Picked vs. spread

Picked vs. spread

Most non-fiction book publishing focuses on solving a problem for the bookstore and the bookstore visitor. The problem is something like this:

I need a book about Marx.

Can you help me find a great book about knitting?

I’m traveling tomorrow… got a good junky novel?

This explains, for example, the fabulous series of “for beginners” books from Pantheon. If you have a problem like this, they can solve it. Pick this book, they say to the seeker. If there are four picks to choose from and enough people choosing, you can do okay this way, solving information problems for those on a search.

The problem is that Google can probably solve it better.

Which leads to the alternative. Instead of books that seek to be one of many to be chosen by the shopper with a problem, there’s the opportunity to publish books that spread, spread from someone who is in love with an idea to someone who didn’t even know they had the problem.

And in every endeavor, there are far more people who don’t know they need help.

The internet amplifies this behavior. The net makes it easier than ever to spread solutions that touch you, books that matter, ideas that made a difference.

The implication for publishers and readers is this: I think the glory days of publishing to fill a niche are gone. There’s just no reason for it, we have enough books in the world to solve most of these book problems. The new frontier is to publish books that spread.