I am thinking of calling my next book "The Google Paradox". It will be a self-fulfilling prophesy about Google, authors and the book business. It will argue that the more Google does to kill the traditional publishing industry with the free online content from its search engine, the more books will get written about the central role of Google in our new digital economy.
The idea of "The Google Paradox" occurred to me while reading two new books, printed on paper by publishers, about Google. Both are written by New York City academics; both place Google at the heart of the great cultural and commercial transformation being realised by digital technology.
The first, What Would Google Do? (Collins Business, January 2009), by the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism professor Jeff Jarvis, is a hagiography. It suggests that Google is the only company that knows how to "survive and prosper in the internet age". He argues that Google's commitment to openness and the network principle, its recognition of the collaborative and conversational nature of the new economy, and its ability to put the customer first, make it the "model" for all other companies in all other industries. It's not surprising that Jarvis, who is also an evangelical blogger, has chosen such an ecumenical-sounding title for his Google-worshipping book. He is a digital Jesuit, and What Would Google Do? has been written as a conversional manual.
The second book, Elsewhere USA: How We Got from the Company Man, Family Dinners and the Affluent Society to the Home Office, BlackBerry Moms, and Economic Anxiety (Pantheon, January 2009) is more ambiguous in its affection for Google. Written by Dalton Conley, Dean of Social Sciences at New York University, it seeks to understand why the connectivity of the new information economy is making us all so anxious and unhappy. The irony is that both books rely on Gutenberg's 500-year-old technology to explain the digital transformation of this century.
These are both printed books about the death of the printed book, and that's the synopsis for my book, "The Google Paradox". It will be out next year, if, that is, I find a publisher who'll pay me to write a 65,000-word obituary for their own business.