How To Decide If A Book’s Worth Opening, in 90 Seconds

Estimated reading time: 1 mins

#$%% INFORMATION OVERLOAD !!)>%%  If you’re anything like me, you’ve got far too much to read and not enough time to read it. Papers, emails, forms, magazines, books, websites and blogs. Loads of stuff to read. It’s always helpful to have a way of sorting the wheat from the chaffe!

Merlin Mann on his blog has come up with this novel list of ‘tests’ (or heuristics) he applies to books in 90 seconds to see whether it gets opened, or sent to the library in the sky. One test I like is:

Can you find the word “secret” anywhere on the cover of the book?

I avoid anything with secret in the title, as nothing is secret that is published.

Merlin’s article made me think, are there any tests I apply to IT specific books to whittle them out – even if irrational? After ten minutes of deep thought, this is what I came up with.

I avoid an IT-related book if…

  • It’s been over 1.5 years since last revised
  • Anything with ‘for dummies’ in the title
  • The book’s cover has a picture of a man with a bushy beard
  • The word ‘guaranteed’ appears on the cover somewhere
  • The cover has an overly-geeky bias, like a plethora of control characters and command-line instructions
  • The author’s picture on the rear is a bit freaky

So Merlin and I have have our lists. What heuristics do you apply before opening a book?

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1 thought on “How To Decide If A Book’s Worth Opening, in 90 Seconds”

  1. You guys certainly know how to judge a book by its cover..taboom tish! (Never had to write that before, is that right??)

    Seriously though I think your list can apply across disciplines. I judge marketing books in a similar way, happily dismissing all bearded authors!

    These quick judgements are especially important online. There is sooo much content that navigating it requires some serious filtering. Technology is helping; grabbing the RSS feeds from my favourite sites goes along way, particularly when I combine this with some additional filtering system like Yahoo Pipes.

    BUT ultimately it is my own communication filters; like my visual tastes, preference for certain writing styles and a general distrust of beards that informs the decisions I make.

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