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[email protected]: Why Books Matter for the Long Run

Book publishing is a business and increasingly a technical one, but at its heart it is an art, writes Peter J. Dougherty in this opinion piece. He is the editor-at-large at Princeton University Press, for which he was the director from 2005 until his retirement in 2017, and currently sits as the Fox Family Pavilion Scholar and distinguished senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. Why have Eric Schmidt, Meg Whitman, Reid Hoffman, John Doerr and other leading technologists resorted to the venerable (some would say backward) practice of book-writing to communicate their visions? Why did Mark Zuckerberg introduce a quaint book-of-the-month feature onto the runaway train of Facebook? Why does Bill Gates regularly pen long, thoughtful book reviews in a whirlwind communications culture fueled by texts and tweets? How have books survived the information tsunami, and what will authors and publishers have to do to leverage the success of books for the long run?

The answer resides in a seemingly incongruous combination of traits: First, in the time-honored authority of influence books hold among readers; and second, in the ways in which disruptive technological change can strengthen rather than weaken that influence…”

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