In 2009, Hugo Chavez and Barack Obama, former presidents of Venezuela and the U.S., respectively, attended the 5th Summit of the Americas. There, Chavez handed Obama a copy of the book Las venas abiertas de América Latina by Eduardo Galeano. Overnight, the book reached top positions in Amazon’s best sellers list,1 jumping straight up from the 60,280th position to the 10th place.
Although this book was first published in 1971, its sales increased exponentially just a few hours after the Summit, and Amazon had to announce that the English version of the book had been sold out.2
Búsquedas del libro Las venas abiertas de América Latina. Tomado de Google Trends.
It is clear that the recommendations and publicity that this book received were a positive and unexpected shock. I hope that publishers had available digital copies of the book (e-books or audiobooks) that allowed them to absorb the sudden increase in demand.
Siglo XXI is the publishing house that edits the book in Mexico and Spain, and, at times, I wonder if they had available at those moments the digital option. In this sense, having options to choose from is certainly important when it comes to unexpected events, as options can turn around a negative shock and turn it into a positive one. Nassim Taleb in his book Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder describes options as agents for “antifragility”.
Technology is an option provider. For example, we can decide to see, talk to or hang out with our beloved ones in many different ways: we can get into our cars and go see them, fly across the world, or maybe just grab our phones and call them from the couch. Technology widens our options and allows us to seize more opportunities in order to make the best out of each situation. Technology makes us antifragile, or, in other words, makes it more likely for us to overcome the difficulties that arise when facing a negative shock.
Scott Galloway, an NYU Stern teacher, promptly noted that COVID-19 pandemic slingshot the world into the future: teleworking, telemedicine, e-learning, and online shopping are a few examples of it.
We were already on our way to the future when lockdown came unannounced and hasted its arrival. Some editors were caught ready with digital options powered by technology, which increased their potential within markets to reach shop windows, and make overgrowth possible by reaching their consumers in just a few seconds whether or not the outlets were closed. I hope many editors are making the best out of this shock for it to have a positive rather than a negative impact. If positive, publishers will show the stakeholders some of the company’s antifragility, which ensures walking a long road ahead.