(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?
- 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?