Tag Archives: Penguin Press

Queenan’s Column Clashes with Turkle’s Analysis

I don’t think that Sherry Turkle would be very pleased with Joe Queenan‘s column in the Wall SherryTurklePictureStreet Journal, entitled “The Ringing Insult of a Turned Off Phone” (March 11-12, p. C11).

Turkle, whose book, Reclaiming Conversation:  The Power of Talk in a Digital Age (Penguin Press, 2015), was the subject of one of my presentations at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas, argued that the presence of a cell phone on a table disrupts conversation.  This is not because anyone is talking on it.  Rather, it is that someone may call or text, and the potential for that to happen negatively impacts interpersonal communication.  If you missed my synopsis, you can purchase the recording and handout at 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com.

Queenan’s column questions why anyone carries around a turned-off cell phone.  In a funny JoeQueenanPictureanalogy, he asks, “do they turn off their belts in the morning and then act surprised that they can’t get their pants to stay up the rest of the day….do they miss their dinner because they forgot to charge their fork?”

Further, “I have no problem with people turning off their phones at funerals.  But there is actually a thing on cellphones called the silent mode.  And yes, you can also put your phone on vibrate.  If you know that someone is coming to meet you for lunch and might get stuck in traffic or be forced to bail entirely, what would possess you turn off your phone?  Why not turn off your brain while you’re at it?”

These are two different perspectives on the purpose and impact of cell phones.  Queenan, however, seems to hold cell phones to a higher standard than the old-fashioned landline.  There are plenty of times someone called a landline and got busy signals or voice-mails, instead of a live person ready to talk.  The impact is the same.  The caller did not get to talk to the receiver.

But, think about this.  Why you want to hold cell phones to a higher standard, especially with the threat to the quality and quantity of conversation, as Turkle discusses?  What’s wrong with focusing on the person you are with F2F, and having a pleasant or worthwhile conversation?

Book Titles That Deliberately Inhibit Sales – It’s a Bad Idea!

What kind of sales strategy allows a title of a book to inhibit sales?

You may be all in favor of “telling it like it is,” but shouldn’t that be confined to the pages inside, and not on the spine?

I remember delivering a synopsis several years ago at the First Friday Book Synopsis of a book entitled The No Asshole Rule by Dr. Robert Sutton (Business Plus, 2007) .   It actually came NoAssholeRuleCoverfrom an article the author wrote for the Harvard Business Review.  It is the correct term.  The book, and all of its advice, was clearly about one of them.  I always thought the book was really good.  It’s not the kind of title, however, you would carry with you during the day, or display on your shelf.  You probably wouldn’t want people to know you are reading it.  The Park City Club, where we hold the First Friday Book Synopsis,  would not even publish the title in its advance publicity in its monthly magazine.   People asked me in advance how I would handle the term.  I said, I would only say, “A_H_,” and hope I would not slip up.  I never did, especially at client sites, and I never have.  That took concentration and focus.   Why a good book would deliberately cut sales because of an unsavory title is strange to me.
MoodyBitches cover


So, here’s another one, released on March 3, 2015.  It’s called Moody Bitches, by Dr. Judy Holland (Penguin Press).  It’s all about what happens to women when they go off their medications.  Do you really want to carry that book around with you?

These aren’t the only ones.  I can’t possibly reproduce these titles here.  We would lose our license.  But, if you will click here, you will see 40 more titles and book covers that will make you wonder how the titles ever got through the planning stage by any marketing professionals.  I have to admit that as I went through this site, I gasped and laughed.  You will too.

But, how does this happen?  Why deliberately inhibit sales by offending consumers, or making them afraid to show others they own the book?

I have to admit this is one reason to read a book on your tablet or phone.  No one knows what you’re reading!

Overall, deliberately cutting sales so you can have an offending title is not too bright of an idea in my view.

Why Kotkin’s Book Won’t Be in My Basket at Checkout

A recent book by Joel Kotkin that is receiving critical acclaim is entitled The Next Hundred Million:  America in 2050 (Penguin Press, 2010).   You can read two reviews of the book below and decide if it sparks enough interest for you to read it.  I have chosen not to do so, and of course, it will not be featured at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.

I enjoy being upbeat and optimistic.  I like sunny forecasts.  But, this is a genre of books that I find myself increasingly uninterested in.  My major reason for doing so is that the future is difficult to predict, and very few who try to do so in writing ever get it right. 

I guess I lost my enthusiasm for this type of book with The Long Boom:  A Vision for the Coming Age of Prosperity by Peter Schwartz, Peter Layden, and Joel Hyatt (Basic Books, 2000).   When I read and presented this book, I was pretty excited about its content.  Ten years later, we can see that the impact better leads to a different title:  the short boom.  All the predictions were fun to read and energizing to visualize.  But, much of what we read there just did not materialize.

Admittedly, books that predict the future are difficult to write.  There is certainly a skill in examining trends and patterns, then using sign reasoning to leap forward to visualize another time and place.   There are plenty of people who get energized by these titles.   I just happen not to be one of them.

I remember the old phrase, “the best way to predict the future is to create it.”    Unfortunately, writing about it does not create it.  It simply writes about it.  They write.  We buy.  Then, we get let down.

I want to be clear.   I am not criticizing Kotkin’s book.  I haven’t read it.  I don’t plan to.  I can’t criticize a book that I haven’t read.  All my best to him for his success with the book.    I think that there will continue to be enough interested readers to keep it on the best-seller list for awhile.

You can make up your own mind about what you think of this genre of books. 

After you read the reviews below, let’s talk about it.

From Publishers Weekly

Kotkin (The City) offers a well-researched—and very sunny—forecast for the American economy, arguing that despite its daunting current difficulties, the U.S. will emerge by midcentury as the most affluent, culturally rich, and successful nation in human history. Nourished by mass immigration and American society’s proven adaptability, the country will reign supreme over an industrialized world beset by old age, bitter ethnic conflicts, and erratically functioning economic institutions. Although decreasing social mobility will present a challenge, demographic resources will give the U.S. an edge over its European rivals, which will be constrained by shrinking work forces and rapidly proliferating social welfare commitments. Largely concerned with migration patterns within the U.S., the book also offers a nonpartisan view of America’s strengths, identifying both pro-immigration and strongly capitalist policies as sources of its continued prosperity. However, Kotkin tends to gloss over the looming and incontrovertible challenges facing the country and devotes limited space to the long-term consequences posed by the current recession, the rise of India and China, and the resulting competition over diminishing energy resources. Nevertheless, his confidence is well-supported and is a reassuring balm amid the political and economic turmoil of the moment. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Assuming that America will increase to 400 million people in the next 40 years, Kotkin divines demographic consequences in this catalog of predictions. Optimistic in contrast to elite opinions on the Left and the Right that see America in decline, Kotkin’s views are not certitudes: the author regularly cautions that if certain things are not done, such as ensuring an economic environment of upward mobility, his vision of the future may not come to pass. Caveats dealt with, Kotkin essentially asks where the extra 100 million will live. Because some of them are already here—those born or who have immigrated since the early 1980s—Kotkin tends to extrapolate present trends. After a career-starting stint in the big city, family-raising aspirations send people to the suburbs and, increasingly in the Internet-connected world, to small towns and rural areas. Describing specific locales, Kotkin anticipates a revitalization of older suburbs and even a repopulation of the Great Plains. As sociological futurists engage with Kotkin’s outlook, the opportunity for critics lies in the author’s lesser attention to the environmental and political effects of population growth. –Gilbert Taylor

A Book That Packs Surprises in Several Ways

The United States has long moved away from being a manufacturing-oriented society toward one that is knowledge-based and service-oriented.   Most of the manufacturing work that employees performed with their hands has now been replaced by machines and technology.

In the book that I will present on Friday, April 2 at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas, author Matthew B. Crawford provides a unique perspective on the value of doing work the old-fashioned way:  with your hands.

The book, Shop Class as Soulcraft:  An Inquiry into the Value of Work, published by Penguin Press, is quite a surprise coming from this author’s background.  He holds a Ph.D. in political philosphy from the University of Chicago.  His greatest interest, however, is running his independent motorcycle shop, Shockoe Moto, in Richmond, Virginia.  You will have to admit that is quite an interesting combination.

Even more surprising is where you find this book.  Despite its title that includes “work,” you will not locate it in the business section of the bookstore.  I found it in the philosophy section.  That is consistent with the author’s background, but not with the subject matter.  Make no mistake about it – this is a business book.

You will find yourself questioning the worth of turning everyone into a “knowledge worker,” which he claims comes from a misguided separation of thinking from doing, and from working with the hands from the mind.

Perhaps from a throwback perspective, you will find this refreshing.

Look for the summary soon at 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com.