This is primarily a blog about business books, and the ideas and implications in and of such books. And, to state the obvious, there are good books and bad books – valuable books and not so valuable books.
I want to share a story. A regular participant at the First Friday Book Synopsis has hired us to deliver book synopsis presentations for a client of hers. The gathering was a “development” gathering. You know, the client team gets a room full of people and wants them to know what they can provide that they might need. This client team provides financial services and financial products. People want to know what to do with their money – what they can do to grow their money, but, especially now, what they can do to keep their money safe. They brought me in to present a synopsis of the substantive, disturbing book The Coming Generational Storm: What You Need to Know About America’s Economic Future by Laurence J. Korlikoff and Scott Burns. Here’s a key excerpt, candidly calling for realism and honesty:
The stakes here are too high to let hope conquer fear and to let wishful thinking perpetuate inaction. There is, in fact, no realistic painless escape from our date with demographic destiny. And as we now point out, that date is now much closer than most people seem to think.
The discussion covered the coming generational shift, the huge and growing national debt, and numerous concerns regarding “what do we do with our money now.” But the conversation was “started” by the questions raised by the book, and thus prompted by the book synopsis. It was book synopsis as a tool, as PR, as conversation starter. I think it is a great use of a book synopsis. And the members of the client team, competent and trustworthy in the financial arena, were able to address the concerns of the clients and potential clients who attended.
Now here’s the moment that most grabbed me. After the event, one participant was discussing how much she gained from the book presentation, and she said (paraphrased – I wish I remembered her exact words): “I think we are really needing some content, some substance these days.”
I think we may be done with shallowness for a while. The times are too serious. The needs and dilemmas are too large. We want to feel like we are actually learning something about how to think and how to be and what to do. Ours is an era starved for substance – for guidance, for content. Shallow dives don’t work, and won’t work in such a time of uncertainty.
It is a new era starved for substance. And that is both a signal of worry, and a sign of hope.
To purchase my synopsis of The Coming Generational Storm, with audio+ handout, go to 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
Why Kindle Won’t Win — Books are Symbols. So said my colleague Karl Krayer on this blog barely two months ago. Here is what he wrote to begin his post:
Let’s wait just a few moments before we christen Kindle as the force that did away with traditional books. Although this technology will continue to add available titles, and as sales for the product through Amazon.com will continue to rise, the chances that it will eliminate books with hard covers, paper, jackets, and traditional marking devices are simply not too high.
I wish he were correct. I too love the feel, the smell, the heft of a book. But alas, it simply has no chance to be the long-term winner in this contest. The days of the printed book, the bound book — printed on paper — are bound to disappear. The unrelenting march of technology will prove too strong.
Two signals from this morning’s news add fuel to this fire. I heard on NPR this morning that California now has 10 textbooks for high school which will only be available in digital format. (Students can print portions of them out on paper, but that will be from the pdf that the student downloads).
And now comes Scott Burns in this morning’s Dallas Morning News: Printed books nearing their final chapter. He described how two 80+ year olds visited recently, showing up without a single physical book, but with a well-stocked Kindle. Making the case that the technology will make it inevitable, he includes this paragraph:
Some readers will scoff at the notion that paper books and periodicals will be displaced by something electronic. But it will happen. It will seem like a long transition, and then it will suddenly be over. Printed books will become accessories for interior decoration, collectors’ items or wood pulp looking for a new use.
Burns predicts, based on how long it took the digital camera to replace film, that it will take between 2 and 18 years for the transition to be complete. The Kindle itself may not be the winner. But digital books are coming, and physical books are disappearing. I, of course, am waiting for the Apple iReader to come out (no, I have no insider information – but there are rumors out there on the internet).
And, for those who find benefit from the First Friday Book Synopsis, I have good news. Just because a person will download a digital copy of a book into a Kindle does not necessarily mean that he or she will read the entire book. Just as shelves sit with unread books, so the Kindle will hold unread books. So Karl and I will still have our work to do, presenting synopses of important and best-selling books, Kindle or otherwise. I just haven’t figured out how we will give away the copy of the book at the end as easily.