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Book content as a solo endeavor

May 14, 2012
by seth godin

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Some would argue that books need to evolve into apps or other forms of multimedia–that books won’t be appreciated by large numbers of people until appreciating a book ceases to involve reading it.

While this may be an accurate discussion of the public’s habits (far more people saw the Hunger Games than read it), it ignores the key part of the production question: books work as an art form (and an economic one) because they are primarily the work of an individual.

One person with time but no money can produce a first draft that is substantially similar to what the public will end up reading.

It doesn’t matter that the technology permits animation and color pictures and hypertext and javascript. Just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s feasible.

When we turn the book into the work of a committee, one that costs a million dollars to create and months or years of pre-pub review and planning, the medium ceases to function. The long tail doesn’t work–because it’s impossible to create such a huge variety if each one costs that much. And the very notion of surprising, outlying ideas can’t survive the committees that those AV books would have to go through.

For a long time, we’ve seen popular books turned into other sorts of media, and that’s going to accelerate. But the core driver of the book business is going to remain lone (and lonely) authors bringing their ideas to a small segment that cares.

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