Coding in Paradise

About Brad Neuberg

You Are Not in the Book Business: You Are in the Long Form Content Business

Books are not a goal unto themselves. Instead, they are a means to an end: the transmission of authoritative long form content that possesses depth and breadth. Note that I'm specifically talking about illustrated non-fiction here; literary fiction is an entirely different animal.

Organizations fail when they identify themselves with a particular technology rather than a goal (and yes, books are a technology). For example, Netflix sees itself as facilitating access to quality entertainment as easily and seamlessly as possible. Imagine if they had thought of themselves in just the DVD delivery business; they would be out of business along with Blockbuster. Instead, they are one of the leading streaming Internet companies today.

  1. Everything that's already in the world when you're born is just normal.
  2. Anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it.
  3. Anything that gets invented after you're thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it until it's been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.
Douglas Adams, How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet

If you imagine that your business is the book business, you will be out of business in five to ten years. At the very least, you will be producing physical books for a dwindling market. If instead you understand that your business is producing digital long form content, independent of its container, then you have a hope of surviving.

Organizations fail when they identify themselves with a particular technology rather than a goal

Books might die, but the value they embody as they transition online is still valid. This includes content that is authoritative, curated by expert authors, and containing breadth and depth on a subject. These characteristics still have value in a digital world, even if they aren't wrapped in a traditional book.

While the medium isn't always the message, it definitely impacts the message. As books (which from here on out I'll refer to as long form content) move online they retain some of their traditional goals but are themselves impacted by the new medium they are in. Long form online content therefore gains other digital characteristics in order to respect the new medium they are in:

The real question therefore is what next generation long form content looks like, rather than what next generation eBooks look like.

You aren't producing books anymore, you are producing long form content online. If you imagine yourself as a book publisher, you will inevitably go out of business as books translate themselves online. Not only must you now think of yourself as a long form content creator, you have to respect the new medium you are in and author next generation long form content.

Subscribe to my RSS feed and follow me on Twitter to stay up to date on new posts.

Please note that this is my personal blog — the views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

Back to