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Is the print book going the way of the slide rule?

February 17, 2012

At tonight’s Toastmasters Club, I presented the following thoughts in a speech.

Do you remember slide rules?

A typical ten-inch student slide rule (Pickett...
Image via Wikipedia

Do you recall 45 RPM records? 8 Track cassettes? DOS? My point here is things change, especially technology.

In the last century, the primary calculating tool was the slide rule. It was omnipotent. There were low-end ones for high school and college students and high-end expensive ones for engineering and every thing in between. Pickett slide rules dominated the market until 1972, when Hewlett-Packard introduced the first handheld electronic calculator, the HP-35. By 1975, Pickett was out of the slide rule business.

Scribes and monks were put out of business with the Gutenberg press. Over the last 150 years a huge industry has been built around book publishing. That is ALL changing now. It isn’t taking 600 years, it’s taking 6 six years. Moores law says technology capability changes every two years, David House of Intel is often quoted as saying it changes“every 18 months.”

45 RPM record

Guess what, publishing is changing quicker than that.

I have author friends that are still thinking traditional publishing: write the book, find an agent, find a publisher, publish the book, then retire. They’re dreaming.

They should be thinking:

Write the book, get it printed with a printer like, get it into electronic format and get it into reader’s hands. Yes, there are all sorts of problems, but there are also all sorts of solutions.

In an email today, author Seth Godin gives this example:

Understand the power of digital
Try to imagine something like this happening ten years ago: An eleven-year-old kid wakes up on a Saturday morning, gets his allowance, then, standing in his pajamas, buys a Bon Jovi song for a buck.

Compare this to hassling for a ride, driving to the mall, finding the album in question, finding the $14 to pay for it and then driving home.

What Seth forgets to point out is it is very easy for 10 kids to buy the $1 music, it is much more difficult for 10 kids to find $14.00. Those ten $1 listeners are going to tell ten other friends. There is a huge multiplying factor. This was the same problem facing 33 RPM records; 45 RPM records were an inexpensive answer to the 33 RPM albums. The numbers were huge with 45’s. Here we go again.

Once you’ve written your book, how do you reach those readers? Here is what has been working for me.

  • Groups (Yahoo, Google, LinkedIn…)
  • Blogs
  • email
  • Youtube
  • Twitter
  • Lectures
  • Family and friends.
  • Answering every single fan mail.
  • Writing book reviews of other author’s books.
  • Post to book sites, such as, etc.
  • Give rights to the book to sites such as, a site for sightless and disabled readers.

Publishing is changing rapidly. Authors now write about the good old days of two years ago. I can’t predict where it is all heading. At some point I see companies wanting to grab more of the ebook profit and authors fighting them to keep their fair share. The cat is out of the bag, it is going to be very difficult to get that cat back where it doesn’t want to go.

I have one last piece of advice: There has never been a better time to be an author. Get your book out, and get your book out now…don’t wait. Just be ready to work very hard.

Here’s a link to the notes handout I gave to the audience at the meeting:



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