Impact of Digital Technology on Jobs

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March 9, 2011

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How does the e-book impact jobs? Well, let’s list the number of jobs that are in jeopardy or are being replaced as we speak. First, will be those related to making the paper book. These jobs include wood to make pulp, and pulp to make paper (think Johnsonburg). Also, those who print the paper, those who make the ink and the printers to print the paper, and those who bind the printed paper to make the book. That is a lot of jobs!!

But wait. If the digital book can be downloaded in your home, you don’t need to go to a store to buy the book. Did anyone notice that Borders filed for chapter eleven bankruptcy just this year? Finally, as though this isn’t enough, a local author reminded me, that he could be his own publisher by going direct to Amazon or one of the other digital e-book producers. Shocked as I was by this, it was only days later that an article appeared in the February 9, 2011 addition of USA Today under the title “Authors catch fire with self-published e-books”.

The changes due to digital technology, such as the e-book, are so deep and so rapid that it makes the Industrial Revolution of a century ago look like a walk in the park. And Guttenberg must be rolling over in his grave.

Sadly, most of those who are in their fifties who are being displaced by digital technologies are in dire straights. These persons, though no fault of their own, are being discarded because digital technology has entered every facet of the work place. They are under trained to compete with the new way their old companies will be operating, and are over trained for the jobs that might be available. They are too young to retire, and they have mortgages, car payments and other financial obligations commensurate with the lifestyle they have been living and expected to live until retirement. Many of these out of work have stopped looking for work! Millions of them have been collecting unemployment insurance for two years or more.

What bothers me a lot is that neither the media nor our Government mentions the plight of this group let alone talks or writes about doing anything about it save for periodically extending unemployment insurance. This is helpful, but because recipients are not required to work, to get training or go back to school, it permits the person’s skills to atrophy, thus making their problem worse.

There is little if anything we as individuals can do the change the conditions that have caused our neighbors plight. We can’t reverse or ban the technological factors that have caused this problem, but what we can do is to let these neighbors know that we are aware of what is happening to them and that we understand. Above all we need to offer them solace and our prayers and encourage them not to give up.


Each Wednesday during Lent, the United Methodist Church of Smethport holds a devotional service that begins at 12:00 Noon. This is followed by a Lenten Lunch during which speakers give talks on topics that relate to Lent.

Lenten Speaker program:

March 9 — Wayne Pearson

March 16 — Harrijane Moore

March 23 — Barbara Maynard

March 30 — John Cleland

April 6 — Clarence Strabel

April 13 — Gail McBride

April 20 — Bill Miller

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