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« The marketer's guide to personal finance | Main | Where's the bluetooth microphone? And an archive tool? »

Do business books work?

Every year, more than a thousand new 'business' books get published in the US. Not textbooks or manuals, but general interest books about how to do business better.

Some sell a few hundred copies. Some sell a few hundred thousand. One or two might sell a million. Out of a potential audience of 30 or 40 million white collar workers in the US.

Do they work or are they an utter waste of time?

I'll admit to being biased (wow), but my mail is an interesting barometer. Here's a self-selected group of people, a fairly large one, fortunately, that takes the time to write in and tell me what helped and how. Not only do my books seem to help, but the general consensus from this group is that many different books from many different authors help. There are plenty of clunkers, lots of dramatically overwritten brochures masquerading as books. But mixed in with the drek are books that change everything.

If we're going to be honest about it, we should agree that the best business books are either useless (in which case rational business people should avoid them) or they're useful.

So here's my real question:

If you went to a doctor who told you that she hadn't read a scholarly article or taken any training since med school, would you stick around? What about a lawyer who doesn't read law journals or a dentist who never bothered to read up on the newest case studies?

Never mind the professions. What about the machine shop down the street? Think the $18 an hour machine operator is supposed to read the manual that came with the new machine? Who cares if he doesn't like to read?

Why does our bizarre national fear of reading have anything to do with this? We read stuff all the time (email, stop signs, the comics) but for some reason, people think it's fine to draw the line at books. (Typical annual per capita purchase rate for hardcover books in the US: one).

True story: I was doing a speech for a bunch of twenty-something campus reps for a clothing company. One young lady raised her hand. She pointed to Purple Cow (about 160 pages long) and said, "If we only have time to read twenty pages, which twenty pages should we read?"

Fortune 1,000 companies have literally hundreds (or thousands) of salespeople. Why aren't each of these salespeople required to read the latest sales book from Jeffrey Gitomer? Compared to the cost of training, it's almost free. Compared to the cost of not doing anything, it's a bargain.

Can you imagine web designers who proudly proclaim that they never read up on Ruby on Rails or metatags? So how come so many marketers are comfortable announcing that they've never read anything by Guy?

Now, repeat the entire post substituting 'business blog' for 'business book'.


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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Do business books work?:

» On business reading from
I trackback from Seth Godin often. I hope you agree it's always justified. In this instance I'm impelled to comment on his perspective toward the value of business books. Two summers ago I was an avid business book reader. I [Read More]

» Do you read businessbooks? from Simile
Does theory matter ? Can soldiers pause to strategize? Arent most business theories like fashion / fad ? Isnt book business more about selling paper /package rather than ideas ? Note: Most business books cost $20 with more than 200 page... [Read More]

» Worth their words in gold... from Cabernet Logic
Seth poses a question to writers, professional and pundits everywhere, Do they [business books and blogs] work or are they an utter waste of time? His insight on the topic as well as the basic comparisons to other industry professionals [Read More]

» Er business bøger spild af tid ogpenge? from Daily Learning Nuggets
Every year, more than a thousand new business books get published in the US. Not textbooks or manuals, but general interest books about how to do business better. Some sell a few hundred copies. Some sell a few hundred thousand. On... [Read More]

» Why We Write from Epic Living
I have never thought of writing for reputation and honor. What I have in my heart must come out, that is why I compose. -Ludwig Von Beethoven I'm in Mr. Beethoven's club. Seth Godin has great post today titled Do [Read More]

» Why arent more people readingbooks? from Marty Fahncke Finally Blogs!
Now, Seth has posted another thought provoking essay on business books. But I think the bigger picture is the problem of people who don’t read books of any sort. At all. So my question? Why aren’t more people reading books? My next question? ... [Read More]

» Biz lit revisited from manage to experience
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» What makes a business book great from Groundswell (Incorporating Charlene Li's Blog)
by Josh Bernoff Seth Godin says you should buy and read business books. Shockingly enough, I agree. Yes, they are indeed the cheapest training you can get. The thing I find interesting is the high degree of variability. There are [Read More]

» Can Gavin Come Out and Play? from bizsolutionsplus Featuring Solutions to Grow Your Business
Nope. He's buried under 100 chapters of The Age of Conversation. That's the ebook that Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton are putting together. Their hard work will feature 100 authors from around the blogasphere. Money from sales of the book will benefit ... [Read More]

» So You Think You Want to Write A Book, Part 2 from bizsolutionsplus Featuring Solutions to Grow Your Business
I'm on a break. That's right. I'm taking a break from my book. Not the writing part, the editing part. You see, the writing is easy. You do the research, shrink it down to bite-sized digestible parts, and mix it with your own thoughts, to create a book... [Read More]

» Read to Learn--How about some market research from Muegge Marketing
We can speculate about which authors waste our time and which have relevant content, but I would argue that all the discussions can be boiled down to a simple concept--those authors that base their writings on experience or market research [Read More]

» Do You Read? from The Agitator
Have you read a book lately about some aspect of your nonprofit marketing or communications or management craft? Or about broader social trends that might influence the future of your cause or charity? Or about the psychology, sociology or even physiology [Read More]

» Do business books work? from
Do business books work? Seth Godin asked this question on his blog . As I read the post, I actually found several questions rolled up in one. Ill try not to drag this comment out too much but here is my response to that post. I dont think, I kn... [Read More]

» Seth Godin Is Wondering - Do Business Books Work? from Maneuver Marketing Communique
Seth Godin is wondering - do business books work? My answer - not as well as they used to. In [Read More]

» Who Moved My Cheesecake? from Mr. Besilly's Blog
Since reporting for work at my new job in Seattle back in October of 1999 I have survived two company mergers, three bosses, four administrations, a bankruptcy and the resulting sale of the company to new ownership. Amazingly I emerged with my own lead... [Read More]

» No Seth no... from Deborah Khan -- Creative Inspiration
Love him. Read him daily. Try and animate what he says regularly. Yet let's just look at a few flaws in this great post fom Seth Godin Most of us do struggle to separate the wheat from the chaff on [Read More]

» Business blogs are required reading from OnLine Sales Success
Reading books in your field is an important trait of leaders. The same applies to business blogs. The greatest business minds are sharing their knowledge for free. Smart competitors are constantly reading more and therefore learning more. What about yo... [Read More]

» Set Godin Asks "Do Business Books Work?" from Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020 Blog
Seth Godin recently asked whether business books work while also pointing out how few are actually read every year by potential customers. Being in the publishing business, and because I also tend to read quite a few business books each [Read More]

» The case for Business Books from 800-CEO-READ Blog
Seth wrote last week about business books and pondered why people don't read them. The whole post is a must read for our audience. Here is the killer quote: "If you went to a doctor who told you that... [Read More]

» Business Challenge for the Week from
After reading a very appropriate post by Seth Godin on business books, I wanted to put out a challenge to you all.  I want you each to go out this week and purchase a business book on a subject of interest and read it.  Take an hour out each day, at ... [Read More]

» Mish mash - is there time or not? from Writelife
There is a Jim Cuddy song (Pull Me Through) where the lyrics go something like, There are letters left unopened here, there never is the time; there are messages I should return Well, I can certainly relate to that these days. The... [Read More]

» Thats Too Bloggy For My Business (sniff) from Mary's Blog
(As a follow-on to my previous 5 Reasons post...Yeah, I seem to be channeling Mike Sansone this week. Could be because Ill be seeing him live and in person this weekend at SOBCon 07. If youre in the Chicago area, I... [Read More]

» Reading is Fundamental from Incentive Intelligence
Seth Godin seems to always ask great questions. This post from a day or two ago asks the question: Do Business Books Work? I'm a voracious reader and have always found value in learning about a new point of view. Granted, after reading The Halo Effect,... [Read More]

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