As We See It

Facebook memoirs put profiles on the bookshelf

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Publishing a memoir used to be hard. First you had to become famous; then you had to write 70,000 words about your rise to the top; then you had to get an agent, an editor and a publisher. Then you had to edit your manuscript, reedit it and re-reedit it. Not anymore. Now, you don’t even have to write the book. You’ve already written it.

EgoBook ($30 and up) and Social Memories ($16) are services that turn Facebook users’ profiles into hard-copy books. In a few weeks, you can join the ranks of the published, even if there’s only one copy of your memoir sitting on shelves.

My EgoBook clocks in at 402 pages and includes every status update and photo I’ve posted since June 2009. (That’s as far back as I could go.) The book begins with my most recent thought (“Midwest friends: Is anybody NOT visiting Vegas this weekend?”), and concludes with my oldest (“Rick Lax interviewed Carrot Top last night”). I’d forgotten that Facebook used to automatically put my name in front of each status update.

Flipping through the EgoBook not only reminded me that I’d spent an entire month playing Wii Punch-Out!!—I’d posted a Great Tiger screenshot—but also laid out for me which status updates generated the most comments: those that asked a direct question or referenced the ’90s. And if nothing else, the EgoBook gave me identity security. When the Robopocalypse descends or the cyberterrorists attack, destroying all computers and computer memory, I will sleep easy knowing that my pithy ramblings are intact.

My Social Memories book arrived next—hardcover, 28 pages and sleekly designed. Unlike the EgoBook, a

mere reprinting of my updates and friends’ comments, the Social Memories book analyzed my digital input and turned it into a collection of slick charts and graphs.

It revealed my No. 1 status update and most popular photo (based on comments generated and “likes”). It revealed my most consistent commentor (Steve Katz) and the gender breakdown of my online friends: (902 females vs. 752 males.) And it felt like somebody had spent a lot of time studying me and assembling the book, though in reality, it was all done by computer.

A couple bucks, a couple weeks and you’re David Sedaris.

But can your psyche handle this overnight mortal-to-literary-superstar transition? David DiSalvo, author of the upcoming book What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite, thinks so. He doesn’t see much good or much harm coming from Facebook-to-real-book publishing:

“So far, the research on social networking suggests that what people bring to the experience colors the outcomes. For narcissists, Facebook serves as an amplifier of their existing tendencies. Same for lonely people and for those with low self-esteem. Likewise for people with high self-esteem. These publishing services might add to that dynamic a bit, but only marginally. Once the energy of Facebook is pulled into a static container like a printed book, it will eventually become just another relic on the bookshelf.”

On the other hand, memoirist Toby Young (author of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People and The Sound of No Hands Clapping) thinks these services might interfere with your social life:

“Both seem like fairly egregious examples of vanity publishing,” Young says. “I think if anyone spotted either book on a friend’s bookshelf, it would be grounds for de-friending them. It’s only one notch above paying a Playboy photographer to take a photo set of you and your partner.”

Young will be happy to know you can buy these books for your friends, too—meaning, you can have the books created about your friends. Though, I suppose you can also have EgoBook and Social Memories create books about you to give to your friends. I imagine the girls from My Super Sweet 16 doing this as some über-vain party favor.

Probably the best way to show off the Facebook memoirs is to leave them lying on your coffee table and wait until somebody asks about them.

That’s what I’m doing, at least.

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