Book Content Wants to Run Free

06 Mar 2009|Steve Diller

Anytime you release ideas into the world, we know they take on a life of their own. What’s surprised me recently is how true this is for “old” media, as well as the new social stuff.

Darrel Rhea and I co-wrote a book with Nathan Shedroff, “Making Meaning,” a few years back. Our publisher, New Riders, was a known quantity- Nathan had worked with them before. Overall, we had a good experience with them during production. Once the book was finished, they helped put on a great event/book signing. After that, they kind of went quiet. They responded to orders, of course, and we enjoyed watching the books sort-of fly out the door. But there wasn’t a big, global promotional push. Given that, it’s surprising where the book and its ideas have lodged over time.

One place was Vienna. I received a call from a senior banking exec awhile back who’d picked up the book in a train station. Literally picked it up- it’d been sitting on a bench. He read it and called us from another station, wanting to talk about meaning and money. That eventually led to a major initiative at his bank which is changing the way they do business.

More recently, we saw that the book can transform itself as it travels. We discovered that, unbeknowst to us, a sibling of New Rider’s, Pearson Educational, put out a new Korean-language edition. Now, Korea is increasingly known for its high-end, innovative products. But we never promoted the book there, and, while we know some designers in Seoul, we never anticipated sufficient market demand there to justify a Kroean edition. The book has gone so far afield that it can morph into new languages with absolutely no awareness of the writers and seemingly little involvement of the original publisher.

It’s true that information wants to be free. What’s surprised me is how far it flies, transforming itself, involving new parties in the process, and living its own life, even when the niceties of copyright are in operation. As we all blog and use social media, we expect this will be the case. But “old” media is clearly part of the mix as well.

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