War for Wealth - 02 Sep 08

War for Wealth - 02 Sep 08

Peter Day interviews 2 authors on globalisation.

Gabor Steingart, Special correspondent in Washington for the German news magazine, 'Der Spiegel' and author of War For Wealth, described as a rallying cry to renew the position of the West in the global economy, and Robert Reich, former US Secretary of Labour in Bill Clinton's administration, author of Supercapitalism a book about the clash between capitalism and democracy.

About this programme by Peter Day

Of the making of many books there is no end, says Ecclesiastes in the Bible. That seems to be true even as the word on the screen begins to overwhelm (at least in theory) the word in print.

The printed book has been an extraordinary democratic agent of change for the past 500 years, but until very recently authors needed access to paper, a printing press, distribution, bookshops.

And then the hideous waste of returns..something like 40 percent of paperback bestsellers are sent back from the shops and pulped.

Now an idea can wing its way round the world to a potential global audience via the Internet without any physical presence whatsoever, and no investment in print or paper.

One very successful publisher I know thinks the coming of the Internet may mark the end of not just physical books but also the way of thinking they embodied : the evolution of narrative or ideas over time and space, chapter by chapter, with a reader waiting to see what happens at the end.

The sequential process of reading maybe being replaced by the new mosaic of the screen page..dozens of converging or diverging ideas dazzling the screen user in a constant contest for attention: millions of messages rather than a developing theme.

Written in single paragraph sentences.

Like this.

Well, book publishers are so conservative that it may be some time before this dire future actually happens. And perhaps the new portable screen readers will tip the balance back to bookshaped objects.

As far as I know there is little sign of the worldwide flood of books reducing in volume at the moment. Certainly lots of them pile up in my office.

I mention this because this week's Global Business features two authors talking about two recent books that do seem to have Something to Say.

But does this apply to most of the other books (especially about business) that line the shelves of the airport bookshops?

Do bosses in a hurry really grab them to read on the flight across the world ?

And if all there is such an appetite for all these books about management in particular, why is the standard of most management still so dismal?

The explanation may be the one advanced by publishers a few years ago to explain why the sales of cookery books were soaring in Britain while at the same time prepared heat-and-serve meals were walking off the shelves.

People take their ready meal out of the microwave..and then eat it while reading a new, exciting and elaborate cookery book to pretend that's where their food came from.
Is the same process now happening to ideas?

Contributors:

Gabor Steingart
The War for Wealth
The True Story of Globalization or Why The Flat World is Broken
Publishers: McGraw-Hill

Robert Reich
Supercapitalism
The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life
Publishers: Icon Books