Can I Make Book Recommendations?

books-xxlMaking book recommendations is hard for me. Specifically recommendations for non-fiction books on Management, Leadership, Strategy or Marketing. And you should treat recommendations for must read books with enough skepticism. We do not know if the recommenders have actually read the books let alone read a larger list to have enough information to pick out these recommendations.  We should also question whether the recommendation is sincerely about informing us or social signaling by the recommender.

Patrick Vlaskovits, a startup mentor, stated a real problem with all recommendations,

Is it likely I recommended a book because I saw it on shelf at Airport bookstore?

It is implied the recommender agrees with the thesis put forth in the books. Given that most books present us with observational theses as proven methods it is likely the recommender did not call into question a book’s methods or its thesis.

Even if we check off all these points how can we be certain that these books are relevant to us?

All that said now I am making my recommendations. The are books I have read but I cannot say if I have made fair comparison by reading every other book in the category. For what it is worth here is the list.Untitled design-3

  1. Thinking, Fast and Slow
  2. Power
  3. Soap Opera
  4. The Art and Science of Negotiation
  5. How to Measure Anything
  6. Everything is Obvious

A Few Books Every Marketer Must Read

This is my recommendation:

  1. Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton
  2. Marketing Imagination, New, Expanded Edition by Theodore M. Levitt
  3. The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing: A Guide to Growing More Profitably by Thomas T. Nagle and John Hogan
  4. The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith (if you can’t read the whole book  at least read the chapters on Conventional Wisdom and Consumer sovereignty )
  5. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
  6. Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error
  7. Spent by Geoffrey Miller
  8. The Rise and Fall of Great Powers (it is a great book on strategy)

Should Publishers Allow Kindle Text-To-Speech

With Amazon Kindle there is a feature that has not been available before, Text-To-Speech. Publishers are not happy about this feature.One of the Kindle eBook publisher, Random House, has turned off Text-To-Speech for all its eBooks. Opinions on this are divided. Kindle readers are most likely to think that they had already paid for the book and hence they should get the Text-To-Speech feature. Amazon would like this as well as a value added feature for its $300 device. Should Kindle Text-To-Speech be allowed? Are publishers just being unreasonable? For these we should look at what we pay for a book.

Suppose you bought a hardcover book from a local bookstore. You pay just the price of the book and  read it when and where you want and as many times as you want. You can annotate, bookmark, refer back or even tear off pages you like and archive it.

It just happened you were not able to read it yourself, so you hire someone to read it to you. (Hold on to your question “why did this person not buy audio book?”).Everyday for an hour this person comes to your place and reads the book until it is done.When something was not clear or you wanted to listen again you ask them to go back and re-read the those sections. Anytime you like a section you ask them to bookmark it and also add a Post-It note with your comments on it. You also ask them to flip back to previous chapters and selectively re-read. When this person is done they leave the book with you, which you can thumb through to refer bookmarked sections. You pay about  $X/hour for this service.

One day this person says she cannot come in person to read for next few sessions but can read it over phone to you. You get all the benefits of the previous case except that you do not have the book with you, have to take your own notes and it is done over phone. You would expect to pay less than $X/hour for telephone reading.

Sometime later the same person says that they cannot make the appointed time but will record their reading and send it to you. You can tell this person beforehand your specific needs, reading speed, annotations etc. You lose many of the benefits of previous cases but gain the convenience of hearing it anytime and anywhere you want.

On the other hand you simply can buy the audio book, that is mass produced and lose personalization and customizations you had with your own reader. But you do not pay a separate fee for someone else to read the book, you pay one price for the audio format.

This brings us to what I call the three C’s of  what you pay for the book:

Price of a book  = Content   + Consumption  + Convenience

Content: Is the information content of the book, be it ideas or the story. These days even the most popular books are discounted heavily. Unless you are buying an esoteric topic or a college text book, the price paid for content is almost the same and negligible for most books.

Consumption: This is how you consume the book and what you pay for the method of consumption. This is determined by the formats the book is sold, for example, printed book, eBook, audio book. The price component for consumption varies by the format.

Convenience: This is the trade-offs between benefits and deficiencies of the different methods of consumption. With each format you gain some and lose some.

You can see that Consumption and Convenience are interrelated and we can simply call these two as Convenience.

Since content is all normalized  we can say that what you pay for a book is  for convenience.That is each format has a different value proposition and it is different for each customer segment. If all  a reader pays for is convenience then the publisher should be able to charge you separately for each method of consumption. This is the reason you see hardcovers, soft covers, eBooks and audio books all sold separately.

Coming back to Kindle’s Text-To-Speech, this offers the ability to add a new method of consumption that offers some of the benefits of the new method but without paying  it.  This is the root of the conflict between Amazon and publishers. To me it makes perfect business sense that the publishers do not like what they see as value destruction (by giving it away for free). Actually the additional value is all captured by Amazon in the price of the device.

A better reslolution for this argument is that this Text-To-Speech feature must be unbundled and  priced separately so that the publishers can capture some of the value they add. Amazon can either pass on this additional charge to its customers or decide to eat the cost since they capture considerable value by selling the device.