Thursday, October 29, 2009

Onomatopoeia for Books (The Twitter Book by O’Reilly and Milstein)

An onomatopoeia is a word that sounds like what it means—for example, saying “hiccup” sounds like a hiccup. In the same vein, every once in a while I find a book that looks and feels like what it says. For example, Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics is a comic book that explains the techniques behind comic books.

The Twitter Book by Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein is another example. It’s a smart, friendly, and Twitteresque introduction to Twitter.

Wider than tall, the book presents a topic on each two-page spread: pictures on the left, text on the right. This bite-sizing of concepts and advice reflects the feel of Twitter without being gimmicky.

Although the book is about Twitter, it’s addressed to you. An example: “Twitter gives you two superhero strengths everyone wants: the power to read people’s thoughts and the ability to overhear conversations as if you were a fly on the wall.” If that sounds too breezy, ask yourself how much earnestness you really want from a Twitter how-to book.

Along with making the conceptual sell for Twitter’s goodness, the authors recommend specific things to do with Twitter and, more important, how to do them well. Of course, the Web is rife with Twitter how-to material, free for the clicking. With The Twitter Book you’re paying for a succinct version of the facts plus authoritative advice. It’s like learning the rules of the road from a driving instructor who also knows the coolest places to take your car.

Not to mention, you get that underlying—but not cloying—Twitterness of the book: The look, feel, and tone creatively and satisfyingly reflect the topic, as sure as “tweet” is an onomatopoeia. ; )

Well done, @timoreilly and @SarahM.

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