An earlier conversation brought up a story.
During the spring semester of my senior year in high school, I received a letter from the publisher of “Who’s Who Among American High School Students” stating that due to my scholastic achievements (there were a few), I would be listed in their annual publication, distributed widely to universities and employers nationwide. It sounded swell. The letter went on to mention how prestigious it is to be listed in the book. That very mention made my mother beam with pride; she patted me on the back and gave me a high-five.
And then there was mention of how wonderful it would be to have our own copy of the book on our own bookshelf complete with a commemorative keychain and assorted bric-a-brac. “That sounds great,” mother said, “but we just can’t afford that.” My dream of moving up from the low class by the petards of my own academic strengths and showing off my new status to future friends and employers was dashed on that blue-sky afternoon.
But what if we had been able to afford the book? Well, hundreds of thousands of proud parents and students were sent the same offer letter. How many of those could afford it? How many of those actually bought it?
I suppose for each transitional period in life, there’s someone whose business plan involves making money from it. I can’t begrudge them the initiative, but what’s the true cost versus the true benefit? The form letters went on and on with rosy words stating that being listed lent a weight of prestige to a student’s future career. Well of course it was prestigious; the sales letter said so! But how many people bought it? And who among those still proudly bring out the books to show friends and neighbors? It’s just a publication; it carries no resumÃ©-fodder, nothing that would make a future employer think twice about overlooking this kid. It’s the same as a high school class ring — it means absolutely nothing in the real world.
I’m not surprised, from the Wikipedia article linked above, that the publication has gone bankrupt. Obviously it’s not prestigious enough. But, really, the business model didn’t allow for the free-as-in-beer fiesta of the Web; people just don’t put value in book publications. I hope others won’t get taken-in by the life-changes marketeers like I almost did. On this side of the transition, I can say that nobody gives a tinker’s dam about your tokens of passage. Keep that in mind.