Most Books Should Be Succinct Articles

I read a lot.

I bought seven books in the last three weeks and have finished half of them.

I find that most books are much longer than they need to be. It’s as though the writer thought, “in order to qualify this as a book, it needs to be at least x number of pages, so how can I fill the book up?”

Note: these days, I read mostly subject matter books (not as much fiction and poetry as I used to).

Examples include books on search, marketing, usability, analytics, technology, and information architecture. I asked one of our employees to read the usability book and produce a succinct outline. He made a 15 page PDF that captures everything in the much longer book.

One book that is driving me crazy is “Join the Conversation” by Joseph Jaffe. You could distill the book down to about seven pages of bullshit, or two or worthwhile points.

It takes a great mind to produce a book for which every page is really needed.

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4 Comments

  1. There’s no doubt that many if not most if not all books could be distilled into an elevator pitch, one page summary or 12 page PDF. Executive Summaries does just that. Change this does the same thing in Manifestos.

    Bestsellers like Tipping Point or Wisdom of Crowds could *easily* have been 2-3 pages summaries. That doesn’t mean they *should* have been.

    I don’t disagree with your critique in general and feel – with introspection – that JTC could have been tightened by around 50 pages if there had been better editing.

    That said, I look at it as being able to share as much IP as I can with my reader community i.e. over deliver with value.

    Think of it like a 3-day conference. If you come out remembering 1 or 2 succinct action points, it has been a success.

    PS Have you read the whole book yet?

    Reply

  2. I’m about 2/3 of the way done.

    You do a great job of making me enjoy and despise the book at the same time. It makes me wonder what you’re like after 5 beers.

    Life of the party? The guy who starts insulting everyone?

    Reply

  3. I think you’ve figured me out to a T. I’m the guy who doesn’t discriminate, I hate everyone equally.

    Seriously though…I just try and call it like I see it, BUT there’s an important point in the whole message. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me all the time. Without dissension or disagreement, where’s the real conversation? the passion? the open and honest dialog?

    I’m pretty good company after 1 beer, let alone 5 btw 🙂

    Reply

  4. Thanks for posting Joseph.

    You know what would be really interesting, and right up your alley insofar as leveraging the power of the conversation, AND since you’ve written a book that is bi-polar in the sense that it both inspires and conflicts people:

    What if you were to have a forum on your blog for readers to discuss the “debatable” ideas you put forth?

    For example, as I’ve been reading your book, I’ve been writing in the margins notes like, “great idea, consider for {ClientName}”, or, “he clearly doesn’t know what he is talking about as evidenced by {ClientCaseStudy}”.

    I’d love to see how my feedback fares in a conversation.

    I imagine the forum having threads for each arguable posit.

    Reply

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