Watch out, TED. There’s a rival for your viewers’ attentions out there: the Do Lectures. The Do Lectures are granola and Birkenstocks where TED is arugula and, I don’t know, Italian loafers. The Do Lectures happen on a small farm in the little country of Wales, and they’re mostly about sustainable living, but the big idea is that they are talks about people who Do Things, and who might inspire us to Do Things too. In other words, don’t just sit around staring at your computer like I am right now, and like you are when you read this, but get up, get inspired, and get moving.
A typical example of a very thoughtful and inspiring speech from the Do Lectures is Craig Mod’s talk about how the digital era and the iPad affect books and publishing. Craig, a publisher and digital savant, begins quite modestly by saying that anyone who tells you where the publishing industry is heading doesn’t know what he is talking about. And that’s fair warning: the publishing industry is in ferment right now and no one knows where it will be in even a few years’ time.
He then goes on to quite lucidly explain what opportunities the digital era is creating in publishing and what you can – and indeed, should, because these are Do Lectures – do about it. He says that early examples of digital publishing like Encarta asked the wrong question. Encarta asked “How can we stuff a traditional encyclopedia into a digital format?” Instead, it should have asked, “How does digital affect the artifact, the book, publishing?”
And when you ask that question, you get answers like Wikipedia, Kickstarter, and Flipboard, where Mod is working now. It’s a small shift in perspective that yields huge changes in thinking if you’ve got the passion to engage with the combination of digital and books. Mod is on to something with that question, and every writer, speaker, publisher, and distributor should be asking it of what they’re doing, every day.
Mod is enthusiastic as a speaker, rather than polished, but he closes with an extraordinary gambit that I have not seen anyone else use quite as well. He personalizes the talk by directly addressing all the other speakers at the Do Lectures by name, and suggesting to them how they could bring publishing and digital together in their lives. It’s a bravura performance, and deserves emulation by other speakers who want to make a room small – in a very effective and positive way. Nice going, Craig.