The e-reader - 2012's must-have gadget
There is no shortage of products on the market to help us complete tasks easier, faster and lighter. With each advance in technology, traditional methods and practices are being displaced by modern alternatives – where we once would have picked up the phone we now send an email, rather than logging onto a computer to browse the internet we surf on smartphones. Pocket-size MP3 players can hold thousands of songs as opposed to having to buy a CD for a single album.
So why should reading be any different? Just as analysts have predicted that digital music downloads will at some point render CDs obsolete; books have also suffered a hit in sales as the popularity of e-readers has sky rocketed. Figures released last year from online retail giant Amazon stated that it sold 105 books for its Kindle e-reader for every 100 hardcover and paperback books.
The benefits of owning an e-reader are obvious. Instead of carrying bulky books around, or finding somewhere to store them, one single device can hold your entire collection to take with you wherever you go.
But with so many on the market, which is the best to go for?
Amazon Kindle Keyboard 3G
Price: Around R2,199
Amazon’s own Kindle models are arguably the most well known in the market. The Kindle Keyboard 3G is the only e-reader with text-to-speech, audiobooks and MP3 support and its 3G wireless internet works globally.
At only 8.5 ounces and 1/3 of an inch thin, Kindle Keyboard can be taken almost anywhere and holds 3,500 books. Kindle e-readers also use the latest generation of Electronic Ink (E Ink) technology – E Ink Pearl – to power its screen. This allows for clearer, sharper text on an anti-glare matte screen that makes it similar to a page of actual book.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of this Kindle is the supreme battery life. After a full four hour charge, it claims to last two months (based on the device being used half an hour per day with Wi-Fi off).
The Kindle also uses Whispersync technology, meaning books downloaded to it can be read on your iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac, Android device, and BlackBerry as well as syncing your place across devices, so you can pick up exactly where you left off.
Screen size: 6 inches
Resolution: 600 x 800 pixels
Display: E Ink Pearl
Connectivity: Free 3G + Wi-Fi
Battery life (Wi-Fi off): 2 months
Storage: Approx. 3,500 e-books
Weight: 247 grams
Price: Around R1,600
This sleek and classy effort from Sony is the lightest e-reader on the market and looks the part, too. However, its desirable weight and width specifications (it is 9.5mm thick) aren’t quite backed up by its usability. A stylus pen comes with each reader to use on its touch screen, although there is actually no place for it to be stored which is less than ideal.
The Sony Reader software runs as a desktop application on a Mac or PC (not available on Linux), and the app is only downloadable on the Android, not the iPhone or iPad, and there is no web version either.
Pages are turned through swiping the screen which enables a pinch to zoom feature for articles and web pages. Supporting 12 different languages, another good addition is an in-built dictionary that looks up any word you hold on. Sony also offers around two million books in its e-store.
The PRS-T1’s design sets it apart from competitors, particularly because it hosts five buttons at the bottom as well as a touch screen, making web browsing easier with home, page back and page forward buttons. Available in white, black or an eye-catching red, if stylish and sleek is your bag this could be the e-reader for you.
Screen size: 6 inches
Resolution: 600 x 800 pixels
Display: E Ink Pearl
Battery life: 1 month (wireless off), approx. up to 3 weeks (wireless on)
Storage: Approx. 1,200 e-books
Weight: 168 grams
Price: Around R995
The 500EB model is the smallest of Elonex’s three offerings in the e-reader market and is perfectly suited to those wanting a portable, multimedia device. Its sharp colour TFT screen makes it ideal for not only reading books but also watching movies and scrolling through photographs.
With six buttons (menu, back, adjust font size, page turn, and music) as well as a d-pad for navigation under the screen, its ergonomic design is complimented by a rubber-finished back to make one handed reading easy. The only drawback of its design is a 1.6cm thickness which is considerably more than the competitors.
The main selling point of the 500EB is the screen – yet while other e-readers promote the non-backlight E Ink displays, the advantages of a full colour screen include being able to change text colour. Although Elonex have fitted an anti-glare film the screen still gets affected by sunlight and is not designed for hours of non-stop reading (as the battery life attests).
The device comes pre-loaded with out of copyright books to get you started and thousands of eBooks can be downloaded from e-book stores.
Screen size: 5 inches
Resolution: 800 x 480 pixels
Display: TFT LED Backlit LCD Widescreen - 16:9
Battery life: (Book reading) 6 hours
Storage: Approx. 6,000 e-books (SD card slot for expandable memory options up to 16GB)
Weight: 190 grams
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Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”