Why Many Smart People Don't Complete Reading the Business Books They Buy

03/31/2015 03:49 am ET | Updated May 31, 2015

Are you one of those people who buy business books, but don't completely read them?

Don't answer that question aloud.

Also, don't ask me back that question.


I am guilty as charged.

I have bought a few hundred business books so far and I have received a few hundred more for free from other authors, publishers and publicists.

While I read at least one book a week, the number of books that I have "half read" trueps the number of books that I have laid my hands on by a wide margin.

I have wondered about this topic for years. In the last few years, as we became serious about building Audvisor, I have had serious discussions on this topic with authors, publishers, experts on behaviorial analysis and a lot of people who love to buy (and want to read) books.

What I was expecting to hear...

When I first started my informal research, I was thinking I would hear the following excuses:

1. Too busy | People are super busy to consumer the entire book. They want to browse, scan and skip to find what they want to read.

2. Multiple Channels | Learning is happening in more ways then ever before. YouTube, Podcasts and Blogs come to mind.

3. Overwhelmed | There is an oversupply of information on any topic and people are overwhelmed with information coming at them from all corners. This is affecting how they read books.

4. Fluff | Several business books have fluff to fill the pages. People have low tolerance for fluff.

5. Kid in a candy store syndrome | By the time people try to complete reading one book, they spot another one AND as they start reading that new book, they spot yet another one and so on. Finally, people end up trying to read a lot of books all at once and complete reading none for a long time.

What I discovered...

While there were combination of elements from the above list played a reasonably big role, there were other factors at play. Here are a few of them.

1. Escalating commitment with progress


Think about it...

The first chapter of a business book in general will be like a fairy tale - sometimes only covers the high-concept of the book. The next two to three chapters go a bit deeper than the first chapter, but still can be read with very little commitment to take serious action.

Moving forward, the chapters get into the core principles where you need you to make a shift in your thinking, take real action, reflect and reframe your view on the topic in question.

This is where the rubber meets the road.

This is where one experiences the highest resistance.

AT this point, it is no longer a fairy tale where one can continue to keep reading as if it is some kind of entertainment. Smart people know the level of commitment and personal change that is required to capitalize on the learning moving forward.

They know the pain of change deep inside.

The alternate is to stay committed at the current level and simply pick up the next book and start reading.

2. The signal-to-noise ratio problem

This is an extension of the discussion of "fluff" above. A typical business book is 200+ pages. There are probably anywhere from three to fifteen insights in the entire book. If it takes one about ten hours complete the book, the rate of acquisition of an insight is around 45 minutes per insight. Not every smart person has that kind of time to invest in this "always on" world.

3. The format requires FULL attention

There are several slices of time where a smart person can invest his or her mindshare for learning. Examples include working out at the gym, commute back and forth to work, waiting for someone or taking a walk in the morning. The above scenarios are not conducive to read a book as one can only give partial attention at best.

Lifestyles have changed, learning models have to change.

The learning models are not yet caught up with the lifestyles that have irreversibly changed in this "always on" world. You can't expect the learning models for yesterday to work seamlessly in today's world.


In this regard, it is our big and bold attempt to bring Audvisor to the world completely designed to fit the needs of today's "always on" professionals. We bring together world's leading experts to share their insights in 3-minutes or less on topics that matter most. Our first release features around 100 experts and a collection of over 1,000 insights. Some people call the service "Pandora for learning, inspiration or wisdom." Some other people are calling the service "on demand, highly curated, micropodcasts." We fondly call this "world's first push-button learning app for smartphones."

While we don't have a solution for why smart people don't completely read the business books they buy, we think Audvisor provides a different, alternate approach for everyone to consider.