Monday, February 11, 2008

murdered by volume

Bastard.


That's how I feel. And it's because yesterday, I (temporarily) gave up on reading Wikinomics. I was almost half way through it and I hate giving up on books. It makes me feel dim and impatient, but I couldn't take it any more.

Wikinomics is guilty of something I see happening - or perhaps just notice - more and more in books these days: Constant repetition of the same point. Every chapter a near clone of the last. And it got me wondering how writing and reading books has changed in the advent of information snacking?

The premise of Wikinomics is simple, but its world is vast. Thus, the book is filled with interesting case studies. BUT, every case study ends with several paragraphs that say things like: "...so, even though opening up their archives to the public may have seemed crazy ten years ago, the company tripled its turnover that month thanks to the input of individuals across the globe."
I get it. I get it!! This basic point is laboured to the point I couldn't take it any more. I feel as though the book could have been a fifth of the thickness. Just give me an intro and then the case studies in short bulleted format.

I've heard people complain about other books in the same way. Several friends have said this of Gladwell's Blink: that they got it after the first chapter and didn't bother reading the rest.

So, some questions:
Have readers become less patient with repetition/elaboration?
Have writers failed to adapt to the changing culture of publishing?
Do writers flesh out points without adding value in the hope that it becomes 'book material' just by being 'book-length'?

Words should lubricate information - make it slide down your throat a little easier. They shouldn't clog the passages. When this happens, the format of a book can sometimes kill its content.

I've just started on This is your brain on music. Here's hoping it's not the literary equivalent of Whigfield's Saturday Night.

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5 Comments:

Blogger fourstar said...

I am halfway through "Affluenza" by Oliver James and the very same thing has happened to me; ground to a halt, weighed down by repetition of the basic idea and many far-too-similar case studies.

As you say, "I get it".

12:45 pm  
Blogger Angus said...

Oh god, I'm hearing you. I felt the same during Convergence Culture. Almost killed me.

1:28 pm  
Blogger Andy said...

I seem to have hit a nerve here. Maybe we should start a service where we upload single-chapter edits of books like this?

2:45 pm  
Anonymous Noël said...

Were you also disappointed in how much it seemed to focus only on big R&D companies, from what you read?

I'm just starting the book and was hoping to see the case studies spread among more industries, but they seem to stick with the P&Gs of the world (based on a quick flip-thru).

10:57 am  
Blogger Andy Whitlock said...

hi noel,
yes, that sounds familiar, although I've tried to erase it from my memory ;)

5:14 pm  

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