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Self-Help Books are too Long

Some days, when I am reading a self-help book, I sometimes wonder if the most helpful thing I could do is stop reading. Business books are too long, yet people buy them and authors make a lot of money from writing business and productivity books. My experience has been that virtually all of these books should be much shorter. The average 200 page business book would probably be just as good at 20 pages and the only reason it isn’t is that that isn’t a viable model for publishers. Some books are actually much shorter, such as many of Seth Godin and Tom Peter’s books. I have found that many of these could be shorter still. In fact, I would posit that they could easily be summarized in a lengthy blog post of five or six pages.

Certainly this is painting in broad strokes, but I think even many naysayers would agree that with that amount of space, one could easily convey the key idea – maybe 90% of the value – of the book. If I gave you 90% of an idea in 3,000 words, then told you that the last 10% of the idea required you to read another 150,000 words, I suspect that the absolute value of the idea would need to be astronomical to justify grasping each nuance of the concept. This value-to-length concept can be rendered as a graph:

That picture didn’t add a lot of value, but it was fun!

So, I have no power to start Internet memes, but if I did, here is one I would start: Post on your blog your blog-post summary of a book that should have simply been a blog post. Then people will be able to read your blog post and save both their time and their $24.95.

Then Trackback or post a link in the comments here to your blog book (I would call it “blook”, but I think that is already taken) and this can begin to serve as a library for people. If we get enough, then I will further organize the Library of Cogress (note Cogmap pun! Not a typo!).

I will now post a follow-up with my first review.

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