This week’s Facebook IPO may set records, with Mark Zuckerberg’s company expected to approach $100 billion in valuation. Facebook is many things. It is a social network, as the film about its birth reminds us. It is a virtual community. It is a potential advertising platform. But it is also, at least in name, a book. People have been worried for years about the health of books, but Facebook should set many of those worries to rest. Simply by existing, it raises the profile of all other books, the same way that Amazon raised the profile of the mighty African river or Google raised the profile of unimaginably large numbers. Perhaps these are bad examples. My point is that Facebook’s prominence has an inadvertent but indisputable effect. When people talk about Facebook, they are saying “book.”
That is why I have decided that the time is right for other books to also go public. This idea may seem radical, but some of the best ideas do at first. The initial prototype of the electric toothbrush was dismissed out of hand. “Why would we apply electricity to our teeth?” wrote one critic. Even when the idea was explained to him, he was skeptical. So I am aware that people may not see Facebook the way I do, as an opportunity for other books to go public. But let’s not forget: a rising tide lifts all ships.
Take, for example, my forthcoming book. For the purposes of argument, let’s say that it will be a heartfelt collection of short stories titled either “The Bird Upon the Head” or “Anna, Reconsidering.” That book will most likely not have the quite the reach of Facebook, nor will it afford advertisers the opportunities for placing their products and services in front of potential consumers. But it will be seen by some readers, possibly passed around to others, and it is possible that products or practices mentioned within its pages will come to be perceived as more desirable by my readers, some of whom are in the 18-34 demographic.
Let’s look, too, at some of the other factors. In a recent poll, 59 percent of respondents said that they had little to no trust in Facebook to keep their information private. I polled my own readers, and nearly 100 percent trust that all information about them will be kept private. In addition, Zuckerberg has never run a public company of this magnitude, whereas I have successfully written several books of roughly this size, including “Slow Bleed” (1999), “Wrapping It Up” (2002), “The Shambles” (2007), and “A King In A Kingdom Without Kings” (2009). And while Facebook has an arguably bloated infrastructure, with not just Zuckerberg acting in the CEO capacity, but a CFO and a COO as well, my book has a full-time staff of one. In today’s economy, efficiency should be the watchword of every new endeavor.
In light of this, let’s talk numbers. Facebook is worth $100 billion, give or take. I think we can all agree that this is an unattainable goal for me, and perhaps even undesirable. Even half of that value seems like overreach. So let’s take a radical approach to valuation and say that my forthcoming book “The Bird Upon The Head” (or, possibly, “Anna, Reconsidering”) is worth only one-hundredth as much as Facebook. That makes it an even billion: easy to remember and certainly not unreasonable. My national pre-writing tour will make stops in major American cities, appearing to managers of various large investment vehicles. I will make a brief statement and then field questions (though I would prefer that “How do you get your ideas?” not be among them). I hope that together we can bring this book, like Facebook, to the next level.