Over the past few years I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a book. I’m writing pretty much constantly, so pulling together some focus on the themes to produce a coherent tome couldn’t be that hard, could it? And a book would give me credibility that a mere blog doesn’t have. Would give me something to talk about. Would give me a platform on which to build a successful career as a, well, book-writer wot talks about his books, innit?

The thing is, I haven’t quite gotten around to it. There are a two things holding me back.

The first is that focus thing. My attention flits from concept to concept like an ADHD butterfly. And I think that that rapid switching is probably part of my value to my clients.

The second is, what’s the bleedin’ point of business books these days anyway, other than to bolster the career of the author? They’re just not that fit for purpose anymore.

Take, for example, the standard format of the average business book. The main point is pretty much done and dusted in the first chapter. The rest is filler. And the first chapter is probably overblown. How about these as super-speed-read famous business books:

The Tipping Point
– “some stuff grows exponentially”
Give and Take
– “be nice to people”
Start With Why
– “start by explaining why”
The Start-up of You
– “think of yourself like a corporation (with bonus free LinkedIn User Guide)”

I’ve toyed with the idea of releasing a “Complete Guide to Effective Social Networking” which would consist of a bit of a preamble, acknowledgement, thanks, copyright information and so on, then followed by the words

Do great stuff

Don’t be an idiot

on their own on a page, but friends of mine in the publishing industry have assured me that in doing so I’d be contravening my own second rule.

Maybe this is just denial and laziness, but in the era of eBooks and mass self-publication, in world where pornographic drivel like Fifty Shades can become a publishing mega-hit, what really is the point of a book any more? Particularly when it comes to subjects digital, they’re just useless.

This was brought starkly home to me on Friday when I picked up a paper copy of Guy Kawasaki’s new social media guruisms, The Art of Social Media. I tweeted the main problem:

Seriously, a £10 Penguin Paperback where they’ve printed dozens of underlined hyperlinks without the actual link. My first experience of a book designed for eReader first, and if it hadn’t have been a freebie I’d be asking Penguin for my money back on the paper edition.

So from a “user needs” perspective (very big with the people I’ve been working with recently, apparently), business books mostly suck. Those that come through traditional publishers are a PR tool to bolster the reputation of the author in a format that is usually 70% redundant (and that’s before we get to the endless pages of footnotes, there to bump up the page count). Those that come through self-publishing don’t even manage to do that.

Or maybe, just maybe, I haven’t got the focus.

One thought on “What is a book?

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