Books - Rant on books

My LinkedIn headline could have been

Compulsive buyer, reader and collector of books.

I built (or more exactly I designed it and had it built for me) a two storey library. It roughly six meters wide and five meters high. It contains thousand of books and weight several tons. All that to say I love books, I’m addicted to them.

My addiction took a new turn recently when I published my first full book. Now I’m also addicted to writing. You may have seen my announcement for a new book. The new headline is

Compulsive buyer, reader, collector and writer of books.

Being in love and addicted, you could expect subjectivity from me. Nevertheless find below my objective and dispassionate opinion about books.

Books are expensive, too expensive, … if you want or need to buy them. For a hardcover book you pay 60 GBP, 15% of it is the actual cost of the physical book, the rest is immaterial: author royalties and services (editor and retailer). And believe me, the author royalties will not make him (me in this case) rich. Nevertheless, this is a lot of money to fill one centimeter of library shelf.

On the other side the books are not only ornaments for bookshelf; they also have contents. For technical books, the saying is that one page of content takes one day to write. I learned the hard way that this is a realistic estimate. The content is, for some books, a very efficient access to real expertise, to the deep thoughts of enthusiast people about their trade. You don’t even have to listen to the annoying and arrogant authors, you can read directly their thoughts at your pace, in the sequence you want and where you want. Obviously you have to make the effort to read and decipher what the author really means, but nobody said that thought reading was easy.

You have 200 days of expert thoughts for GBP 60. Maybe you don’t really need the 200 days, only 100 of them are useful to you, but is that expensive or cheap? In the finance industry, what else can you have for 60 quid? You can hire a senior consultant, of untested expertise related to your problem, for 2400 quid a day (I round the numbers to make my computation easy), i.e. you can speak to him for 12 minutes for the price of the book. Your book value is gone by the time you have exchanged business cards. You can also have lunch with business acquaintances. A nice lunch in London for two, another 180 quid or three books. By the end of the starters you better have got a lot of expert opinion on your subject of interest, not only gossips. Maybe you can travel to see a client, a short flight, an hotel and a couple of lunches, that is 600 quid. I hope your clients will bring you a lot of information about your industry, enough to fill ten books, and that he will write the back-to-office reports for you.

How come that the banking industry, supposed to be full of expert at detecting arbitrage, is not full of books. If I was board member at any bank, I would ask: where is the library? Do you buy all the good books that come out? If you have not bought and read all of them, how do you know that they are not the best arbitrage opportunity in the market.

Books are cheap, too cheap … if you buy them and use them correctly. They almost look like open source software (by the way, check Strata). You get them and you can use all the ideas in them without paying anything to the people that have spend days, months, and maybe years developing them. You just have to chose wisely which ones you want to use the content of and which ones stay as ornament on your bookshelf.

Buy books, read them, love them or hate them, whatever they deserve. If you like a book, contact the author; maybe just to say that you like the book, maybe to invite him for a business lunch, maybe to invite him for to speak at a seminar, maybe to hire him as a consultant from whom you have just read a 200 pages CV or maybe to play a round of golf (I now this is completely unrelated, but I appreciate a round of golf over the week-end and my golf ball offer is still on).

I’m a compulsive buyer, reader and collector of books (I know I repeat myself). But I’m even happier when I receive a book. Not that I’m stingy and does not want to buy them. What I like in receiving a book is that often I receive books that I would not buy myself … and I love it. That is the important part, discovering something new that I would not have come across by myself. After my call for a round of golf, here is my call for books. If you have written a book, would like me to read it (or simply use it as an ornament to my library), don’t hesitate to contact me. I will be happy to barter a “Multi-curve Framework” copy for a different book; the offer is also valid for PhD thesis.  Of course you would need to pitch your book to me, but this is part of the preliminaries. Offer valid within the limits of the available stock (just to protect myself in case millions of people are interested in swapping their book for mine and I don’t have enough space in my library to store all those books).

Buy books, they are cheap.
Offer me books, I love it (and them).

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