Does a business book summary negate the need for the book?
How many business books are sitting unread on shelves, piled high on desks or gathering dust next to the bed? What is the attraction of these paper-bound packages and the abundance of wisdom that their titles promise? Maybe that is it! Perhaps the idea of a wonderful secret formula or roadmap to success is enough to encourage a reader to part with a tenner – just in case the promise holds weight.
But consider this. From Blinkist to summary.com to fourminutebooks.com and dozens of other business book summary services – the business world has found a shortcut. Personally, I think both sides of the book summary coin are wrong – and I’ll come on to that in a moment. But I also recognise that all markets are driven by demand, which is why the book summary business is booming.
Distilled knowledge is weakened knowledge
People used to write business books because they were recognised experts in their field. They had an audience who respected them, a track record of successes and game-changing ideas, and a formula for personal improvement that others could apply to themselves. These business leaders already had a following (albeit often as the unknown face behind a big corporation). And their audiences leapt at the shelf to find insight into the person who owned that face. These readers wanted to know the stories, the lessons, the hard-earned wisdoms and the lifetime conclusions that pathed their way to the top. They warmed to the human connections, the rags to riches tales and the untold truths revealing that success is rarely plain sailing.
Books like Covey’s The Seven Habits, The E-Myth by Gerber, the much-misunderstood Think and Grow Rich of Napoleon Hill, Rich Dad Poor Dad by Kiyosaki and other titles lining the libraries of today’s business leaders were all built upon stories. More than that though: Most of them were substantial publications. There was very little fluff, filler or directionless dialogue to trawl through before getting to the point. The story sold the principles, instruction and knowledge. The authors didn’t need their works to be summarised because they already had credibility, and their audience wanted to know the details.
But today, even these great works have been reduced to summary form. And I believe that is the main reason fewer people get rich from reading Napoleon Hill, adopt the habits of highly effective people taught by Stephen Covey or really understand ‘why’ Simon Sinek suggested that is the precise place to start. These books were written in full because only the fullness of their stories can truly teach the wisdom within their pages.
The saturation of knowledge
Today, everyone is an expert. And instead of established leaders, with hard-earned reputations sharing their wisdom with crowds of eager ears, the business book has become a stepping stone to stardom. Please do not misunderstand me here. A business book is a powerful marketing tool and, with the right content, it can elevate a worthy author to where they were heading anyway – in half the time. But it is the swarm of books lining the library floor that bother me. These are the ones I referred to at the beginning of this post: The shelf decoration and the repetitive page injury causation (sorry – I realise that may be taking poetic licence too far).
My great personal dilemma!
The modern ease for anyone to publish a book, regardless of credentials or having anything to say, has created a crowded market. On the other side of the damaged coin, I mentioned earlier, is the result for the reader (or the seeker of business wisdom). Because there is seemingly so much information out there, they feel compelled to try and consume it all. But the reality is that most of the filler in the unqualified business books (I refer any offended authors to the paragraph above) is little more than a regurgitation of previous works. Their stories are weak, because they have not lived the lesson; the words lack heart and little connection to the real world; and the pages are filled with blah, blah, blah for want of something tangible to share.
So, readers buy books, get bored a few pages in, have a nibble at the next one and so on. Then another ten publications arrive on the scene, and they decide it might be easier to subscribe to a summary site and see if that satisfies their hunger for knowledge. It is the equivalent of a fast-food diet to save time instead of a lovingly prepared meal, with fresh ingredients, cooked by an expert hand, eaten slowly, enjoying each chew and slowly digesting the goodness of the nutrients inside.
Of course, as a ghostwriter of business books, this gives me a dilemma. I want to work. I want to write. I need to earn a living, and I love what I do. But I am also a realist and recognise, as I mentioned 700 words ago, that demand drives every market on the planet: Including the shallowness of the book summary market.
And that is why, together with a team of brilliant business book experts, we decided to launch Kudos Books.