Notwithstanding the terrible decline of newspapers, it is an exciting time to be a writer–and reader–of nonfiction.
I could spend half my time reading blogs, and the other half writing this one. (All too often, it feels like I do, alas.)
Now, thanks to the Internet, which has hollowed out much of the traditional news media, here come a rush of new opportunities to publish and distribute high-quality journalism and good writing of all kinds. Read on, because most of the works that I’m about to describe are available free or at a very low cost:
Seth Godin’s Domino Project: This publishing venture, backed by Amazon, today released its second book, a 98-page manifesto called Do the Work by Steven Pressfield. It’s about getting things done, and overcoming a force that Pressfield describes as Resistance. (Pressfield is probably best known as the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance, which became a movie starring Will Smith and Matt Damon.) Do the Work will help keep you focused on the project at hand, and while it’s applicable to any big undertaking–a book, a business venture, a philanthropic project, a new romance–it strikes me as particularly useful for those of us who write and are easily distracted by, say, spending half the day reading blogs.
You can read an excerpt from Do The Work in Fast Company. Better yet, you can download the Kindle edition of the ebook for free, thanks to an unusual sponsorship deal with GE. Lest you fear that you’ll be assaulted with ads….don’t worry. GE offers a few harmless platitudes in the beginning of the book (“A remarkable thing happens when you bring together employees who are driven to make a difference: They do.”) and after scanning them you’ll be on your way.
Try the book–what have you got to lose?
The hardcover, by the way, is $7.79 and it’s the perfect companion piece to the first book in the Domino series, Seth Godin’s Poke the Box, which is all about taking initiative. With these two slim volumes in hand, you’ll have no excuse for not plunging into whatever it is you have been dreaming of doing. Make an impact! There’s no time to waste.
Kindle Singles: Branded as “Compelling ideas expressed at their natural length,” these are 5,000 to 30,000 word articles? short books? novellas? available at a low cost or no cost for the Kindle platform. They’re short enough so that you can read an entire book over a meal or on a plane when traveling, even if you don’t own a Kindle. I don’t, and I read Tyler Cowen’s The Great Stagnation: How American At All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick and Will (Eventually) Feel Better on my iPhone, easily, perhaps because it was such a compelling read. Cowen delivers a lively analysis of the late 20th century American
economy that will help you better understand the 2008 financial crisis, the reason why we’re wrestling with federal budget deficits, the role of innovation in creating wealth and more, for just $3.99.
The boom is shale gas is the big energy story of the moment. To understand why hydrofracking technology is so controversial, read the Kindle single called Hydrofracked? One Man’s Mystery Leads to a Backlash Against Natural Gas Drilling by my former Fortune colleague Abrahm Lustgarten, who’s now an investigative reporter with Pro Publica. It’s free.
Byliner: If you didn’t see the 60 Minutes expose of Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson, you’ve surely heard about it. Now you can read the story behind the story, a short book called Three Cups of Deceit: How Humanitarian Hero Greg Mortenson Lost His Way by one of my favorite writers, Jon Krakauer. (Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman was awesome.) As I write on Wednesday evening, the Krakauer book is a free download but that offer is said to expire after 72 hours so move fast on this one.
Byliner itself won’t formally launch until next month but here’s how it is described:
Byliner.com…combines curated archives of the best nonfiction writers’ work with personalized recommendations, social bookmarking and aggregated discussion. It allows fans of great storytelling to easily find, share and discuss new and classic work by their favorite authors. Byliner.com also serves as a distribution platform for Byliner Originals, compelling nonfiction stories by great writers, told at lengths that allow them to be read in one sitting.
Byliner’s founder and CEO, John Tayman, is an author, editor and entrepreneur who says that Byliner Originals “fill the gap between magazines and conventional books. They’re compelling stories by great writers, told at their proper length.” Byliner will publish ebooks, audio books and print-on-demand books on paper. The next two books will come from National Book Award winners William Vollman and Bob Shacochis. Byliner’s editorial director, Mark Bryant, is the former editor of Outside and Men’s Journal. Not too shabby. Here’s more from TechCrunch.
I’m thrilled by all this as a reader and writer (with an e-book or two in my future, perhaps). It’s too easy to get mired in the gloom and doom about print. While I can’t prove it, I believe there’s more great journalism being produced today than ever more, and more ways to consume it.