Brian Weatherson at CT raises the question of blogs turning into books, and commenters give lots of examples. However, any addition to the supply of books generated in this way needs to be offset by the books that would have been written if their potential authors weren’t writing blogs instead.
Update Sarah Hepola makes exactly the same point, announcing in Slate that she is shutting down her blog to write a book. Coincidence, or the mysterious workings of the BlogGeist
I’ve been blogging for four years and have maintained a pretty good output of journal articles, book chapters newspaper articles, and so on. On the whole, the blog is a useful complement to this work. But my last book came out in 2000, and I can’t see myself finding the time to do another one any time soon. The time that I might put aside for a long-term project like a book is now devoted to blogs.
This may be discipline-specific. There’s no great professional payoff for books in economics (I once read a study estimating the relationship between academic salary and publications that found that one page in the Journal of Political Economy was worth the same as a book published by Cambridge University Press. Things are presumably different in other disciplines, where books count for more.
Similarly there’s no real financial payoff either. In fact, in financial terms, I would have done better to review my policy-oriented books (newspapers pay a reasonable rate) than to write them. There’s money in undergraduate textbooks, I’m told, but I’ve never looked into that.
The seminars we’ve run here suggest possibilities for useful interactions between blogs and books.
Still, I suspect that on balance books and blogs are substitutes rather than complements both in production (more time writing blogs means less time writing books) and consumption (more time reading blogs means less time reading books).