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Unbooks: Leo Babauta of ZenHabits is an Early Pioneer of the New Model of Book Publishing

May 10th, 2010 · No Comments · Ideas

Book publishing is an archaic industry long over due for a revolution. In this Internet age, when information is instantly available from anywhere on the planet, it doesn’t make sense to go through a long publishing cycle only to have a product that is already dated. Books should be a work-in-progress of constantly enhanced and updated material. Books need to be a community, not a static product. While there are many experiments with the new model of publishing, Leo Babauta of ZenHabits, latest book Focus is most likely going to be one of the early large scale successes.

What is an Unbook?

Dave Gray and Jay Cross believe that unbooks are a ‘living book’ that ‘accelerates the path from idea to object’ and the ‘evolution of the living’ object. Watch the full ShareShare presentation below.

View more presentations from dgray_xplane.

Focus, the Unbook

Babauta’s current book, Focus is a perfect example of Gray and Cross’s idea. Here is how Babauta describes his book model:

  • Write just the core content, in short chapters.
  • Publish this on the web in “beta” form. Share it with a small group of readers, for free.
  • Ask them to comment and even make contributions. I’ll decide what goes in, of course.
  • I’ll revise and expand on the book, based on input from early readers. Will publish new versions as they’re done.
  • More readers will be invited, and more feedback welcomed. More revisions will come out.
  • Finally, the book will be done, freely available on the web to read. Credits included for contributions from readers.
  • Will turn into an ebook, also freely downloadable, encourage people to spread it widely.
  • Will get a publisher to publish and distribute the print version, or failing that, self publish. Will sell this for a fee.
  • There might be some additional info in the different versions, to encourage people to check out all versions if they like.

When a Book Stops Being a Book

In a previous post, I wrote about what I think the future of books should be.  Babauta’s Focus is one of those books, but there still is another dimension in the evolution of books and that is multimedia content. With the rapid adoption of Apple’s iPad, it shouldn’t be long before our concept of books as a container of text morphs into an experience complete with audio, video, animations, discussion forums, on and offline events and meet ups. Some books should be a service, not a product. Connecting people to people is the real value of ideas.  Reading is great but there are so many more possibilities on the horizon.

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