The paradox of the book has been on my mind the last few weeks. No one thing seems to inspire people as does writing a book. Yet, no one thing seems so simultaneously disregarded these days. I began these thoughts off and on again several years ago, however, driving home from a sales call the other day I was listening to one of NPR’s news talk shows, I noticed that segment after segment begin with the guest being an expert because they had recently written a book. Does this sound familiar: “Our guest today is Mr/Mrs….and the author of a new book on… ” It’s the same on PBS news shows, and AM radio talk shows, newspaper articles, podcasts, even blogs, the single factor that determines a person as an expert is most likely to be that they wrote a book. I also get to be an “expert” from time to time, both for having written a book, as well as for publishing books. So, it is clear, committing to writing a book does make a person both an expert and for many, becoming an author is a wish come true.
So where’s the paradox? The paradox is that although we recognize that becoming an author is worthwhile, we’ve left behind the book itself. I am constantly surprised that more people don’t read, because most people want to write a book.One of the best ways to write a better book is to read. Buying others books will increase you odds of having a book published as well. After all, most people assume that other people will want to read their book, yet the sales numbers are, in this case, truth serum–everyone that wants to write a book, does not read or purchase others books. Book reviews in newspapers are down. The mood in many bookstores is just one notch above burn out and depression. People don’t value a book in the spirit it deserves. A life long quest, to be an expert, to publish, and share your book ought to result in more than an electronic file, a nook, an e-book. A book, as a tangible object is symbolic of effort, thought, and desire and deserves a tangible conclusion. A book deserves to be shared on nice paper and savored for the creation that it is. To have aligned all your thoughts just right, to have formed all the sentences in order, to have edited and rethought all the ideas until each has made the journey from inspiration to fully formed thoughts is diminished when a book is only provided in e-form, or worst of all not read.
The paradox is that the process, the hope, and the value we place on the writing of a book is not being fully realized in the final product. Somehow, somewhere along the line the actual purpose of the book seems to have been forgotten.