I read a lot of non-fiction. But I seldom finish the book. I find that as the book goes along, the incremental insight gained per chapter keeps reducing, till it is no longer worth my time to keep reading.
For a while I thought that this was my problem. I do know that my reading speed is generally less than my friends. My wife reads at twice the speed that I read, for example.
But that is not the reason. I have compared notes with others who read non-fiction. And most people don’t finish their non-fiction books, especially if they read a lot of non-fiction and there’s another book waiting for them. The problem is widespread, if not universal.
I have a hypothesis for why this is so. Non-fiction books are typically written around a set of concepts, notions, historical perspectives etc. Often these concepts, while original, can be concisely written in the form of an article in a journal or a magazine. Or just a blog post. However, there is no model to monetize that other than the ridiculously low fee the print media industry, itself under threat, might pay you.
If you think that your ideas have power, the only way to monetize it in any substantial way writing about them, is to write a book. A book has certain definitional boundaries. It has to be say a hundred pages or more. The fatter it is, the more justifiable is the price of $20 or $30 or whatever. So you end up writing page after page, chapter after chapter on ideas that don’t really have the legs to go that far. In the process you make a book that can’t hold the reader’s interest till the end.
I am being a little foolhardy in bringing this up right now, when I am writing my maiden book myself. It’ll be a business book, and I can just hear you say, “Well let’s see what your book turns out to be, Basab.” Well, Gaurav and I are hoping it will be packed with insightful goodness and will hold your attention till the end. And now that I’ve put this post out there, it gives us a goal – get the reader to finish the book.