My ebook: Journeys with the caterpillar

My ebook
Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
and Sumba, Indonesia
" is available at
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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Business books; back without vengeance

Business books are back with a bang. New age couples are naming their kids as Black Swan, Long Tail, Flat World, etc. The horrible traffic situation in Mumbai has worsened with auto-rickshaw (tuk-tuk) drivers refusing to budge from traffic signals as they take time out to scroll through the latest copies of pirated business books sold by street roaming vendors. As for authors of these books, there is no dearth of inspiration: social networking sites, corporate scandals, private equity, cheap air travel. To find unique talking points, budding business writers are even exploring in detail Tom Cruise’s technique for jumping on a couch.

But even with this strong revival of interest in business books, many feel that these books still lack the prestige enjoyed by business books a few decades ago. Pros such as Gary Hamel have argued that management as a concept has stopped evolving. No management book has been able to convincingly post-analyze the successes of companies such as Google, Youtube or Facebook. And few retired CEOs, who can also boast of exceptional careers, have written books over the last few years. As Pablo Neruda had said, “Why couldn’t Christopher Columbus discover Spain?” So, the business book authors should now thinking of focusing on more relevant topics:

  • Make Starbucks concoctions using a simple office coffee machine
  • Justify Youtube as a productive pastime during office hours
  • Make your cubicle feel like an Aruba resort
  • How to consistently maintain a fake stressed look at workplace
  • How to get office stationary within 3 days

If you think that no book can be made out of such topics, please note that business book writers are experts in making 300 pages out of something which can be explained in three lines. They even better authors of books on computer programming who can stuff 90% of their books with sample code. To cope with this tsunami, companies like Soundview have emerged that summarize popular business books in just 8 pages for an annual subscription.

One can argue that Freakonomics was the supreme achievement in business book marketing; after all they made a chipmunk appear like King Kong. But, we live in a world where business books have a shorter shelf life than a frozen Sara Lee Chicken. And with all blurbs using the same adjectives for all books, there is little to excite a reader to buy a book from a lesser known author. So why are business books yet to be sold like pharmaceuticals where much of sales effort is spent on getting physicians to prescribe the medicine? Getting a boss to visibly display a business book is the best way to force most of her subordinates to buy the book immediately. Trickle down works best with management behavior. Also, while business books have penetrated well the segment of MBA aspirants, they are yet to make any inroads into mom-and-pop or Laala trader segment in India. Therefore, it’s strange why vernacular editions of business books are rarely released. If we can have “Saccha Juth” (True Lies), why can’t we have “Lambi Pucch” (Long Tail), or Duniyaa Chaptaa Hai (World is Flat)?

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