May 16, 2022

Opinion: Peter J. Dougherty on “Why Books Matter For the Long Run”

“Why Books Matter For the Long Run” was written by Peter J. Dougherty and published on Knowledge at Wharton. It runs about 3000 words.

About Peter J. Dougherty

[Dougherty] is the editor-at-large at Princeton University Press, for which he was the director from 2005 until his retirement in 2017, and currently sits as the Fox Family Pavilion Scholar and distinguished senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.

From the Opinion Piece:

Why have Eric Schmidt, Meg Whitman, Reid Hoffman, John Doerr and other leading technologists resorted to the venerable (some would say backward) practice of book-writing to communicate their visions? Why did Mark Zuckerberg introduce a quaint book-of-the-month feature onto the runaway train of Facebook? Why does Bill Gates regularly pen long, thoughtful book reviews in a whirlwind communications culture fueled by texts and tweets?

How have books survived the information tsunami, and what will authors and publishers have to do to leverage the success of books for the long run?

The answer resides in a seemingly incongruous combination of traits: First, in the time-honored authority of influence books hold among readers; and second, in the ways in which disruptive technological change can strengthen rather than weaken that influence.


In an era when authors can, and do, publish their own books, the demand to be published by excellent publishers is as strong as ever. Why? Because certain publishers, from commercial conglomerates through university presses, enjoy powerful reputations within the constellation of core readerships, and these reputations serve as market signals. A computer science book published by The MIT Press, or an art book published by Abrams, or a business book published by Wharton Digital Press or the Harvard Business Press, or a history book published by WW Norton, commands a certain respect among the constellation of reviewers, booksellers, producers, journalists and other influencers who collectively showcase what is important to communities of readers. Leveraging this status gives authors fantastic advantage in a market marked by copious supply and fierce competition.

But reputation in publishing is earned and needs to be constantly renewed, which results from the effective practice of the craft.

Read the Complete Opinion Piece (approx. 300o words)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.