The title of this post is a quote from Debbie Steir of HarperCollins Publishers. She said it in reference to a physical, paper book during a panel discussion on the future of publishing at the South by Southwest conference.

“The book is not the mother ship, the content is”

I think you could also say it like this:

“The book is not the mother ship, the idea is”

What is a book?

The definition is quickly changing:

  • You can already get most new books as eBooks, Kindle downloads, etc.
  • Dan Pink gave away a huge part of his latest book’s message during a TED talk last year.
  • Hugh MacLeod takes blog posts he’s written and expands them into books. But if you read everything he writes on his blog, you’ve already read 99% of what’s in the book.
  • Same thing goes for Rework that was recently written by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. If you’ve been reading the 37signal’s blog for a few years, you’ve already read most everything that is in the book. They have said that one of the main reasons for publishing their book was to take all of the ideas they have already written about on their blog and spread them to more people.
  • Vook is taking typical book content and combining it with video.
  • Gary Vaynerchuk recently used his audio book release to offer more content than you can find in the book.
  • Fourth Story Media publishes fiction stories for teens that continue across online and mobile media… with the fans being heavily involved in the story telling.

So if a book is no longer a bunch of paper pages bound together, what is it? It is the ideas and the stories that are found in the content. Exactly.