MB BOOK EVENT: Paul Lance takes on the digital universe
Paul Lance has mastered the digital world. But that doesn’t mean he likes it.
Lance led the Los Angeles office of HarperCollins publishing for almost 20 years until the office closed two years ago. One of the main factors in its closing was the rising popularity of digital books.
“When the Kindle first came out, I looked at it and said ‘I love this device,’” Lance recalled. “I was always reading hardcovers and paperbacks and documents at work. This just became another way to read, and I could keep 40 to 50 books at the palm of my hand.”
What eventually alarmed him was how a forward-thinking company like HarperCollins could be upended so quickly by the onslaught of new technology. Lance took the reins and led technology “salons” for the staff to discuss digital trends and their impact on current and future business.
“Our offices were on the Fox lot and we were part of News Corp, one of the largest media companies in the world,” he said. “If here is HarperCollins, in the midst of all this, overwhelmed by technology, how would someone in Duluth or Peoria be handling it?”
Lance decided to anticipate those tensions and began working on a solution. Flash forward two years, he’s left HarperCollins and has now published “Just Tell Me How It Works: Practical Help for Adults on All-Things-Digital.” He also launched a workshop series based on his guide.
The book covers everything from deciding between a laptop and desktop, understanding software, choosing wireless speeds, buying TVs, digital music and cell phones, and navigating social media and online shopping. At about 600 pages, the volume is huge and all encompassing. But the book is remarkably accessible, going beyond rudiments of usage to help people truly understand technology and the products they may or may not want to use.
“One of the reasons I would like people to read this is so they can decide what aspects of technology are right for them,” Lance said. “Instead of rejecting something just because they don’t understand it, this helps their decision be at cause.”
To that effect, each of Lance’s 31 chapters begins with a simple introductory description: “Who should read this section” and “Who should skip this section.” For example, in the Facebook chapter, Lance recommends skipping to the next section, “if you have a small circle of family and friends and there may not be a need to reach out beyond emails, letters and phone calls.”
Lance also emphasizes the costs and hidden costs, financial or emotional, of each digital product. He wants people to understand that, even if their website or blog is free, there might be the hidden cost of a sore ego when unfavorable comments pop up. He doesn’t want anyone to think that the newest piece of technology will necessarily make them happier.
“I say that we are living a world where the horse and buggy is trying to coexist with the automobile,” he said, smiling. “And we can do that. My father-in-law still calls his desktop ‘the living room.’ And that’s okay. He’s 95.”
Paul Lance presents his book “Just Tell Me How It Works: Practical Help for Adults on All-Things-Digital,” on Thursday, October 16 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Pages bookstore, 904 Manhattan Avenue in Manhattan Beach. He will also appear at Barnes and Noble in Manhattan Beach on Friday, November 7. For more information on his book and workshops, visit justtellmehowitworks.com. To learn more about his October 16 appearance, visit pagesabookstore.com.
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