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Are e-book sales signaling the dawn of a complete digital world?   

Tags: Avista Utilities, Electricity, Smart Grid

Reading by candle light á la Ben Franklin? More like Kindle light á la the smart grid
My Kindle DX
The Amazon Kindle is just one of the many e-book
readers out there gaining popularity and allowing for
more interactivity while reading.
Post by Dan Kolbet

Last weekend I took my family to a local lake for a day at the beach. We fit in just like everyone else. Young kids, umbrella, packed lunches and the ever-present smell of sunscreen.

While our daughters played in the sand in front of us, my wife and I both pulled out books to pass the time. But here’s where we differ. My wife’s novel was of the “old fashioned” variety, or if you prefer, a printed book. I flipped on my Amazon Kindle DX, which allowed me to access more than just my current spy novel, but my entire library from the past year.

I made sure to charge up the device at home the night before – to make sure I wouldn’t get stuck with a dead battery halfway through the next action sequence. I wasn’t too worried. One charge of a few hours usually lasts me about two weeks. I made it through a few short chapters in between trips to the waves and games of catch with the kids.

This relatively inconsequential experience got me thinking more about how much I depend on electricity. Sure, if the lights go out during a storm, you can’t escape it. But to pass the time you might grab a book (á la Ben Franklin with a candle). Better make sure your e-book has some juice.

This week, Amazon noted that it currently sells more Kindle e-books than hardcover books. The Kindle, Apple’s iPad, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, among others are continuing to grow in popularity and I would argue that they are more making reading more personal and enjoyable than ever before. No need to drive to your local store, browse pretty pictures on the covers of your books then commit to one, drive home and start reading only to find out this book isn’t for you. You can shop, sample and buy (or decide not to buy) from anywhere. You can set the font of your book to suit your tastes or visual needs. And you can carry your entire library with you all the time.

But you need one thing – electricity.

It’s true that you can plug in just about anywhere you go to get your e-book powered up, and thanks to the long battery life of these devices, you should be A-OK during storm season. But as these devices, or other electronics that we probably can’t imagine yet, become mainstream, our dependence on electricity will have saturated every aspect of our lives – even more than it is today. Just think of what your living room looked like 15 years ago. Did you have a DVR, laptop, DVD player, X-Box 360, smart phone, e-book or wireless modem, plugged in? I dare you to say yes. We just didn’t have access to this sort of technology for entertainment and communications back then.   

And “back then” wasn’t that long ago. So what will your living room (or trip to the beach) look like 5, 10 or 15 years from today? I certainly don’t have an answer, but I know it will continue to rely on energy, and I’m glad Avista will be around to provide it. 

We talk a lot about the smart grid and the future of energy. The definition of smart grid is really dependant on who is defining it, but I’d offer this – it’s about you having more control of your energy usage and your utility having better ways to deliver it. It will eventually provide choices for you to consider based on cost, source or whatever is important to you.

As common items like books, that have traditionally been non-electric, gain interactivity (and an electric charge), our use of energy will eventually seep into every aspect of our lives. From a ‘pursuit of happiness’ standpoint, that’s great, but there’s one thing that I urge you to remember: all these digital comforts have to be powered, so be smart about your usage.  At the same time we’ll continue to plan for the future to make sure we can meet your needs.
Posted by  System Account  on  7/22/2010
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