“I have a book out”
This is the phrase we normally expect from celebrities, ex-politicians and of course, career authors.
But I’ve noticed a trend in this increasingly applying to investment professionals.
It seems like everyone from hedge fund managers, academics and money journalists are picking up a pen and getting published.
The number of investing titles hitting our shelves each year is increasing as a result, leading to a blistering churn of paperbacks in the ‘personal finance’ sections of book stores.
So what is behind this sudden increase in finance books being published – and why does it appear to be fashionable to have penned a best selling investing book?
Protection against being drowned out by social media
Well, the answer has quite a dark undertone. A sad one at least. The fact is that since the rise of Twitter, Facebook (and to some extent, blogs), the volume of investing discourse has shot through the roof. But the quality of that discourse certainly hasn’t.
As we have observed in many other areas of life, the proliferation of social media has led to isolated ‘tribes’ or ‘bubbles’ of confirmation bias. The same algorithms that promised to deliver us content we’d enjoy… has the side effect of rarely showing us something we disagree with.
What naturally emerges are groups of investors, increasingly polarised in their investing views, who don’t even try to engage with the other. Each with a strong sense of certainty that their own position is correct. It’s a failure of critical thinking, but something broader too.
This tribal effect has negated the beneficial effect of a wider discussion about investing through these platforms.
Enter: the humble book. A book about saving money doesn’t need to compete against the fury or rage of a viral tweet, nor does it need to reduce itself down to an undignified back-and-forth over a public forum with crash language and the occasional insult.
A book is one of the last places where an author has the time and space to set out a fully formed idea, together with all the reasoning behind why they have drawn their conclusions.
In this way, investing books have become little oases away from the noise and drama of a daily social media cycle. They allow investors to fully engage with new thoughts and also have the mental space to reflect and ponder. There’s no rush – a book can be consumed in one go, or can be enjoyed over several weeks. It’s still a good form of media.
The Status Symbol
The second reason I am putting forward is that being published is still a status symbol amongst the middle class. It can help boost the brand of a professional who wishes to move from a technical role, to a consulting, coaching or public speaking role.
This is actually quite a large group of people – and if each decides that penning a book is the way to achieve this, then you can expect a flood of titles.
Of course, 30 years ago, the publishers themselves would have prevented such a flood. Their limited editorial resource, capital, and shelf space acting as natural constraints upon the number of books that can be published.
But all of those constraints are now gone, as individuals can cheaply ‘self publish’ in print for just a few thousand pounds. An even more affordable option is to publish an ‘ebook’ for free on Amazon – all you need to do is have a Word document with your completed text.
Of course, this is watering down the quality of titles available on the web, but by restricting yourself to titles available in-print, you will certainly give yourself higher odds of picking up a new classic the next time you’re looking for an investing book.