Saturday, June 11, 2011

Books versus Conversations

There are two major ways we humans express ourselves: books and conversations.

A well-written book has the advantages of being an exhaustive treatment of a complex topic, but sometimes the length or completeness of a book is inappropriate. “I just asked him for a simple reply to my email but he wrote a novel instead.” If that novel wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, the effort to understand and then respond to it is greater than whatever result I’m hoping to get back.

A conversation, on the other hand, is tentative and ephemeral. If I speak poorly, you can ask me for clarification; if I make an error, you can correct me. A conversation, by definition, is a collaborative act. A one-sided conversation is an oxymoron.

Some conversations are just idle chit-chat, a way to pass the time; but a good conversation, like a good book, leads somewhere, bringing you to an ending that feels like progress on the road of life.

Social networking services are moving us more to a conversational lifestyle rather than a book-like consumption lifestyle. A blog isn’t much fun if nobody responds to what I write; Twitter and Facebook resemble blogs except they’ve made the interactivity—the conversational aspects—much easier.

A book is the distillation of a long series of conversations. A well-written book has value because it saves the reader the time it would have taken to have the conversations that led to the conclusions in the book.

Book Drop: No Books, Please

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