It is amazing what a great motivator it is to say to anyone, “you will be part of making a book.”
It sounds exciting. It is! It has more power than saying, “you will be part of making a PDF or web page.” Although… that’s actually what we are doing, creating it via a website interface, it is not nearly as magical. We are making a PDF that we send to a printer. Or we are making an EPUB/ebook or series of templated-HTML pages… etc… but that reality contains no magic. As Arthur C Clarke once said: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Enabling people to produce that magic themselves is very powerful. We have come to think of the book production process as something only publishers can do. However, we now have that magic in our own hands, enabled by a wonderful array of technologies such as digital file formats, digital networks, the web, standards, protocols, rapid binding technologies, cheap and fast printing, and online book production platforms. Each part of this technology chain might be familiar enough to us that we don’t think of them as magical but we put them together and something magic happens.
The invitation to make a book is a very important motivator – but don’t take my word for it, here are some nice quotes from some participants of collaborative book projects I have been involved in:
"This week has been amazing! ... I know I did NOT expect to have a book in print within the week!... Four books in one week, from 29 people. I still can't believe it." --from http://linuxgrandma.blogspot.com/2011/10/new-kde-book-beginning-kde-development.html
"Last week I wrote a book! Three of them, actually :) ... it was a (very!) collaborative effort. I’m exhausted, as I said, but also inspired...and I’m incredibly proud of what we produced. It would be a respectable outcome from several weeks of work, and we managed it in barely three days." --from http://blog.nerdchic.net/archives/688/
"I had no idea when the week started that we were going to write a book in a week, nor that it was possible to do that." --from http://www.maploser.com/tag/floss-manuals/
But don’t get me wrong, it’s not just the speed of making a book that generates this feeling of magic. The rise in popularity of print-on-demand illustrates that people love to make books even if it costs them more for a book ẃhich is sometimes of a lower print quality than mass-produced books. But that’s not the point either. The point is that it is their book, one they participated in producing. That is the magic and the motivation and the faster the book is produced the stronger that motivation.
Of course, what people are actually doing is not ‘producing books.’ They are collaborating in a very special way to produce knowledge and culture, a way that is almost egoless, amazingly energising, and can only occur because of free culture. That is what is really magical and the idea of producing a book is a great motivator to getting us there.
[Produced somewhere around 2010/2011]