Books are dead (long live books!)
Presentation in Tokyo

Books are dead (long live books!) part 2

Chris_anderson Since I wrote the last post on books, it seems like everywhere I turned the past two days I heard people talking about how important books were to their fundamental growth, as well as serving as a kind of smart retreat for their mind (and spirit). In some cases people were talking about rediscovering books after spending so many years filling their brains with information (from everywhere except books) and focusing hard on "the race" called work. It's funny, then, that the latest TED talk posted on the TED website features a really nice talk by the man in charge of taking care of TED, Chris Anderson. This was recorded in 2002, just a few months after 9-11 and with the dust of the dot-com bust still in the air. At that time people were not sure if TED would even survive. From the TED site: "This was Anderson's attempt to persuade TEDsters that the conference had a future, and that the transition from a for-profit event, to one owned by a nonprofit, could work."

Anderson tells of making it in business and then surviving the fall...and of changing his life. This is what caught my attention:

"I started to do something I had forgotten about [because of] my business focus—I started to read again."

— Chris Anderson

It was during this time of reading that Anderson says he realized that while he'd been busy working hard and focusing intensely on business all those years, there had been a revolution of sorts in many different fields. What was most exciting, says Anderson, is that "all this stuff is connected." Anderson goes on to give an example of how one single aspect of life is so connected to — and can be examined through — a variety of disciplines. He introduces the idea in a way that makes the audience erupt in laughter as well. If you are an avid follower of TED like I am, then hearing Anderson's vision for TED in this short talk (from six years ago) will be of great interest to you.


When you're the leader, it is often best to present sans slides, technology, and formality, elements which may act as a barrier. Sometimes you just have to pull up a chair close to the audience, lean forward, and speak from your gut and from your heart. It does not have to be pretty, perfect or slick—in fact, it's better if it isn't. I liked this talk by Chris Anderson. It had story, vision, humility, and brevity. Four important ingredients indeed.

UPDATE (May 9, 2016)
I read this article today by Chris Anderson where he says he did not much like his performance in this 2002 talk. "I look back at that talk now and cringe — a lot. If I were critiquing it today," Anderson says, "there are a hundred things I would change." Yes, but as he also says in the article (and in his new book) he prepared well and had a clear idea what he wanted to say and why. By any measure his talk was effective. It worked. I highly recommend Anderson's book TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking.


Dave Sohigian

About 4 years ago I read an article in Fast Company or Business 2.0 (I can't remember which, now). It was a list of the top 100 business books or something like that. I picked a few books from the list and purchased them. I read each of them cover to cover and learned a lot (I know one of the titles was Jim Collins' "Good to Great"). Since that time I have become an avid reader of a range of books, mostly non-fiction.
It really has made a huge difference in my career and my life. I find I am more creative and willing to try out new ideas. I love reading a great book, "trying on" the ideas and seeing how it influences my choices.
Most recently I have started getting all my books from our local library (Portland, OR has a great public library system). This has increased the range of books that I sample, since I don't have to shell out the cash just to see if I like a book.
I am patiently waiting for "Presentation Zen" to show up on the shelves of the library. I will be the first person to put a hold on it.

johnmoore (from Brand Autopsy)

Garr ... a book helped me to better understand something about books. In PRINT IS DEAD, Jeff Gomez writes...

“In the end, we may be in love with books, but it’s words that have truly won our hearts. It’s words that whisper into our ear and transform us, that make us believe in other worlds or new emotions we didn’t know existed; it’s words that keep us company in those planes, on subway trains, or our comfy couches. It is words, not books, paper, papyrus, or vellum pages that transform our lives.”

So true. It's words and not books that makes us think smarter and more creatively.

John Bullock

What an odd coincidence that I saw Chris Anderson's TED speech about 30 minutes before I checked your blog on my reader. I too, like you, read more and more as time passes from college. I also read on the trains in Tokyo. In fact I never leave my home without something to read in my bag. I am a teacher and, like Dave above, I have discovered more useful advice and ideas for my classroom by reading a broad spectrum of books and blogs on subjects of art, design, management, business and of course education.
I would like to have a Kindle-like device if I could transfer all my "self-help/reference" books for exercise, business, education, management etc. It would be nice to have about 40 or 50 books at my fingers at a moment. But that is for work. For the soul, well I simply must have paper. I disagree with slightly with johnmoore's post above. There is something about paper and the feel in the hand. Maybe we evolved with it somewhat over the last 5000 years or so. I know when I am editing a final draft of anything, I print it and lo and behold, there are mistakes I just didn't see flickering on the screen.
I also agree whol
Keep reading books, keep up the blogging too


I didn't like the idea of an electronic book until my mom got the Kindle. She's 73 years old and a voracious reader with no fear of new technology. It took her no time to appreciate the convenience of reading this way, sitting on the couch and browsing for books, downloading several at a time, and not having to find a home for her books after she's finished with them. I also love the feel and smell of a book and would never give up totally on print, but I think there is a place for both.

The comments to this entry are closed.