When is a book not a book?

I have started many speeches with that question, because it’s rare that a book is actually a book. For the business author, a book is a very thick business card. It is one powerful way to influence world events by sharing what you know with people whom you otherwise might not meet – or making an extraordinary impression on the people you do know. Who would not want to transform tens of thousands of lives and business deals in a single stroke (actually several if you type your own manuscripts)? In the broadest of terms,  a book is a way of branding yourself and your organization. It is also a source of revenue that once vitalized has no reason to stop earning its keep many times over.

And so with great excitement this week, I stepped onto the floor of the Jacob Javits convention center in New York, to meet the international partners who would take our current catalog and bring it to Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia. Our books are not books here. Our books are messengers of America’s best practices, smartest people and a symbol of what we do best here – innovate and then advocate.

Or course, I met up with some old friends including CSPAN. More than a decade ago, I interviewed Brian Lamb (genius behind the programs) about his first book: Booknotes. Here was a man who had spent his favorite hours in television interviewing authors and finally writing about those interviews. It was like a picture in a picture. But, what struck me most about Brian was not the substance of the books he explored. It was his love for detail. He rooted out where the writers wrote, what chair, what light, and when, and with what implement. I don’t know if the anthropology of writers’ lives were as compelling to anyone else as it was for him, but I know his documentation will make a difference sometime in the future. For him, books weren’t books. They were an amalgam of the people, time and place that these works were created.

Do you have a book in you? I have brought many speeches to a close with that question. Well, do you?


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