Dear Hakiem

Dear Hakiem,

I know everything at the Apple Store is designed to be techno-blissful, but you really took things to another level.  Not only did you shake my hand, make me feel welcome, and help me get a Genius Bar appointment in less than five minutes, but you managed to make me feel just a little bit less bad about dropping my iPad on 6th avenue and cracking the screen (and I was feeling REALLY bad).

I was already appreciative of you for that, but then as I was walking up 9th avenue, you ran out of the store and up to 15th street and stopped me to make sure that my problem had been solved.   Wow.

I bet you go above and beyond every day for folks, and I’m sure they appreciate it more than you know.  I’ll be sure to tell everyone who goes to the Apple Store at 14th and 9th in New York City to look out for you.

Next Tuesday we’re rebooting Valentine’s Day as Generosity Day.  Thank you, already, for being part of it.

Yours in generosity,


What page are you on?

A lot of people with whom I regularly trade ideas are reading Walter Isaacson’s page-turning biography of Steve Jobs.

And so for the first time I find myself frustrated with all the limitations on sharing capabilities in e-Readers (I’m using the Kindle app on an iPad).  I can’t even email text to someone with comments.

Functionality that would be great:

  1. Copy/paste functionality of any sort
  2. The ability to highlight a section of text and drop it straight into an email
  3. Knowing which of your friends (in your address book; Facebook friends; etc.) is reading the book and what page they’re on
  4. Highlighting and commenting on text that can be seen by your friends who are reading the same book (I’d want the comments to appear in the app, not to appear as a Facebook update)
  5. Export all of your highlights, as well as your comments, into a shareable file
  6. The ability to opt in/out of making your comments available to some sort of online discussion forum…
  7. ….and, similarly, to view comments from that forum while you read, if you want.

And some things I wouldn’t want:

  1. Lots of embedded video – I still want reading to be reading and not to involve any headphones
  2. Any instant messaging-type functionality within the app
  3. Anything with notifications that pop up without me asking for them
  4. Anything at all that makes turning off EVERYTHING (others’ comments, etc) in the least bit difficult
  5. Whatever else would turn my book-reading experience into something more akin to web browsing.  I want (and we all need) the ability to give something sustained attention without distraction

Basically what I’d want is a one way door that I can fully control, that I can choose to open to go deeper into conversation with those with whom I’d like to converse about a book.  I don’t want the book to be any less book-like, I want the option of creating a shared experience and peer dialogue by leveraging existing, simple functionality in a way that amplifies the experience without distracting.

The slow walk off a cliff

Last month I was in the Strand bookstore and bought two books by Haruki Makamuri, What I Talk about When I Talk About Running and The Wind Up Bird Chronicle.  When I got to the register, I was surprised how strange it felt to physically buy a book in this digital age.

A few weeks later I was in Hudson News at the San Francisco Airport.  There with the other best-selling books was Michael Lewis’ The Big Short which I’d seen in probably 30 other store windows and thought about buying.  I figured with a long flight ahead and the knowledge that my laptop would die before I got to New York, I may as well pony up for the book.

But it cost $27.95 in hardcover.

Though I’d only read ONE book on my wife’s Kindle and I don’t own an iPad, suddenly I felt my iPhone burning a hole in my pocket.  I looked The Big Short up on the two free apps I have on my iPhone (iBooks and the Kindle app), and it was available in both places for about $10.  And on top of that I had the realization that NOT owning the printed hardcopy of this big, bulky book was a plus….along with the prospect of saving 2/3rd off the cover price.

So I downloaded it.

One of the toughest nuts to crack is figuring out which trends, which behaviors that seem so engrained actually have the ability to turn on a dime.  Think iPhones in a Blackberry world; Google search in the days of Yahoo; ebooks today; money transfer through phones in Kenya; texting; wearing seatbelts; smoking; digital photography…

The examples that move fastest are all digital, but wholescale transformation happens all around us.  Reading primarily printed books (or printed anything) is going to seem quaint in 10 years’ time.  And how long, do you think, before every book comes with a free ebook download?  Before you feel like you’re missing out when you read a magazine, because you can’t click on the photos?  Our kids will hear you talk about this stuff the way I heard my parents talk about black and white TV.

The ultimate opportunity for leverage is to spot or create things that slowly, quietly, unexpectedly, have the potential to go from “that’s crazy” to “how did we live without it” on a dime.  And most of the hard work happens during the “that’s crazy” part of the curve, which requires more than vision – it requires mettle.

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