What Would Google Do? – review

As I recently purchased and downloaded my first audiobook from Audible.com, Jeff Jarvis“What Woould Google Do?”. At that point in time I promised to add a few comments on the book, and Jeff was kind enough to wish me a good time with his book and add a few insightful comments on writing versus reading books.

Well, Jeff, it was not bad – not bad at all!

The “What Would Google Do?” (“WWGD”) audiobook is a 9 hours unabridged version of the usual old-tech versions. As previously mentioned it comes with some of the benefits and drawbacks of  audiobooks. While it from a technology point of view is much better than another recent consumption – the audiobook version of Patrick Lencioni’s “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” (3,7 hours with no chapters) – it still has a long way to go to create the right kind of experience for audiobook consumers.

With two sound files of 7 chapters each, all of those chapters entitled Chapter 1, 2, 3 through to 7 there is little possibility to navigate the audiobook (making this blog post much more work). That is where audiobooks can most easily win the most ground. Not this time. Maybe in the future.

As for the content of WWGD, Jeff has put together an interesting account of how we got this far. How did the Internet change the game, how has that impacted the old-style, atom-bound, based on making stuff companies, and what does everyone need to do to survive and thrive in the new, transparent, distributed, free economy. And that’s all good and well.

But not great!

Jeff claims that WWGD is “one part prophecy, one part thought experiment, one part manifesto, and one part survival manual”. Jeff, that’s not entirely accurate, is it!? The thought experiment is limited to reflections and ideas that are not new. The prophecy is not new either – Jeff just chimes in with the other internet gurus.

And while his observations seem accurate and his suggestions seem interesting, I can’t really get rid af the feeling that Jeff could have done better – gone deeper – spend more time analyzing. And I start thinking about why he wrote this book and the way he wrote it. I read his own words on his own hypocrisy again and conclude that Jeff solely made this book to make money – and not so much because he has a message that needs to go out.

Jeff, you mention tbat the way forward is the free economy – if done right. So, why didn’t you try to get it right? Why not just give the book away – free of charge, and earn money on the side-effects? Is it because you somehow don’t believe in your own content – or is because you don’t believe in free?

I’ll not go into further detail than that it’s a pity you didn’t. I – for one – would have had a lot more respect for you and for “WWGD” if you’d eaten your own dog food. Not eating your own dog food always raises concerns with your potential customers, since what you’re essentially saying is: “It’s good enough for you, but not good enough for me”.

And that’s how I’ll think of “What Would Google Do?”. It’s a good account of what has already happened, but not good enough to become the next prophecy of what is around the corner for any of us. I recommend reading it if you would like a book about the past ten years of business and the internet.

For prohecies I will go somewhere else. At this point I’m looking very much forward to Chris Anderson’s book about the Free economy. Will tell you more about that as soon as I get my hands on it!

Thoughts on Reading Audiobooks

Reading books used to be time consuming. Not so with audiobooks – but does the new format deliver!?

Around the 2009 presidential inauguration of president elect Obama, Amazon.com-owned Audible.com started sponsoring Slate.com. I heard about it in the Slate Political Gabfest podcasts. In true internet fashion Audible.com were giving away a book if you’d sign up for a test membership.

For a few years now getting the time to read books has been very challenging, but staying up to date with news on business and politics has been no problem thanks to podcasts, and for a while they have indeed dominated my listened tracks.

So if there is time to listen to news, there will probably also be time to do that and read a book per month, and I went to the special offer at Audible.com and downloaded my first book.

I’ve now been testing the format for about a week, and I’ll comment a bit on the format.

While you can consume a book without stopping whatever else you’re doing – cooking, cycling, walking, etc. – and while you do get the same content, the format of Audiobooks – for all its advantages – also has some shortcomings:

  • if you’re listening to a book, which has interesting graphs, you don’t get those
  • if you’re interested in quoting from the book you’re reading you’ll have to write the actual quote by listening and writing, listening and writing, until you get it right.
  • BIG ONE: you can’t easily search through an audiobook. I’m listening on an iPod Nano, and it just doesn’t have the entire text of the book in the “show notes”, and the chapters don’t necessarily come with easy navigation either. So flipping an audiobook open and finding a specific reference is tedious, and can’t be recommended.

There are probably plenty of other reasons that audiobooks aren’t even close to replacing books at this point, but I’ve downloaded my first audiobook and trying it out. It’s a very recent book by Jeff Jarvis with the title “What Would Google Do?

I’ll get back to that book and talk a bit about it in a future post – for now, I just want to get on with the book!