Reading the book vs. hearing the speaker

Which book on web design or web standards or some related topic has been the most influential on your thinking? Or maybe it wasn’t a book at all, but a speaker at a tech conference?

I was thinking about reviewing Ekaterina Walter’s new book, Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It occurred to me that I was interested in what she had to say because I’ve seen her speak and thought she was a knowledgeable speaker. I’m predisposed to be interested in her book.

Back in the early days of web standards and efforts to achieve some sort of standardization in browser behavior, I attended talks at conferences by people like Jeffrey Zeldman, Eric Meyer, and Molly Holzschlag. They convinced me to be a believer in web standards before I’d ever read any of their books. Designing with Web Standards, Zeldman’s book, now in it’s 3rd edition, is the foundational volume on the topic. It’s a book I’ve purchased 3 times and recommended to hundreds of other people. Does that reflect my early buy-in to the idea of web standards while at a conference, or does it reflect the power and message of the words on the pages of the book?

Are you buying and using and recommending tech books by people that you don’t find on the tech conference circuit? Or do you stick with books by people you’ve seen in person at an event? In my case, I can say that I read and recommend more books by people I’ve heard speak in person. The takeaway to me is that you can sell more books if you get yourself on the speaker’s platform at a tech event.

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