Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thoughts on Books - using an example:Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup

Single thesis non-fiction books should just die. Now, Please.

Thankfully, "Do More Faster" is not one of these books and ironically it was a critical book review that inspired me to purchase it.

The book is filled with short anecdotes - just a page or two and a corollary comment from the authors Cohen (@davidcohen, http://www.davidgcohen.com) and/or Feld (@bfeld, www.feld.com)

The criticism levelled at the book that the anecdotes are too short - I disagree. Much of the ethos that goes into the book is about "lean", about getting to the core of what matters. As fellow aussie Mick @liubinskas says: "Focus on the core - the rest is mostly crap".

Whats frustrating about non-fiction business books is the self-indulgence on behalf of the author and the lack of respect for the reader's time that is pervasive. Books like Freakonomics, Blink, Free, Made to Stick are targeted at audiences who have the least time - these readers treat the books as knowledge acquisition missions rather than a leisurely pursuit. But what does the author do? They deliver in 249 pages something that can be concisely delivered in less than 50.

You can argue that nuances are lost but I posit that the anecdotes/stories (yes they are the true way humans learn) can be culled if the author respects the reader's time - get over it, these business books are just snapshot punditry of a moment in time. Just like we shouldn't patent Business ideas, these books arn't a permanent and lasting discovery - just a maven's dispatch from the field.

Example: This beautiful RSA Animate sketch achieves in 10 minutes 48 seconds pretty close to what Pink achieved in 256 pages. I'm not diminishing Pink's tome, just that the longform* should DIE! I'd be happy to pay the same for the "brodie's notes" version:
- in non-fiction, its not the size that counts
- in 2010 (now) I am throwing out my last bookcase, so its not the cover-art that counts.

With eBook readers, tablets there is absolutely no reason to consume non-fiction in linear text only formats - you don't need to fill a book with 21 anecdotes that repeats the same thesis - we get it, in fact we got it before we bought the book. Instead, I see that tablets will drive richer educational formats unlocking the multimedia experience that has been evolving for 15 years.

If you bleat about graphic creation costs then you really need understand the outsourcing marketplaces. Things will also shift to curation of collected works just like Cohen and Feld do here.

So...ANYWAY...I quite like "Do More Faster", it suits my attention-deficit personality type. The rapid fire anecdotes are efficient, address a specific learning point and you can consume one chapter in a few minutes - thats a digestible format that doesn't bloat - its much like a sequence of blog posts and does lack some writing craft - but thats not the point**.

* I love longform fiction, books that take weeks or months: get under your skin, reside in your daily thoughts remain one of the most unique human experiences - I've not seen a movie or TV series that achieves that.

** Ironically curation of collected works will become the new form of editing. Anything anyone says has been said before, so I'd be happy to pay the curator and the authors for the efficiency of collating the best practices (de-surfing knowledge acquisition)

Credit: Competitor.com for the image.

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