Blogs, Books, and Immortality

(The audio is still here, I have moved it to the bottom.)

Several people are prodding me to write a book. I probably have several in me that I don’t yet know are there – along with the ones I know are there but I’ve been too lazy to extrude.

  • The business book, based on a presentation I created
  • The murder mystery based on events that might have happened
  • The book about communications

Fortunately, I’ve had enough going on in my life to keep me busy, or at least give me the excuse not to crack down and just do it. But is that the only reason? Or is there something more fundamental going on with regards to what we consider a book? And will it matter?

Books are a Bundle

There are many reasons one would write a book. There are fewer reasons applicable today.

Books remain a compact and efficient means of knowledge transfer. They are sturdy, durable, portable and accessible. However, what we think of as a “book” is really a bundle of services that were lashed together by the forces of economy of scale.

  • The intellectual process
  • The editing
  • The printing
  • The binding
  • The distribution

Economies of scale dictate that the books must be of at least a certain length to attract the price that will make the physical parts – the printing-binding-distribution – affordable. In essence, you could print a book with 10 pages, but it would be too expensive for people to consider. Not enough bang for the buck. This is why short stories and poems (when people bothered reading them) were traditionally collected into volumes.

Yet now we have functional equivalents to many of the factors above. Distribution is free through the internet. Binding and printing are free, although you might have a small yearly fee for web hosts. Editing? Who needs several proofreaders when you can easily fix a typo and re-publish into the same space?

So why would one want to go to all the trouble to write a book?

Behind the Muse’s Veil

If you were assured you had a large audience and could make a lot of money, that’s a good enough reason. But really we’re talking about a more fundamental human desire: to have an impact. Knowing that the idea you shared touched people, moved them, or inspired them is a boost to the ego.

Subconsciously, we’re all looking for a way to cheat death. In 100 years, no one will know who most of us are. But if there is something that we say or do that makes us noteworthy (or even footnote-worthy), then our time with the mortal coil will have not been in vain.

Books provide that. Attributed knowledge, packaged in a manner that can and will defy time.

Yes, what I write and voice here also “lives forever.” But it’s only as useful as it is searchable, and only found as it is indexed. Consider the exponential increases in the raw amount of data that makes up “The Internet,” and my little pile of ramblings becomes ever-more diluted in an infinitely-expanding ocean of ones and zeros.

A Changing Paradigm of Value

We’re in the middle of another shift, however. The idea of “Book” is changing. As more people purchase books electronically, through Amazon or iTunes or whatever format, they are buying a different bundle of expectations. They are bypassing the expense of the pulp and ink, and of the gas it takes to get to the store. They are downloading ideas.

Just like the ones I am sharing here, but in larger doses.

Amazon just released a new generation of Kindle. It’s more compact and comes with a smaller price tag, and there’s even a Wi-Fi only version that brings the price down to $140. But buried deep within the specifications is a little nugget:

New WebKit-Based Browser
Kindle’s new web browser is based on WebKit to provide a better web browsing experience. Now it’s easier than ever to find the information you’re looking for right from your Kindle. Experimental web browsing is free to use over Wi-Fi.

It’s no secret that Amazon was interested in beefing up the Kindle browser. What is worth noting is the convergence. Books and blogs are getting closer to being intertwined.

How many books from previous generations carried information that would have been better as blogs? Short chapters, linked by a theme, but that were bundled together only because that was the only way you could distribute ideas? I mean, Tim Ferriss is okay, but how big would Dale Carnegie’s blog have been?

Why Should We Bother?

The big irony here is that people who want to be authors are instructed to build a blog audience. Most publishers want a ready-made audience for any speculative project. Yet what are the best current justifications for writing a book?

  • Ego
  • Immortality (cheating death)
  • Build credibility to command speaking fees or other ventures
  • Run for office

And that’s about it.

So, should I bother writing a book at this point?

Or — in three-and-a-half years at Occam’s Razr — have I done it already?

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Comments

  1. Ike,
    I think I might disagree  that those are not the only points. And if they were, I’d never write a book either. I wouldn’t even start.
    If you don’t feel it inside of you, then don’t bother. We have enough “business card” books out. As for which one to write if you do feel it inside you: the one you want to write and not the one other people want you too.
    Did you ever read The Razor’s Edge? One of the characters, Larry, writes a book and self publishes maybe 50 copies for friends. He wasn’t interested in baggage, but had a story to tell and felt compelled to tell it.
    By the way, I’m one of those people who tell you to write a book because you are a gifted writer. (Something I cannot say about many blog authors I follow.) However, if you don’t have the passion to do it, then not writing a book could be an equally good choice.
    All my best,
    Rich
     

    • Oh, I still feel like I want to, it’s just a matter of priority.

      I think this was just something I had to write to help me process my thinking about this issue. I know I would like to write a book one day, but I’d like to figure out my true motive.

      Vanity?
      Respect?
      Desire to be heard?
      Proof that I am a grown-up?

      I can’t claim that I know. And you know me well enough to know that if I’m not certain my motives are pure, I won’t be fully invested. Writing that book (or the other ones) would be a large waste of time if I’m in it for the wrong reasons.

      Thanks Rich… you’re helping me wade through an exercise of self-examination that is rarely fun, because if you don’t like what you see you can’t blame anyone else.

      I’ll be in touch.

  2. Ike – I’ve often thought about writing a book myself (not now, but down the line) and often ask myself the same questions. The answer is complicated and probably a mixture of everything you’ve mentioned. For me, perhaps it’s something to cross off a list – like running a marathon or climbing Mount Everest. It’s a challenge to write a book. While you’ve likely written as many words on this blog, there’s something different about the time and process involved in writing a book.
    I think if you have a desire to write a book, go for it! I would agree with Rich – you are a talented writer and I’m sure you can find people to read your books. But, at the end of the day, writing a book is for YOU. You’ve got to know if that’s something you want to do, and as you’ve appropriately asked, you’ve got to understand why.
    Either way,  good luck!

  3. I agree with Rich that you should write a book bc  you are a talented writer.
    And with you that you’ve already gotten part of the way.
    But (and call me old fashioned) I also believe in writing books because one is absolutely compelled to. I’m in the middle of supporting a good friend who has committed to hers, and she’s doing the same for me. If we just talk about it it will never happen. Our motives? We both have books inside us dying to get out. Not in a freaky “Alien” way or anything ;)
    Sometimes you just know when the time is right. You sit down and put pen to paper and string the chapters together, if for nothing else than to do it. Erin

  4. It is not the fact that we perish and so we need some recognition. Personally I think every human being is an actor on this world likewise a good speaker when he come across notable experiences. But being a writer is different from the rest two. It requires great knowledge,research and insightfulness on the subject preferred. And I personally feel you can be a good writer. :)

Trackbacks

  1. Ike Pigott says:

    Blogs, Books, and Immortality | http://ike4.me/o124

  2. Ike Pigott says:

    Why should I bother writing a book? Technology is changing expectations | http://ike4.me/o124

  3. ferrisswatch says:

    Blogs, Books, and Immortality: Short chapters, linked by a theme, but that were bundled together only because that… http://bit.ly/b3xkMQ

  4. Ike Pigott says:

    Books are not what they were, so how will we define our authors? | http://ike4.me/o124

  5. Tim Baran says:

    Great read! RT @ikepigott Books are not what they were, so how will we define our authors? http://ike4.me/o124

  6. Ike Pigott says:

    Once you get past the fancy binding, are "books" that special anymore? | http://ike4.me/o124

  7. Beth Harte says:

    RT @ikepigott: Blogs, Books, and Immortality http://bit.ly/bkEbFF (Excellent, smart post by Ike!)

  8. RT @ikepigott: Blogs, Books, and Immortality http://bit.ly/bkEbFF (Excellent, smart post by Ike! –Beth)

  9. Sam Williams says:

    Once you get past the fancy binding, are "books" that special anymore? | http://ike4.me/o124 (via @ikepigott) Thought-provoking read! Thanks

  10. Ike Pigott says:

    Is it worth it to write a book anymore? Depends on your purpose | http://ike4.me/o124

  11. Wade Kwon says:

    #sundayread Should @ikepigott write a book? Or has his blog already taken care of that? http://ike4.me/o124