Last week, at the grocery store checkout I overhead a man congratulate another about his new book. Curious I asked the author what his book was about. Hugh Sullivan has written about his 40 year career as a Navy Corpsman. He was awfully proud of his book Doc! as he should be. We shared publishing stories and I went home and downloaded the Kindle version.
My son home for the summer break told me last week he enjoyed his visit to the public library. How quaint I thought. On the same day, the Wall Street Journal had a story about how libraries are surviving, and in fact thriving in an age of eBooks.
Books are not dead – not by a long shot
I am finishing my 4th book so clearly I am into that channel of communication. I love to meet and encourage fellow authors.
But my blogger friends often ask me why I write books – so old-fashioned is their tone. Of course, heavy tweeters ask bloggers the same question
And when they do, I am reminded of my former Gartner colleague, Erik Keller who is now a master gardener. He had a nice quote when I interviewed him for The New Polymath
The term “ legacy ” is considered a negative in technology whereas in farming it is a positive. Because the nature of technology is not to preserve the past, it often functions in a circular, self - destructive mode.
Here’s my experience
1) A book is a very disciplining mechanism. Somebody once said “Vinnie, you can make a brown bag sound interesting”. Thanks, but I am actually picky around topics I write books about. Most times they are ahas which smack me with a 2x4. They are my ice bucket challenges that wake me up.
The New Polymath came about because I started to notice from my blogging “complex products” where companies were learning to blend infotech with biotech, cleantech, healthtech. The Digital Enterprise was Karl-Heinz Streibich’s aha – I helped him flesh it out. The SAP book came about from some modeling I did which estimates its customers have spent post-recession over a $ trillion even as SAP’sales/deliverables have leveled off.
I spend 2-3 months doing research, talk to 75-100 executives and analysts for each book. The 360 degree view challenges my original position, polishes it, nuances it. And as I cook and reduce and reduce some more, end up with 10 to 15 case studies which form the backbone of each of my books. The early weeks of research and interviews are the most enjoyable part – the back end editing, publishing chores are not much fun, but with each book, the publishing industry has evolved and they are less and less painful.
2) My audience – executives – do not have much time for much reading. Books, magazines, analyst research, blogs all fight for their attention. I don’t expect each reader to scan my books cover to cover. But I go back and periodically review an Amazon feature called Popular Highlights. It tallies sections that multiple readers have marked up on their Kindle apps. These mark ups tend to be all over my books. Same with readers I encounter on my travels. They will cite back sections they enjoyed (or some they disagreed with) that appear random. They may not have read the whole book, but I would be hard pressed to predict which 10, 30,50 pages they do read. If I did I would write 30 page eBooks. But they would be boring without case studies, and interesting anecdotes. Which means I would likely not write them.
3) The book itself is only one channel. My book research feeds my blogs, my speaking, my consulting. My books in turn benefit from my blogs, my speaking, my consulting. They make each richer as a result. If books were my sole focus I would likely be writing about Lady Gaga or iPhone 6 rumors not boring old SAP
4) Books broaden my vocabulary and personal “Wikipedia” . As part of this book I learned the term “coal-face” – not the Mary Poppins kind, but front facing – term apparently very commonly used in the UK. During the Digital Enterprise I learned all kinds of details about the German economy. From the New Polymath, I learned much about the Italian Renaissance. It’s continuing education.
This weekend I read about Rodrick Markus who travels the world seeking out exotic teas, truffles, oils and other delicacies. I hope I can continue to similarly find ahas to keep writing about for a long long time.