SharedBook Rocks
Citizen Soldiers, by Stephen E. Ambrose

Good Enough

TataIndia's Tata Motors has been getting a lot of publicity lately thanks to their recently announced "People's Car."  When you see pictures of families of 4, 5 or more traveling together on a scooter you quickly realize that India is an excellent target market for a sub-$3,000 car.

I can't help but think that GM, Ford, etc., are looking down their noses at Tata and laughing, figuring there's no way a car like this would ever be allowed in the U.S. thanks to our stringent safety standards.  That's too bad because I'd like to buy one even if I only used it for my 3-mile commute to work each day.   I'm toying with the idea of riding a bike 2 or 3 times per week this summer; no matter how flimsy the People's Car is I've got to believe it's no more dangerous than a 10-speed bike (or a scooter or a motorcycle) on those same roads!

So what does all this have to do with publishing?  It's all about what's considered "good enough."  In this case, the People's Car will definitely be good enough for quite a few people in India and will be considered an upgrade from the family scooter.  If someone could come up with a sub-$3,000 car for the U.S. it would likely turn the auto industry on its ear.

In the publishing world, "good enough" has been defined again and again by Google and all the free content that's readily discoverable today.  I can try to kid myself that our $40 book will always be preferred over the free alternative because of the "quality content" and "editorial rigor" we apply, but in reality, plenty of people feel the free alternatives are good enough and that's all that matters.

I enjoy the challenge of creating new products that customers will want to spend money on.  As publishers it keeps us honest and forces us to constantly work to improve our offerings.  I hope the big auto manufacturers feel the same way.  It would be easy for them to hide behind all the federal regulations and effectively lobby to prevent a product like the People's Car from ever seeing the light of day here, which would be unfortunate.


Jason Dunne

Hi Joe - I agree that free content is here to stay, but so is the bookworm's love for a good-looking book. Non-fiction publishers of all kinds could look to fiction publishing for inspiration, for it's fiction publishing that makes the most use of eye-popping jacket design. Great design can make a customer really want a book, even if it's written by someone they've never heard of.

I well remember the first time I saw an O'Reilly book - I think we would alllvoe to be so distinctive. To compete against free, everyone's production values have got to go way,way up. BTW "Blogging Heroes" is a great-looking book.

I can understand your concern over the safety of a bicyle vs a car, so I thought you might like to know that cyclists live longer lives than the general population, statistically speaking, - yay! In the interests of full disclosure, in winter I usually put the bike away and drive the 3 miles from my house to Wiley's London office. I never feel better for driving, and each spring I look forward to the bike. Happy cycling!


Great post about the Tata Nano; I agree 100%. GM needs to pay attention and offer a competitive answer or the Indians will finish off the beating that the Japanese started giving them.

You are also spot-on regarding the "Good Enough" principle. I assume you are aware that "Good Enough" is a central principle discussed in the book "The Innovator's Dilemma?" (


It's not as cheap as a Tata, but the Smart car is coming to America this year. I first saw these in Rome in 2003, they're great little cars, about the size of that Tata. Not sure what they'll cost here, but keep an eye out.

Anthony S. Policastro

Hi Joe,
The "Good Enough" principle applies to all those authors who self-published through a Print-0n-Demand publisher. The books are not considered "good enough" for mainstream publishers and the distributors, bookstores, etc., but there are some fine POD books out there. I don't think the attitudes towards POD publishing will change any day soon, but I think your idea about bookstores having POD technology on site is a great idea from your earlier post.

Joe Wikert

Mike, yes, "The Innovator's Dilemma" is one of my all-time favorite books. I probably cite it on this blog way too often!

Paul, I wonder how tough it would be for one of the Big Three to create a viable low-priced auto. I keep hearing how GM or Ford, or maybe both(!), have about $1,500/auto wrapped up in retiree benefits, for example. The Japanese manufacturers have a similar problem although their per auto allocation doesn't seem to be anywhere near as high as Ford/GM/Chrysler. Talk about "The Innovator's Dilemma"!...

Anthony, excellent point about POD and how it relates to "good enough." To be fair, oftentimes it's not the publisher saying a POD book isn't good enough but rather them simply realizing they can't get the channel support to make it work. Most of us are still limited by the available linear footage on a brick-and-mortar store's shelves after all.

Lucas Wilk

For what it's worth, the Smart car has been up here in Canada for a few years now (2005?). Depending on the model, it's priced between $15-22K CDN (the US & Can dollar are at par at the moment). Unless the US dollar really starts tanking most Americans should be able to deem it affordable -:)

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