The Economist on Business Books

Kicking ass in an unflat world is The Economist’s take on recent efforts in the world of business books. As the creator of Squeezed Books, their opinion was of interest to me.

As is often the case, they don’t disappoint, with lines like

Things to bear in mind as you do, he says, include the need for your company to have purpose, to seek out ideas from the fringes, and to embrace the democratising power of the internet—none of which will be news to anyone who has been in business for more than a few minutes.

What really caught me eye, though, was this:

There is also growing demand from overloaded executives for shorter books. So in January Harvard will launch a new hardback series, “Memo to the CEO”, covering subjects such as lessons from private equity and the future of strategy. Each book will be about 100 pages long and will cost $20. In a similar vein, Harvard has adopted the approach taken by iTunes to pop albums, and has started to sell individual chapters of books online—an idea that has been a hit with academics in particular.

A lot of good business books take a sensible central idea, and then proceed to fluff it up to a length where it can be published as a book. Often, this makes for a good read, as the anecdotes and case studies and whatnot are interesting, but for those in a hurry, or simply wanting to know what the basic point of the book is about, it’s just padding.

So, it looks as if the idea behind Squeezed Books is a good one, now I just need to get better at attracting more people to contribute summaries, and discuss the books on the site. One thing I’ve done to that end is stipulate that the summaries are available, unless otherwise noted, under a creative commons license.

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