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Pop business for the intelligent reader. A publication from Medium.

I READ IT SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO

How Big Tech made it harder for working artists to make a living

I Read It So You Don’t Have To is a series that gives you the TL;DR on a business book you want to read — but don’t have time to.

What did I read?

The Death of the Artist: How Creators Are Struggling to Survive in the Age of Billionaires and Big Tech by William Deresiewicz.

So who’s this William Deresiewicz?

Deresiewicz is an essayist and critic and a former professor of English at Yale. He’s also the author of Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life and A Jane Austen Education.

Give me the 30-second sell.

Working artists are in trouble. Now, that’s not what…


Founders with a small exit in their first company were much more likely to build a unicorn in their next, a new study of startups shows

Alex Tew isn’t your stereotypical Ivy League college dropout or software engineer at Google who founded a billion-dollar startup. Tew was a student at Nottingham University when he started his first project. His itch for building something and making some money had led him to create “The Million Dollar Homepage” in 2005. The website consisted of a million pixels arranged in a 1000 × 1000 pixel grid. The pixels were sold for $1 per pixel and the purchasers of these pixel blocks were advertisers. This is before “Display Ads” were a big thing. In four months’ time, word of the…


Malcolm Gladwell’s 2000 bestseller was naive about the dark side of the ideas it championed, but taught readers that books about ideas could be cool

When The Tipping Point was published in 2000, it marked a sea change in the world of books. Selling over a million copies, Malcolm Gladwell’s “biography of an idea” convinced publishers that, told well, readers could and would read serious books about economics and social change and history and science and business. A new genre of silo-busting, multi-disciplinary non-fiction was born. And even though it drew largely from academic research, it wasn’t stodgy, it was fun. And its central thesis — “there is a simple way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible” was broad…


Before winner-take-all became the name of the game, a bookseller called Ingram showed a better way

Note: This is a republication of an article that I published last week on LinkedIn Pulse exploring the limits of Amazon’s vaunted “customer obsession” when pursued at the expense of suppliers, and contrasting it with the philosophy of Ingram, the book wholesaling platform that gave Amazon its start.

A few days later, Jeff Bezos published his 2020 letter to Amazon shareholders, which almost reads like a response to my article. Though that could not have been possible given that his shareholder letter must have been well underway when my article first appeared, the update to Amazon’s thinking is very relevant…


I READ IT SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO

In ‘Hot Seat,’ Jeff Immelt gives his version of the iconic American conglomerate’s downfall

I Read It So You Don’t Have To is a new series that gives you the TL;DR on a new business book you want to read — but don’t have time to.

What did I read?

Jeff Immelt’s new memoir, Hot Seat: What I Learned Leading a Great American Company, published last month.

So who’s Jeff Immelt?

Immelt, once considered a human embodiment of corporate innovation, was the ninth CEO and chairman of General Electric, the American conglomerate better known as GE, from 2001 to 2017. Having served as a manager in GE’s plastics, appliances, and health care divisions through the ’80s and ’90s, he eventually won a…


I Read It So You Don’t Have To

An economist gives a psychological tour through the messy business of numbers

I Read It So You Don’t Have To is a new series that gives you the TL;DR on a new business book you want to read—but will never have time to.

What did I read?

Tim Harford’s new book The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics (published in the U.K. as How to Make the World Add Up)

So who’s this Tim Harford?

He’s a columnist at the Financial Times, a BBC radio host, and the author of several previous books, the most recent of which is Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy and the most popular of which is probably 2005’s The Undercover…


No more doomscrolling. Read these books instead.

Looking back on 2020, I wish I’d spent half my doomscrolling time reading books instead. And by half, I mean pretty much all. I would’ve been happier — and learned more. There’s no substitute for the deep engagement and insight that comes from being immersed in another person’s stories and ideas.

To give the new year a warm welcome, here’s a preview of the winter’s new books for leaders. They’re a mix of social science and memoir — the key themes are fear and courage, isolation and inclusion, tradition and transformation, adversity and resilience, and thinking and rethinking.

Fear and courage

1. Professional…


Best Business Books of 2020

We looked through all the lists so you don’t have to

An illustration of 5 different books, some opened and others closed. Behind the books are sparkles and bracket style outline.
An illustration of 5 different books, some opened and others closed. Behind the books are sparkles and bracket style outline.

This year, I read fewer business books than I usually do. You probably did, too. The category’s sales are down 20% since March, according to NPD’s Bookscan.

It’s not hard to understand why. A lot happened this year to distract us from our usual routines: a pandemic, a recession, an election.

Faced with these upheavals, it might not have seemed like books, particularly business books, would have much advice on how to navigate a world that, on many fronts, was hard to recognize. Many of the books published this year were written before Covid-19.

And yet, this was also a…


Best Business Books of 2020

Three economists started competing forecasting businesses in the early 20th century. They all got the Great Depression wrong.

Roger W. Babson points to a graph titled “Physical Volume of Business”
Roger W. Babson points to a graph titled “Physical Volume of Business”

Author’s note: I regularly find myself assailed by questions about the future from business leaders, colleagues, and friends. They ask about companies, elections, technology, their own lives. Their questions imply that the future is knowable, hidden like the Wizard of Oz behind a curtain that only the fearless or gifted can pull aside. This strikes me as magical thinking, not least because research shows that the time horizon for accurate forecasting is shrinking: 400 days if you’re rigorous, closer to 150 days if you’re not.

This is a huge change whose impact few individuals or organizations have fully absorbed or…


As Franklin Foer writes in The Atlantic, the proposed merger, announced last week, between book publisher Simon & Schuster (currently owned by ViacomCBS) and Penguin Random House, the biggest book publisher in the world (owned by private German media conglomerate Bertelsmann), would publish roughly a third of all books in the U.S. and reduce the “Big Five” publishers into the “Big Four” (Hachette, Macmillan, and HarperCollins comprising the other three). The less competitive landscape would certainly mean less leverage for book authors and their agents. But Foer argues that this proposed merger needs to be understood in context: Book publishers…

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Pop business for the intelligent reader. A publication from Medium.

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