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.

The future of books

Strangely, I enjoy reading works of fiction in a traditional book form. But when it comes to nonfiction, I prefer reading on my Kindle.

I think it’s because with nonfiction books, all I am seeking is information. I want ideas on how to invest better, market better, teach better, etc. With novels, I want to enter another world. I want to identify with the characters and infer the author’s themes. Holding a physical book helps with this mystique. I can look at my copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes and remember when I read it during the fall of 2001, and then when Ray Bradbury signed it at Cal State Bakersfield in 2007. There’s definitely sentimental value there. For the past few years I’ve taken a look at that book at the beginning of each autumn. Even if I don’t read the whole thing, I like flipping through the pages and reading excerpts because it makes me feel like Halloween is just around the corner.

With nonfiction books, I don’t have that same attachment. I don’t look fondly upon my time reading Good to Great or Linchpin. I read them for the information. They may have inspired me at times, but it was the information I was seeking, not the experience of reading the book. Therefore, ebook readers are the perfect way for me to get my nonfiction fix.