Talk About Quality

Tom Harris

Books as a Means of Communication

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Yesterday, for the first time in a long time, I had a chance to work with someone who had recently read the same book that I had. We happened to be talking about different categories of tools. It was a great session — we got a lot done.

What is a book itself a tool for? And how is it a means of communication?

The answer seems obvious: a book is an author’s way of communicating with a large audience. But the obvious answer is mostly wrong. While there is a one way “broadcast” in a widely-published book, that’s not the major benefit, and it’s certainly not two-way communication. Rarely do readers get to speak with book authors.

For writers, a book is often a way to get thoughts out of one’s head and out on paper so one can think again. And, if it’s a great book, a chance to enjoy creating a work of art as well.

But for readers, the book is a tool. It is an application-specific language for conversations in the book’s field or topic. If you’ve ever had trouble getting to the point in a discussion because it takes so much time to set the stage, a book is missing. Complex subjects are best addressed first in writing. If both participants read a book, they can use the concepts that the author has spent months or years defining and refining, and start their conversation on the same wavelength.

Want to jump-start productive conversations? Read a good book.

Written by Tom Harris

May 9, 2006 at 10:48 am

Posted in Technology and Society, Writing

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