American in Spain


June 7, 2010

Recently I've been enjoying the genre of popular psychology books. I realized that what I most enjoyed about my college psychology courses were reading about the experiments and studies, especially the ones with seemingly counter-intuitive irrational results. So far in this genre I've consumed Predictably Irrational, How We Decide, Outliers and Stumbling on Happiness, which no one took my hint to buy me. One of them, funnily, doesn't fit that neatly into the genre.

I first learned about these authors through their TED Talks. Dan Ariely has done two, Malcolm Gladwell has done one, Dan Gilbert has done two, and Jonah Lehrer is constantly appearing as the neuroscience expert on my favorite science podcasts, Are We Alone? and Radio Lab. Dan Ariely has a blog on which he often posts interesting ideas and YouTube videos of himself explaining his research. And Jonah Lehrer's blog, The Frontal Cortex, is one of my favorites to read every day. Lehrer writes about how irrational decision making effects current events like the banking crisis, the volcanic ash cloud, and, most recently, the BP oil spill.

I guess what I'm wanting to describe is a new sort of connectedness between author and reader. It feels more like a teacher-student relationship. Authors can get more feedback quicker, directly from readers, not just from literary critics.

Last week Dan Ariely tweeted that his new book, The Upside of Irrationality was released. So I pulled out the iPad, went to the iBookstore, and sure enough, there it was as a new release, I chose to download the free sample, and within five minutes of his tweet, I was reading the first chapter on my handheld device.

Another publishing trend I've been following with interest, on both Twitter and his blog, is how Wil Wheaton is self-publishing his books using Print On Demand (POD). Rather than a publishing company deciding how many copies to print, the author signs up with a printing company and they print and ship individual copies as orders come in. In the same way that a recording artist, like Zoí« Keating, no longer necessarily needs a record company to get her music out to fans, writers will now be decreasingly dependent on big publishing houses. Not to mention that once eBook readers become more widespread, a book might never need to take the form of ink on paper to get from the author's mind to the readers'...much like this blog entry.