It might not have any Tolstoy, Dickens, J.D Salinger, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway or Nathaniel Hawthorne, but I'm sort of proud of my bookshelf.
If you took the time to look it over, you could probably find out a lot about me. It's a little skewed, because the entire left side holds roughly 19 poker books, but that was a big part of my life for a long time.
Dan Harrington, Phil Gordon, Doyle Brunson, Barry Greenstein, David Sklansky, James McManus and T.J. Cloutier taught me a shitload about poker, objective analysis, and life. Read Harrington On Hold 'Em Vol. I & II and you will destroy any home they will let you sit at it. Both Super Systems are packed with sound strategy for almost any variation of poker you have ever heard of. I would recommend Positively 4th Street to someone who had no interest in no-limit hold 'em because it is so beautifully written.
If you work your way right from there, you'll see a Matt Taibbi book, a dictionary, The Complete Encyclopedia Of Beer (actually quite incomplete), Running the Table, Why Golf?, In Search Of Burning Bush, um, another book (shut up, it was a gift)... John Daly's Autobiography, The World is Flat, New Rules, a Jimi Hendrix biography, Under a Wild Sky, The Devil's Teeth, The Last Voyages of Captain Cook, some Carl Sagan, The Hardball Times '09...
Continue East you'll find some Malcolm Gladwell, Harvey Penick, more Carl Sagan, Moneyball, Anthony Bourdain and Into the Wild. The Orchid Thief and The Heartless Stone are there too.
If a person has the inclination to put together a bookshelf, and you have the time to look it over, it will give you insights into their personality it would take months, if not years, to glean in conversation. Next time you are feeling nosy at someone's apartment, instead of looking through the pill cabinet, check out their bookshelf. It will tell you infinitely more about them.
I wish I had a blogshelf in my room. My bookshelf tells more of a history, while a blogshelf would represent a more current narrative. You'd see River Ave. Blues, the National Football Post, ShysterBall, Kissing Suzy Kolber and figure that I like the Yankees, football, intellectual baseball banter and that I'm an asshole. You might notice 538 and Floating Shawn and guess I voted for Obama. Schiff Happens would be kickin' it, along my most recent addition, HowFresh Eats. Those fellows can tell you about music, food and city living and do it right at my frequency.
Since there is no such thing as a blogshelf, and people don't usually look through each others RSS readers, all of those nuggets are lost to cyberspace.
Unfortunately, since I've started writing for this here site, I haven't even been tempted to crack a book. There's no time. At this point in my life, books are for vacations. My attention span is so frayed by RSS Feeds, Twitter, Google Analytics, Facebook, BitTorrent, and the other endless bounties of the internet that the commitment necessary to read a book is too daunting. I used to read books in the morning. Now, my Google Reader is overloaded and the first thing I do when I get up is reach for my iPhone and start chipping away at the unread posts.
Eventually, it might be unrealistic to expect to someone to read 400 pages on a single subject. Why would they? With an endless supply of constantly updated mediums, from which you can select the exact ones that pertain to you, it seems grossly inefficient to spend the time it takes to read a book. As an author, to dedicate months if not years and hundreds of thousands of words to any one topic is so far over my head, it's laughable. However, if you add up all the stuff I've written in this space since Christmas day, I'm guessing it would come pretty close to the length of a book.
But blogs are considered disposable. You coast through a post and it gets marked as read, never to been seen again, unless you so desire. Somehow, we pay $15 for a book, but a blog, which is by your side day in and day out, is considered worthless, monetarily. The argument has been made that since you don't read newspapers or blog posts more than once, you can't charge for them. How many magazine articles have you read more than once? People still pay for then AND they have ads in them.
Charging per post could never work, but blogs have to provide some value. Some are entertaining, some are educational, some funny, others analytical, most are current. Just because people are willing to provide them at no cost doesn't mean that they have no value.
What if blogs charged for their RSS feeds? Would it be worth $1 a month to me to not have to go to a site and check for updates? If you think time is money, then the answer is decidedly "Yes". I constantly hear people talking about the untapped taxable resource that marijuana represents, but it's not like the alcohol industry is dying out. With the foundation of the print media crumbling under our feet, I don't hear nearly enough people proposing ways to monetize the amazing amount of content being written out there on the Long Tail.
I'll put my money where my mouth is. Who wants my dollar per month? Craig, I've already told you I'd pay to read ShysterBall. River Ave. Blues, ditto. I would certainly have to pare down on the number of feeds I subscribe to, but the money those people would make from the subscription fees would make their content better. The best bloggers could make a living from writing and not have to work around a full-time job like many currently do.
You know why HBO is better than regular TV? Because in the late 60's Charles Dolan came up with the idea of a "Green Channel", to which people would pay to subscribe independently of their regular cable system. They had to overcome a massive churn rate initially, but look where the channel is today. 38 million subscribers. They eliminated the bullshit that an advertising-based system exists upon and got people to pay for the content.
Advertising is on the way out. No? You don't think so?
Do you have a DVR? I do, and for $10 a month every channel is HBO to me. I absolutely refuse to watch commercials, which is how they are supposedly "charging" me. The cable company is giving me the technology to basically steal from the channels they provide me. That is a sustainable model? (For the record, I was writing about this three years ago. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Anon.)
If you are like me, you are probably ahead of the curve and are only getting away with this because people who are older than us or less technologically inclined are still sitting through commercials. It won't last forever. People will still buy things without advertising. I pimp plenty of stuff in this space and don't get paid a dime for it. I'm just looking out for you Fackers and when I find something I like I feel the need to pass the word along.
People are so cynical that I don't think advertising makes much of a difference anymore. The communications are slicker, but our ability to tune them out far outpaces marketers ability to reach us. The only thing advertising is good for is awareness, but awareness does not equal purchase interest. Trust me, I work in market research.
I tune out advertising online and I'll take my headphones out during the commercial break on 1050 ESPN Radio too. I'm starting to listen to more podcasts like The Bronx View, KSK, On The DL, and the brand new Deadcast. In some ways, the content is better and there are no commercials. Stack those up and you are approaching a healthy portion of the work week. I'd pay for them too.
I'm not pretending to know where this is going. There are trillion variables and maybe people like Jeff Jarvis and Clay Shirky, who say charging for content will never work, are right. I'm not saying this for my own good, either. I've got a rough idea of how many readers we have and $1 a month from each of them wouldn't even begin to supplant my income, let alone our other contributors. I just think more people who have things that people value should jettison the free spirit of the internet.
Once upon a time there was Napster. Now there is iTunes. They found a way to bridge the gap between Wall Street and the Wild West, and on most levels, it works. There are ways to tame the internet, smart people just have to want to do it.