The Zuckerbook Club

ZuckerbergI’ve no idea how many books Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg reads every year, but one of his previous new year resolutions was to learn Mandarin, and to the guy’s credit he later conducted an entire interview in the language. Yearly resolutions can be hard things to stick by and how many of us have made resolutions about going to the gym more, cutting out on cigarettes or eating less red meat? It can be tough to make a resolution and carry it though for a whole year. When I make resolutions at the start of a new year, I often feel it is best to tell no one, that way, if I stumble or fail, I’m under no pressure and I am the only person to blame at year end if I haven’t stuck to my plan.

I guess if you are the founder of the world’s biggest social media network and you reveal a resolution for the year publicly, then it’s a huge motivation to get it right and deliver on your promise.

PowerThis week Zuckerberg announced that he has set himself the task of reading a book every two weeks, and by way of creating the A Year in Books page on Facebook, he has invited us all to join him. So far, more than 190,000 people have taken up the challenge, or at least liked the group page. His first book selection is The End of Power by Moises Naim (published by Basic Books). I’m sure Naim is thoroughly happy about this. The book is already out of stock on several Amazon sites. I just hope Mark isn’t cheating and selecting books he has already read! He explained the idea behind A Year in Books:

We will read a new book every two weeks and discuss it here. Our books will emphasise learning about new cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies. Suggestions for new books to read are always welcome. We ask that everyone who participates read the books and we will moderate the discussions and group membership to keep us on topic.

It’s been suggested that this could be a boon for publishers. I can see every big publishing CEO stumbling out of their offices, spilling coffee from their first cup of the day, and blurting out something like: “Book, book… what technology, voodoo and culture shit do we have coming out this week? Mark, Mark… the Facebook guy. Email him, send him our new release sheets… Does anyone have his cell number? Could someone get me another coffee. I seem to have spilled most of this one.” Somehow, I don’t quite think it will work that way!

Zuckerberg has asked ‘readers’ and followers of the new Facebook group page to suggest titles.

Suggestions for new books to read are always welcome. We ask that everyone who participates read the books and we will moderate the discussions and group membership to keep us on topic

Zuckerberg also said:

I’m excited for my reading challenge. I’ve found reading books very intellectually fulfilling. Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today. I’m looking forward to shifting more of my media diet towards reading books. [The End of Power is] a book that explores how the world is shifting to give individual people more power that was traditionally only held by large governments, militaries and other organisations. The trend towards giving people more power is one I believe in deeply, and I’m looking forward to reading this book and exploring this in more detail.

I think the key to any success here with A Year in Books is that Zukerberg needs to maintain it as a Zuckerberg Book Club, not a Facebook Book Club, because that’s the only reason publishers will support it, while also not allowing it to become another commercial windowing exercise some notable book clubs have become.  I’d also like to think we might get some app offshoots from it, which might raise the overall profile of Facebook as a social media platform to discover books. Some private third-party developers have tried it but most of the apps are pretty poor!

Let’s hope that Zuckerberg’s 2015 resolution can actually provide some much-needed traction for Facebook to be associated with discovering books and authors.

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