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Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Forget the Kindle vs. paper books debate — apparently the days of actually "writing" a "book" are slowly coming to an end. You know, craft, art, substance(s), the actual minutia that all go into making a book a piece of work — it's all becoming as outdated as banks crash, attention spans diminish, and robots begin serving us dinner in capsule form (OK, that last one won't happen 'til 2011). In this new cultural landscape, we will need leaders, like the Jonas Brothers, to rise up and, with a firm hand, guide us to new levels of social media interactivity. Fortunately David Pogue, New York Times columnist and author of many books that teach your grandmother how to check e-mail on her eMac, is here to save us via his forthcoming The World According To Twitter.

From the blog of Pogue (David Pogue, not the Pogues the band, because you know very well that I'd heap high praise on anything penned by Shane MacGowan):

It all started with a live demo of Twitter. During a talk, I was trying to demonstrate the real-time nature of Twitter. On stage, I typed: “Anyone got a pun that can fit in 140 characters?” Your responses started flowing within 10 seconds....

Wait, wait, dear Culture Surfer reader, don't check out yet, it gets better (in the way that "better" means "worse"):

Next, I posted a picture of a squirrel in my yard, and asked for captions. You turned out to be the wittiest caption writers ever!

(Oh, sorry, I added that exclamation point up there. It just needed it, didn't it?)

That was it. I knew my mission in life: to compile and edit a whole book of (Twitter) responses, written by my 200,000 followers.


(As you can see, that is not actually the real cover of David Pogue's book that you wrote for him)

In today's collapsing publishing landscape this book screams both timely and vital. I'll be greatly looking forward to Pogue's well-thought-out treatise on Friendster soon!

No, really, all snark aside, this sort of attempt at an of-the-minute cash-grab really irks me. While publishers, authors and other various incidental folk in the book business are actually working, diligently and full of heart, to discover what it's going to take to turn the sinking ship of books around, Pogue's trying to ramp up excitement for 200 pages of @SomeGuy tweeting "hey I really like dogs."

And speaking of @someguy — if you, lucky you, end up being selected to be a part of Pogue's scam project, you certainly get compensated, right?

Of course you do. Per Pogue himself, he'll send you "a free copy of the book, inscribed to you personally."

Oh, wow, lucky day!

Meanwhile, he'll certainly be charging at least $19.95 for the book.

Also, while Twitter may be the super-hot "this is going to save the world as soon as we figure out how to use it" topic on the tip of many a CEO's tongue ... well, that's it exactly. In a matter of time, Twitter will be to to some new social network what Myspace now is to Facebook. Trying to document any social network, in any way, via printed text, reminds me of when I, as an undergrad, was paid far too much money to copy write for what was aiming to be the "first printed guide to web sites" — since, you know, websites tend to stay around forever.

I don't think it ever actually took off the ground. Imagine that.

Anyway, it saddens me when I can genuinely say that I prefer Oprah and Ashton Kutcher's manipulation of Twitter for their own gains over David Pogue's "you guys can do my job for me and I'll insert the hot social network of the moment into it to make it timely" approach, but I do. I mean, Oprah's like everyone's crazy aunt, so she's forgiven to being late to the party.

Also, at least Oprah isn't asking her Twitter followers to write a book for her.

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