Can books go viral?

They certainly can’t like video clips or music. Books are all about containing ideas, not allowing them to run free to millions of people sitting in front of their computer screens. A book is an intimate experience with the author and the reader, and it is an investment on the reader’s part. This is because it requires time to read a book. The author’s ideas must be taken into context. This isn’t so much a concern with three minute YouTube clips or four minute songs on MySpace.

Through the use of blogs, however, the creation of books is changing. A writer can turn a 200 word post into a 10,000 word piece, and then into a book. Or possibly, even a novel. In this way, portions of this “process book” can be easily digested by readers, and those readers can share the posts by linking to them through Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. This gives the ideas of the book momentum. An audience is built and grown while the book is being made. This scenario is much better than working on a book for a year and then scrambling to find people to read it when you’re done writing.

It’s harder to pursue this route with fiction than with nonfiction. Fiction requires the context and prior knowledge (at least plot wise) that a nonfiction work on technology, or leadership, or spirituality doesn’t. Nevertheless, I’m amazed by how people are building tribes without the help of marketers, publishers, producers, or any other traditional way of spreading an idea.

If the future of books interests you, check out The Domino Project. This website contains a lot of interesting thoughts on the way the industry is changing.