“I would argue, rather, that books saved Oprah”

Posted by on Sep 29, 2011 in Insights | No Comments

It’s easy for people to mistake books for merely source material to bigger, glitzier, glossier things. They have at times become a footnote, a hyperlinked-reference within (extremely) louder, (incredibly) closer sound bytes, moving images, headlines, and bullet-points.

For Session I of The Business of Publishing, Richard Nash unsurprisingly (and compellingly) laid bare this perspective. He reminded us that, unlike nearly every other medium, “books.. reward iteration” — a reader’s engagement and re-engagement with a book over days and years and re-readings serves to expand both the breadth of her understanding of it and the depth of her connection to it. I’d be fiercely curious to see what this would look like graphed (particularly if Ben Greenman were doing the graphing). I suspect it would look a bit(ly) different than these data, which demonstrate the average half-life of a link to be just 3.5 hours.

Nash went on to assert that Oprah Winfrey did not become, simply Oprah, until she focused on her now-since-assumed protocol of talking about: Books. To paraphrase (it’s hard to take notes on touch surfaces – Blackberrys [gasp!] had their place): “Books gave Oprah a way to talk about feelings, emotional responsibility.. a way to talk passionately about art, about food, about travel”.

I mentioned at the last Meetup that Code Meet Print is focused not only on Books, but #TheFutureOfStorytelling. Ours is a community that cherishes stories (the kinds that grow in our imagination over longer periods as well as the kinds that are fleeting, scarce, mutable), but one that is asking, hypothesizing, and experimenting about all manner of value that these stories create and exchange. Commerce (and livelihood) are part of this, and during Session I Nash was nimble and thoughtful about new possible Models: Artisanal Bookmaking (the Bespoke, the “vinyl collector’s edition for the written word”), as well as the Unpacking of Transmedia from within a Story.

Session II is Monday October 3rd featuring Evan Ratliff and Jefferson Rabb, Co-Founders of The Atavist, who will be looking inward at their own real-life, real-time experiment with the evolution of Non-Fiction Storytelling — one that more natively harnesses the experiential possibilities of touch interface devices.

Session III will be taught by Jacob Lewis — I cannot wait to hear his appraisal of Endemic versus Systemic Problems in Print, and his vision of where Digital might succeed, informed closely by his experiences at The New Yorker and now, creating highly-engaged reading communities at Figment.

Back to School never sounded so interesting.  Hope to see you there.