The worst idea I’ve ever heard

February 3, 2009

Posted by Nick Sarno


I’m not afraid of technology. Really. I’m not particularly thrilled that in my life time I’ll see the phrase “printed book” become a retronym, but I’m not frightened of it either. New ways of reading will invariably bring about new ways of writing, and some exciting possibilities are bound to result.


The publishing industry (the makers of “printed books”) have been struggling to find ways to use this new technology. Some of their ideas have been better than others. Some, like the one mentioned today at The Washington Post, are downright stupid. 


Jeff Jarvis’ What Would Google Do? has just been released by HarperCollins as a “video book.” For $9.99 you can watch the author speak for 23 minutes in front of a white background. Rather than reading directly, Jarvis simply runs through the basic concepts of the book.


First of all, $9.99 seems like an awful lot of money to pay for a 23 minute synopsis. The video cost absolutely nothing to produce. And I doubt it’s any more informative than going to a bookstore and spending the same amount of time reading the opening and closing pages of every chapter.


Secondly, they are selling this as a thing in itself. It is not a book trailer, and it’s not promotional. It’s not a companion piece to the full, written work. The consumer is supposed to purchase this, watch it, and derive some kind of satisfaction from it. 


Finally, it’s called a “video book.” I really had no idea what a “video book” would be when I first heard the phrase, but if you locked me in a room for five years I still wouldn’t have imagined something like this. It is a video, but it’s not a book. It’s not even close to a book. A digital book is just that, a book in digital form. This is a video of some guy talking about his book. 


Quite frankly, I’d rather watch this:



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