of the sponsors and by the organizer and can be kept after the conference.

The ebook receives slides, documents and images wirelessly while you listen to the speaker. You can also take notes by writing directly on the screen (the plastic pen is branded by one of the sponsors and has a USB drive incorporated).

When the presentation is over you are invited to compile a satisfaction poll, always directly on the ebook, which will be immediately transmitted to the organizer.

At the end of the day you take the ebook to the registration area and all the contents will be downloaded on the USB drive, so that you can carry the information (provided by speaker, organizer and sponsors PLUS your notes) home. The data is saved as a normal pdf file that you will be able to search through for reference whenever you want.

(A less treehugger alternative could be to have the documents and your notes printed -on 100% recycled paper please- at one of the sponsors booth at the end of the conference).

The ebooks could be provided by a third company, the same thing that happens with simultaneous translation transmitters nowadays. Alternatively they could be provided by the producer (Amazon, iRex, Sony, etc) as a marketing move to stimulate the ebook demand. I tried this last possibility 2 years ago but the distributor of the hardware didn’t understand the opportunity that I offered him and declined to participate (in that case the ebooks would have been used with a group of participants of a marketing & innovation conference… the right place to start a trend IMHO).

Summary of the benefits for the organizer:

  • no printing handouts before the conference (often outdated because the speaker works on the files until the last moment). Speakers receive a request in advance to make handouts in pdf format with the required specs. SAVES MONEY, TIME and TREES
  • real-time polls give a faster feedback on the event. No need to distribute paper copies at the end of each session and then make manual data entry of the results. SAVE TIME, BETTER FEEDBACK
  • using innovative tools gives a positive image of the organizer and attendees will probably speak about it. POSITIVE IMAGE
  • gives the possibility to sponsors to provide branding of the ebook reader and collaterals. INCOME SOURCE

Summary of the benefits for the attendee:

  • no carrying around lots of paper
  • having updated information
  • the pdf file is easily archived and searched for reference

Do you think this is a possible scenario?

  • http://danielcolm.blogspot.com/ Daniel

    I really hope this scenario to be possible, but I think that to make things faster, we should look for cheaper solutions. In my opinion, the solution might come from an extended use of pokens.

    My vision is of a traditional conference, with projected slides and hand taken (or on a laptop typed) notes by the audience. What makes the difference is the helpdesk at the exit. Before you leave you take your poken out of the pocket, put it close to a little device and get slides, extra material, information about the speaker, and maybe also some suggestions for nice restaurants in the area.

    When you go back to your hotel you can download everything from your poken on your laptop and view the contents and decide where to have dinner in the next days.

    A poken is much cheaper that ebooks today. And with little work, the producer might improve the device increasing its memory (wouldn’t it be nice to use your poken also as a normal 10 GB pen-drive?). Actually, I’m quite confident this will happen as soon as pokens are more common.

    – [this is a summary of a related post on my blog.]

  • http://danielcolm.blogspot.com/ Daniel

    I really hope this scenario to be possible, but I think that to make things faster, we should look for cheaper solutions. In my opinion, the solution might come from an extended use of pokens.

    My vision is of a traditional conference, with projected slides and hand taken (or on a laptop typed) notes by the audience. What makes the difference is the helpdesk at the exit. Before you leave you take your poken out of the pocket, put it close to a little device and get slides, extra material, information about the speaker, and maybe also some suggestions for nice restaurants in the area.

    When you go back to your hotel you can download everything from your poken on your laptop and view the contents and decide where to have dinner in the next days.

    A poken is much cheaper that ebooks today. And with little work, the producer might improve the device increasing its memory (wouldn’t it be nice to use your poken also as a normal 10 GB pen-drive?). Actually, I’m quite confident this will happen as soon as pokens are more common.

    – [this is a summary of a related post on my blog.]

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