“I was hoping for a digital version” moans my thirty-year old niece.
“I’ll wait for the kindle version” decides a fifty-something client.
“When will there be an e-book version?” asks a colleague.
The allure of online access and digital marketing is tempting. Part of me thinks that I should have an e-version. Won’t I be missing out on sales without one?
And yet I’m resisting. As its author, I may have no control over how my book is received, and yet I have a clear vision of how I’d like it to do its work in the world. As I say in the closing pages, my hope is that:
“You will create new results for yourself, your team and your business when you start each day, each meeting and each conversation, with a new question from the pages of this book.
Hold it close by you. Keep it on your desk. Let it get dog-eared and coffee splattered with use.
Carry it with you. Share it with colleagues. Let other people get their hands on it.
Let this book itself be a conversation starter.
Let it help you experience conversations you haven’t stepped into before now.
Conversations to inspire you and everyone around you.”
My book designer ‘got’ this concept. Together she and I understood that this was to be more than a book that was read and then shelved. It would, rather, be a living tool which appeals to and actively supports leaders in their day to day interactions with their teams, customers and indeed with their own reflections. It inspires learning. It attracts curiosity. It is an experience in itself. And it walks its own talk. It starts conversations. Its whole purpose is to inspire human-to-human connection where the parties involved find themselves in deeper, more meaningful conversation than they might often allow themselves the time and space to enjoy, in our hyper-busy digital world. And that’s why I resist defaulting to a digital version.
You can’t leave a digital version lying on your desk to stimulate people’s interest. Your screen will close down before you can access a question to enliven a conversation. You can’t share it with colleagues who don’t have your password. You’ll get distracted by all the adverts that pop up on your screen while you’re trying to find the question you need in that moment. Your screen-fatigue will kick in and you won’t have the focus to sit with the provocative statements in the book and you’ll miss the deeper learning they offer you. Making it digital contradicts the book’s very premise that we yearn to slow down and enjoy more meaningful, person to person conversation. Conversation that we long to embrace rather than avoid by hiding behind screens. Conversation that can be creative and collaborative and connecting, rather than conflicted, compromising or computerized.
So when a book is more than a book, it becomes an experience that can shift perspectives and possibilities. It becomes an active learning tool. Much of our digital reading today is less about remembering and contemplating what we read, than it is about remembering where we’ve stored it on our phones or computers so that we can access it quickly. We don’t let our brains really take it in, yet we rely on our brains to remember where we stored our ever-growing pile of data in case we need to retrieve it.
A non-digital book, bucks this trend. It takes us back to the real purpose behind reading which is to learn and grow our own understanding and ideas about the world. The visual impact of a book influences how your brain responds to it. The physical pleasure of rifling through the pages connects your body and mind to the experience of what it offers you. The surprise of a page falling open with the exact question or statement you need that day inspires you to trust in what’s possible.
I ask my book designer if we should create a digital version. “Your book won’t translate into an e-book very well,” she explains, “it will lose all the design and formatting. The layout will be ordinary. It may lose its impact.”
The source of real conversation is embodied within us, and it’s for that reason that I want my readers to enjoy seeing, feeling, touching, and experiencing the physical version of this book as a surprisingly easy, yet effective, conversation tool. I want it to pull you away from your smart phone or your tablet for a moment, to slow you down and invite you to relish the physical reality of a beautifully designed book which helps you pay deeper attention to your conversations in more meaningful ways and which inspires you to create human-to-human connection with your curiosity and your questions.
As an author, it is difficult to resist the digital world. Maybe I would sell many more copies in digital format. Maybe it would reach a different audience — possibly an audience who are more in need of real-life conversation than anyone else. Maybe some of my other readers would use the book more in digital format too. I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s important that I stay true to the intention of having a real book that triggers physical, meaningful, awareness rather than the speed-reading, information-overloading that passes for digital learning these days.
I may be proven wrong.
Meantime, my book will make it’s way onto the desk of whoever is curious enough, and human enough, to use it in the way I envisage. Should you be that person, perhaps you can then influence me on whether to succumb to a digital version.
Otherwise, such is the dilemma I have created for myself as an author in these times.
p.s. As I was finishing this article I came across this by Drake Baer https://www.thriveglobal.com/stories/10553-the-science-of-why-you-remember-print-books-so-much-better on the neuroscience of why real books are much more memorable than e-books. Seems like neuroscience is on my side.
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