I recently skimmed a galley proof of "What Would Google Do?" by Jeff Jarvis. The book, available from HarperCollins in January, is structured as a series of rules or aphorisms about how Google does business, with some anecdotes from Jarvis about things he has observed in his groundbreaking work as a blogger and media consultant. The book reads like an expanded version of a PowerPoint presentation on the conventional wisdom of Web 2.0. Transparency. Learning from your customers. Simplicity in design. Always being in beta. The importance of links and search engine optimization. The information wants to be free business model. The let-it-all-hang-out-in-public lifestyle of Twitter and Facebook and blogs. (Jarvis gave an overview of his thesis in the Guardian on Monday.) None of this will sound new to anyone paying attention to the Web in 2008. But for those who feel like the digital world is quickly leaving them behind, or who regard the new trends and tools with bafflement, Jarvis's book will be a good tutorial, even if some of the lines sound like Tom Peters-style excellence-speak ("Your worst customer is your best friend"), or call to mind burning Vietnamese villages ("we have to kill books to save them").
Jarvis offers a lot of Google-style advice for traditional media and other businesses facing a paradigm shift. His point in the section on books is that authors and publishers should turn their works into living texts online, as he promises to do with W.W.G.D. on his blog Buzzmachine. Smart plan. Books in this genre have a short shelf life, often measured in months not years.