Monday, December 13, 2010

Lessons For the eBook Industry – Study the E-Forms Industry Beginning

I created this blog to motivate and challenge authors to take advantage of the great opportunity the eBook industry offers them. The other players in the industry must also take action or someone else will.

The following posit is the highlights from a case study I have written about the parallel of the eBook Industry and its transition from paper to digital too the beginning of the Electronic Forms Industry in the 1990’s.

The Start
It all started December 1992. I was wearing my computer consulting hat and trying to find time to write. One of my associates, a forms distributor from Costa Mesa, California, called one day. He wanted to invite me to go with him to a seminar. It sounded interesting so I accepted the invitation. Little did I know where that meeting would lead me: my adventure into the digital world?

We attended a seminar held by a company who was presenting a new concept in creating and using business forms. Their concept was to use the paper form image and create a digital copy of it. Then the user would either fill in the form on a computer screen or overlay the form image over the data as it was printed from their software on a laser printer.

They were trying to sell the idea of partnering with the forms distributors. They would create and install this new product for the distributor’s customers and share in the profit.

After the seminar, I had coffee with my associate, Rick Bowen. He conveyed to me that if this concept took off he would be out of the pre-printed forms business...

I left that meeting with a different point of view than Rick. He thought the sky was falling and I could see an opportunity. This was not magic and mirrors. It was a simple computer process. I studied the new concept and talked to everyone I could about it.

Finally, I went back to Rick and presented to him what I had found. He had also been doing his homework, talking to his colleagues. He said that there was a lot of resistance…

Taking Action - EFS
Like in most situations business problems present opportunities. I presented to him a different point of view. Let’s don’t fight it, let’s embrace this new technology. Let’s get involved in the process and at the same time help his colleagues provide this new service to their customers.

So in February 1993, we went into partnership. He created a company, Electronic Forms Solutions. The new entity would provide electronic forms systems to businesses. Also we decided to help other independent forms distributors develop their own in-house solutions so they could provide electronic forms to their customers.

Rick and I started talking to forms distributors about the large opportunity that digital forms offered them. They had developed their business on customer relations and service. This was just another way to help their customers. They had the design skills. All they had to do was add the e-form skills and they had a new business opportunity. It sounded like a simple solution.

Also with our discussions was a warning. Your bigger customers are changing their thinking. They can do this process themselves by giving up a little quality (color and special fonts). You should be the one who presents this new concept. You will be the first in the door.

To eBook authors, agents, bookstores, libraries and publishers: You must take ACTION or competition will find a way to solve the current problems and issues and leave you behind.

Customer Relationships
I decided to write an article to help the forms distributors get a better insight into the digital world.

My first published article was in July 1993. Who are You in the Eyes of Your Customers?

The article discussed the forms distributor’s relationship with their customers. Also it discussed an industry in transaction, moving from the paper world to a digital one. With the advent of computers, new software and laser printers, the forms industry was going to a print on demand process…

The industry changes were happening at a rapid pace. The more it changed the more resistance we saw from the forms distributors. They didn’t understand the process and they could visualize their larger customers not ordering paper forms from them anymore.

To the book industry players: You must proceed with eBooks to maintain your reader relationships and your brand. You must embrace the technology. The digital world will be a major part of your industry in the years to come.

How To Seminars
Rick and I decided to get out and talk with the forms distributors and explain to them the opportunity that the new process presented to them. In September 1993, we had our first How To seminar in Irvine, California. Over the next two years, we conducted over twenty seminars across the country. We had over 200 different companies attend (over 400 attendees) as we presented the conversion process, how to market e-forms and how to gain that repeat business they were all looking for.

One of the ideas we presented to the attendees was: once the e-forms are installed, customer couldn’t change easily to another supplier. This still didn’t seem to create much activity.

After one of our seminars an attendee came up to Rick and me and voiced his concern. “The process that we were teaching was going to ruin his forms business. It was just like sleeping with the enemy.

Training is one of the keys…
Once a reader has purchased an e-reader, they are a dedicated customer and they are tied to that device for a long period of time.

The conversation prompted another article February 1994. Electronic Forms: Sleeping with the Enemy

Forms distributors were slowly starting to look at the new technology with little activity. They had been in a comfort zone selling paper forms and this was rocking the boat.

Then we started to see a new competitor. Software companies saw the business opportunity and started including electronic forms with their software. They became the new game in town with a new set of rules. The forms distributor hadn’t provided the service so software companies where starting to design the forms themselves…

Publishers are in the same situation as the forms distributors were in the 1990’s. With the ease of self-publishing, their competition will come from new sources, the authors themselves or pro-active publishers.

An Industry in Transition
In December 1994, I wrote another article, There Goes the Neighborhood.

I was still trying to get the forms distributors to take action. The creation process was simple. Most of them, instead of trying to take advantage of the opportunity, were trying to plan a strategy to compete with the digital process…

eBooks are the ultimate repeat business vehicle. All purchases are first time purchases. If an industry player doesn’t take action on this opportunity, they will have trouble surviving. New players will appear and they will provide the new solutions.

In May 1995, I wrote another article, The Sky’s the Limit.

The forms distributors were still reluctant to offer the new product…

This was a large challenge for them to turn their backs on pre-printed forms.

Meanwhile personal computers, laser printers, software advances and the Internet were starting their dramatic growth. Users were now filling in their forms on-line rather than manually filling out pre-printed forms…

New e-readers and new software will appear with added features and acceptability and eBook authors and publishers must start rendering their eBooks to enhance the eBook experience. The opportunity is here and the entry level is low.

A copy of the original paper book will not be enough. Any ONE eBook will be available to readers any time, any place for years to come. The sales life of an eBook has the potential to never go away. It will be available far longer than the paper version.

Going Digital
In October 1995, I had another article published, Timber, The Consumption of Pre-Printed Forms is Falling.

Again I discussed the digital world and how business forms would never be the same. The customer could reduce costs and at the same time pass their information digitally anywhere in the world via the Internet. I even discussed the reduction of paper use and helping the environment…

A movement from the traditional paper world to the digital POD and the eBook is now available with a delivery system that readers are embracing. Now is the time for the players to take action.

The Internet is Here
In October 1996, I wrote another article, Nothing But Net, Or Close to It.

This article discussed businesses moving toward the Internet with electronic forms and workflow/ e-commerce systems. I gave it one more shot. I challenged forms distributors to get involved...

The digital world is here and it has merged with the book industry. The opportunity is here for all the players. You must think outside the box. What is that old saying: they couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Look at the big picture and not the detail. Remember the word Resistance is not in the new eBook dictionary.

Several years later (October 1999) I conducted a training seminar for the IRS in Washington D.C. The purpose of the seminar was to train agents on how to create fillable tax forms. Of course that process is now a feature offered by the IRS.

To read the complete case study and view the published articles referenced in the content, go to the HBSystems Publications site and follow the link.
E-mail me at and I will send you the case study in a doc or a mobi format.

HBSystems Publications
4408 N. Rockwood Dr. #183
Peoria, IL 61615
James Moushon
eBook Author blog: ( )

A summary of this blog was previously posted on the OUR LITTLE BOOKS site: Lessons From Eforms to ebooks

Thanks again to Julia Lindsey.

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