Mr. Blank, we’re outside the building, and we want eBooks!

Steve Blank is known for his teachings on the Silicon Valley type of entrepreneurship, with his ideas forming the basis for the "lean startup movement" amongst other things.  He writes frequently on entrepreneurship, and with a great deal of credibility, having been involved in various startups in a number of roles.  He has, without a doubt, walked the walk in terms of startups, and now seems to be spending his time helping other people learn how to walk the same path.  That's a noble thing to be doing when, with the money he's made, he could probably be off doing pretty much whatever he wants.

If you've heard of Steve Blank, you've probably also heard his famous phrase: "get out of the building", an admonition to startup founders to get out and talk with their customers to validate their ideas, rather than huddling in their offices building something that may or may not have a market.

With that in mind, when I saw he had a new book out, The Startup Owner's Manual, I thought "great, that's one I'll get without hesitating!".  Unfortunately, though, an eBook wont' be out until "2nd half of 2012"!  Ouch.

To me, his ignoring eBooks is indicative of a need to get a bit further outside the building, though.  "I want an eBook" was probably the biggest request on his blog post announcing the new book, along side messages of thanks for writing the book.

After reading, on Blank's blog about the availability of the book from BookDepository Ltd, who offer free worldwide shipping, I went ahead and ordered it even if I would have prefered the eBook.  Since they're in the UK, and I'm in Italy, I figure it can't take that long, right?

Wrong.  I ordered on March 15th, and as of April 13th, it still isn't here.

Compare and contrast with the other books I'm currently reading which I was able to order and start looking at in just a few minutes on my Kindle.

Granted, Steve Blank surely isn't doing this for the money, and from that point of view has little real need to listen to his customers – it's not wrong to say he's doing the world a favor by writing the book in the first place.  If he thinks a paper version is far superior, that's his perogative.  However, I think he's doing a lot of his readers a disservice by not making the eBook available sooner.  I know I would have liked to start reading what he had to say last month, rather than waiting for a paper book to make its way (by mule train?) down here to Italy.  The crux of the matter is that while he may well be right in thinking a paper book is "better", for some people, an eBook is the only option, and for them, an "inferior" eBook is a heck of a lot better than no book at all.

Also, on a more constructive note, with eBooks, you can get pretty creative.  For instance, if you have a tabular worksheet, you can simply hyperlink to it in, say, Google Docs, so that those with more advanced devices like iPads can open up the link and start working with a real, live spreadsheet immediately, rather than a chart in a printed book.  Granted, that means 'giving away' the worksheet, but presumably it's not that valuable on its own, and makes for great advertising if it gets a lot of attention.

Finally, since I actually run a business that does eBook conversions , on the blog post announcing the book, I offered to donate our services, so he'd get his book done for free, so you can't accuse me of just complaining!

Mr. Blank, get out of that building and make an eBook available, please!

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