Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why Business Books Need to Be eBooks

I like old fashioned paper-based books, but I've known for a while that they will be supplanted by eBooks.

After all, on a trip, you can pack several books for vacation in the form factor the size of one. Of course, it currently is harder to share those books. And I still think it will be easier to remember what you've read when you see the book on your shelve than when you see the title in a long list of other books you've downloaded. And I've heard that students remember information better in textbooks because they also remember the basic placement on the page of the information they're looking for -- and that really doesn't happen with ebooks.

Still, in the area of business books, with such rapid change, ebooks can be a great advantage.

First, they can be published, distributed much faster than traditional print publication so these books can be more timely than ever.

Second, they can be updated after the fact.

Take, for example, "Sticks and Stones: How Digital Reputations Are Created Over Time and Lost in a Click" by Larry Weber. He's a smart, accomplished PR executive, and his book does a good job explaining the importance of building and protecting your reputation -- something that is more important than ever for businesses in the social media era. After all, there a so many different ways and platforms that people can share their positive and negative experiences.

This is important because a lot of companies still are leery of social media. They may not understand it or they may not understand how to justify it or they think it's a fad and a timewaster that doesn't live up to its hype.

Or it may take them time to get support or the resources within the organization; for example, Brooks Brothers announced today a Facebook page today, and asks its customers to "join the conversation." The fact is, as Weber might say, it's actually Brooks Brothers that's joining the conversation -- its customers have probably been talking for years before the store launched its Facebook page.

Weber makes the case that there's a significant value to using social media if only as a brand building initiative, and says that PR and marketing are converging. (In the early 90's, there were a lot of MarComm directors until that went away for a bit, and PR was kept separate and reported to marketing. This convergence, which I agree with, is another example of back-to-the-future thinking.

But "Sticks and Stones," which was published July 14, 2009, is already partly out-of-date in terms of some of its examples.

Or perhaps, the changes prove Weber's point about losing reputation in a click.

As examples of companies that have spent a lot of time building their reputations online, and were benefiting from their investments, Weber points to BP and Toyota.

Both companies, of course, have experienced serious problems since July 2009. And the downfall of these two companies did not have much to do with social media because they were impacted by significant off-line problems (even as the comments, video, etc. available on social media have made things worse).

So, to stick to the point of this post's headline, if I had the ebook version of "Sticks and Stones," perhaps Weber could send out an updated version to put the latest developments into perspective. In so doing, many business books would remain relevant for longer, and it would be easier to publish 1.1 version of the book or a 2.0 revision, as necessary -- just as with software.

Meanwhile, I've got a bunch of old business books that are just taking up space -- some as far back just about anything from before 2005 don't feel relevant anymore.


Unknown said...

Thanks for your feedback Norman. Agreed that eBooks are a great way to keep examples up-to-date, especially with cases like BP. Do feel free to post your thoughts/review of Sticks & Stones on Amazon. - LW

Norman Birnbach said...

It just seems that business is evolving so quickly these days that some business books require a "Best If Used By" date on them. The same is true for blogs and articles, too, by the way, including those on this blog. One of the things I think is worthwhile about your book is it makes the case to engage in social media -- at a time when too many companies continue to be resistant. Will some of those companies be like old style radio shows that couldn't make the transition to TV?