partner with a world-class technology
company and the largest online retailer
of books was really an opportunity I
couldn’t pass up.
Publishing can be thought of as a B2B
industry, where publishers are selling
into retail accounts. Amazon is unique
because it has a one-to-one relationship
with every single reader and customer.
The range of options for innovation that
that opens up is truly staggering.
What are some functionality
enhancements you foresee for
With the iPad2 as an example, I
foresee a time when the camera function can be utilized and the reader
experience ceases to be one of pure
consumption. People could interact
with the content and have that content
change as they “read” the book. I think
it’s really only limited by the imagination of the developers. On one hand,
it’s a very positive thing. On the other
hand, I think that technology can certainly become a crutch, people using
the latest, shiniest, interactive option
as a way to avoid doing the thinking and planning required for a more
professional book where the reader is
taken from A to Z in a logical fashion.
You’ve said that your past books have
been “category busters." How do you
approach choosing your topics and
then making them your own?
It starts with personal interest and perceived complexity. By doing the type
of exploration I do out of personal
curiosity, if I bump into a world where
complexity seems to be the norm with
conflicting opinions and conflicting
prescriptions—like managing companies, the tech world, or cooking—I get
very excited. With the help of various
experts, I try to cut through all the
nonsense. So, if there’s an area I have
an intense personal interest in exploring and that I think I can simplify
dramatically so a larger percent of the
population can get the same enjoyment
as I do, that’s how I pick my content.
Process over outcome is also an
important criterion. Since achieving
best-seller status is not a guaranteed
outcome, whether or not the book
is well-received, I have to enjoy the
process of writing it. I see authors
who choose a topic or writing style
that is not their own and have a miserable time writing it. Whether that
book becomes a best-seller or not, in
my opinion, it is a failure. The sugar
high of best-sellerdom wears off, but
YOU’VE BEEN QUOTED AS SAYING YOU “WANT TO REDEFINE WHAT’S POSSIBLE IN PUBLISHING.” WHAT ARE THE POSSIBILITIES THAT YOU SEE IN THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY? I think that what comprises a book, where a book starts, where a book ends and the actual user experience is chang- ing. That could be in terms of length; Kindle singles or bylin- ers.com are good examples of this. You will see books being published one chapter at a time. I think the long-form book will split into several different sub- species of books, especially once rich media can be incor- porated. You can already see that with some iPad applications. It becomes a full-sensory experience as opposed to a purely written word experience.
the time you put into that book will be
long, hard or both.
With both 4HWW and 4HB, you created
a movement and large community.
How methodical were you with creating that? Or did it just happen?
In the case of 4HWW, it was totally
unexpected. No one—including me—
expected it to do what it did. Now,
35 languages later, my thinking about
books and the nature of this business
has changed. I was able to take what
worked with that book and apply it
in 4HB. I realized you must have reliable formulae that people can replicate
your results. That's the first step. The
second step is encouraging them to
share their results, status, progress, or
lack thereof. I use my blog, Facebook
and Twitter to frequently poll my
readers, linking to a form on Wufoo.
com or SurveyMonkey.com. By building in that feedback cycle, assuming
your recommendations work, you
create a virtuous cycle where each of
your readers, in theory, help recruit
dozens, hundreds, or thousands of
other readers. I think
that’s how you