Sunday, August 06, 2006

Reading The Long Tail

I was in San Francisco last week and I've been meaning to pick up Chris Anderson's new book, The Long Tail. As I blogged before, I walked by the book a few times in the Harvard Coop right here in Boston by my office, but didn't have a minute to stop to buy it, much less to read it.

Then Wednesday night in North Beach (SF) I had dinner with the Scobles and Robert mentioned how much he appreciated Chris' book giving his book Naked Conversations a big kick in rank on Amazon, because they had paired the two books.

So the next day I was at the Ferry Building in San Francisco and wandered into Book Passage. It was a beautiful beautiful day and knowing I was heading back to Boston and would have time on the plane to read the book, I asked the clerk if they had The Long Tail.

She said they couldn't keep it on the shelf and didn't have any and that it was probably being reprinted because it was doing so well. Way to go Chris! Then a young ubiquitously pierced skinny guy in black jeans who worked there said he thought there was maybe just ONE copy in the store. He looked it up in their inventory -- the inventory seemed to agree with the woman, no books in the store.

He said, (at this point, I'm kind of loving the ring in his brow and wondering where else he was pierced), let's go check the shelf anyway.

Then we go to the shelf -- bravo for his persistence -- and there are TWO COPIES! I grab one. I buy it.

I go to lunch at Hog Island Oyster. I have an amazingly good lunch and then it dawns on me, "Halley You're In San Francisco ... and Chris is the editor of Wired and his office is here." I'm not too nutty about getting famous authors to autograph their famous books, I can live without that, but in this case, it seemed crazy not to take a stab at it.

I texted my assistant in Boston and asked her to text me back the phone and address of the Wired offices. She was like lightning and I called Chris to see if he was in town -- it seemed highly unlikely as most authors of new books are on endless book tours and NEVER at home when their book comes out.

Amazingly, he was there. I finished lunch and headed over there. What a sweetheart he was to interrupt his afternoon to show me around and chat a bit and sign my book. The Wired offices are just as cool as you would expect them to be and Chris is much nicer than you'd expect him to be.

I hopped the number 30 bus back to the other side of town, heading for North Beach, randomly I picked a seat on the mostly empty bus. There was a copy of the San Jose Mercury News (business section) tucked between the seat and the inner wall of the bus.

I picked up the paper to read a piece about VC's investing in start-ups. It had been a great day, I had a great lunch, a great book, a great meeting and as I looked at the paper a totally great and weird thing happened. There was a picture of me -- yeah ME?! -- and Peter Merholz and someone else right on the front of the paper, and a story about a UI and Design event at Yahoo I had attended on Monday. I looked over at the other passengers ... an old Chinese man, a skinny girl in black and white striped tights ... and wondered if anyone noticed I was looking at a random newspaper with a picture of me in it. Totally weird.

The next day I fly home reading the book from SF most of the way back to Boston. I had thought it would be too much about blogging and not have enough of a broader context about business. I was wrong. It's a great book and readable for a wide range of people. You don't need to know about blogging or RSS or anything to get right into it. It's smart and interesting and flies by (as I flew by) and I nearly finished it by the time we touched down. You gotta get this book.