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Thursday, November 6, 2008

This is my first trip to South America, and I’ve been fascinated with much of what I have seen. I’ll have more about that tomorrow in my weekly “OffBeat” column.

For the moment, I’d like to share a different part of the experience with you…mostly because it speaks to how the world is changing in ways that we all have to embrace.

I’ve spent a lot of time on the road over the past couple of decades, and I love it. But even after all these years, I find packing to be an annoying part of the process, mostly because I’m not particularly good at it. Not the clothes so much, but the reading material – I always tend to bring a stack of magazines and newspapers and at least a couple of books. That makes for a pretty thick bag, and probably explains why one shoulder is a little lower than the other. Despite my best efforts I always tend to bring too much.

Not this trip, though. Because before I left, Mrs. Content Guy and my kids gave me a Kindle for my birthday.

And while I have not figured the whole thing out yet, this is an amazing piece of equipment – light, small, and able to almost instantly download books, magazines, newspapers and blogs. The act of turning the electronic pages is easy and instinctive, and I’m already in love with the thing.

It is worth pointing out that, for those of you who don't know it, the Kindle is essentially a private label product created by Amazon.com, allowing it to gain market share in the book download business in addition to all the other stuff it sells. I have to say that I admire the fact that Amazon and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, didn’t just wait for other people to create the kind of technology that they wanted…but focused on innovating in the hardware sector as well as the software sector in which it has far greater experience.

Now I look inside my bag, and I see a laptop. A digital camera. An iPhone. An iPod,, on which I have not just music but also movies and television programs that I want to catch up on. And now, the Kindle.

In some ways, the biggest problem is keeping the power cords straight.

But it is extraordinary. I can read or watch practically anything and can contact almost anyone, and it all comes down to a bunch of wires and tubes and other stuff that I don't really understand but am perfectly capable of using.

The only paper thing I need is my passport. And that’ll probably get converted to a digital form sometime soon…

The big lesson is this. I’m not sure that I could have imagined this sort of change as recently as five years ago, and I have no idea what the next five years will bring.

Which is why none of us should ever think that we should be building businesses for the world as it exists today. Because today ends in just a few hours, and tomorrow is likely to throw us a whole new set of threats, challenges, and opportunities.

I intend to read about them on my Kindle, until the next best thing comes along.

For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.

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