Mar 5 2015

Long Form to Nano Form

As my newest book, Startup Opportunities: Know When To Quit Your Day Job, has begun shipping on Kindle (order now and give me feedback, leave a review) I’ve been thinking a lot about writing lately. Startup Opportunities took 18 months to write and most of the slowness was me, not my co-author Sean Wise. It was an interesting struggle to get done which I’ll write about at another time.

I love to write. It’s the way I put my thoughts together. I’ve never really understood the phrase “I’m thinking about it” – I never consciously sit and think, but when I’m writing my brain is often doing the job of thinking.

I also love to read. It’s the way I put my thoughts together and learn new things. I’ve never been an auditory learner. I remember sitting in classes at MIT, listening to the professor lecture, and understanding almost nothing. But then, when I sat down and read the course notes, or whatever reading material was assigned, it all became clear. I’m sure the verbal stuff entered my brain somehow, but it didn’t really turn into something I understood completely until I was able to sit and read.

Fortunately, I’m a fast reader. And after writing millions of words, I’ve become a fast writer. When I’m asked how I read or write so fast, I have a simple answer – practice.

I continuously read essays that talk about the end of books. The end of the publishing industry. How humans are reading less. Crap like that. While it makes for nice self-referential essays in magazines like The Atlantic, or books by authors about how Google is making us stupid, I think it’s all wrong.

I think the fundamental thing that is changing is the distribution of written information. This is nothing new – it’s been going on since the Egyptians created the writing systems 4,500 years ago. And, it is going to get really interesting in the next twenty years as humans become much more integrated with machines, as I’m completely ready to jack in to the Internet full-time.

When I think of the different forms I read and write, it ranges from what I call “the long form” (books) to “the nano-form” (tweets). On a daily basis, I consume books, essays (posts on Medium, magazine articles), blogs, emails, Facebook posts, Tweetstorms, and Tweets. While I don’t use Yo anymore, you can bring it all the way down to the human-nano level.

When I look at the activity in my Goodreads feed, it’s clear to me that the book is not dead. Many of the people I respect, follow, and have relationships with are deep thinkers and love to read – both for learning and recreation. Sure, the book is competing with a lot of other media types, but reading (and writing) seems to persist quite successfully.

Is the book really dead? In 20 years, will we still be calling them books, or will they be something else, in the same way that no one under the age of 10 knows what a record is.