09/08/2010 05:56 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Should A Book Pass The "Dead Tree" Test?

As an editor, it's a question I put to authors all the time to get them to focus their message and be clear about why they're writing: Do you feel strongly enough about the impact of what you have to say that you can live with cutting down trees to make your book?

On December 14th, Seth Godin made a free e-book available, "What Matters Now", a collection of thoughts from over 70 contributors, riffing on what matters to them. It's downloadable at no cost and it's a lovely package that you can turn into a slide show. You can forward it to as many people as you want. You can download it as many times as you want.

On December 15th, I received a press release asking for a feature to be placed on The Huffington Post on another collection of thoughts: "This Will Change Everything: Ideas That Will Change The Future", a compilation of "150 of the world's sharpest minds" answering this question: "What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?" Sample answers are: the flourishing of solar power, consumer genomics, mastering matter through quantum physics, and cross-species breeding. I went to the website, only to find that what's in the book and more is there already. So I had to ask myself a question: Why is "This Will Change Everything" a printed book, and not an easily searchable website and/or e-book only? Would the information spread more easily via the web than in a book?

Maybe. Time will tell, and so will your opinions. Let us know what you think.

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