Effective Living

Summary. The popularity of the “Idiot’s Guide” and “for Dummies” series of books has resulted in guides to just about every topic imaginable.

At the time of this report, a search on Amazon for Idiot’s Guide produces over 2500 results. It’s a fascinating list of topics including, BiologyCalculus, Chemistry, MicrobiologyPhysics, and even a Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Theories of the Universe. So, even if you are a complete idiot, you can still understand the mysteries of the Universe.

The “for Dummies” series includes guides to topics such as: Einstein for DummiesQuantum Physics for Dummies, Raising Chickens for Dummies, Virtualization for Dummies, and Welding for Dummies.

Perhaps the only guide missing is The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Idiots for Dummies.

Background. The premise behind these books is that many text books and user guides are written by technicians in a way that is totally inaccessible for those reading them. The Idiot’s Guide series is designed to be written clearly and in laypersons terms. Penguin’s web page for the Idiot Guide series of books is the landing page for the IdiotsGuides.com domain name. More about the “for Dummies” series can be found on the Dummies.com website which offers online video as well.

Awkward Title. The somewhat unfortunate choice of title for this series of books has resulted in a new marketing effort by Penguin. On their website, the following text is now included:

Smart People Read Idiot’s Guides. You’re smart, curious, at ease with yourself, and interested in learning. And learning is what idiotsguides.com is all about. Explore our hundreds of books-from home repair to religion, health to hobbies, investing to parenting, and everything in between. Check out our Quick Guides and Top Tips. Take a minute to drop us an email-and then come back… there’s always something new.

This is presumably a reaction to those who are offended or made uncomfortable by the title. After 15 years in print, the original humor behind the title and it’s popularity may have worn off. People don’t want to think of themselves as being stupid or idiots. In fact, it’s not that the reader needs an Idiot’s guide to anything. The problem all along has been with how poorly many guidebooks are written. In the future, a popular series of how-to guides might begin with the title, “A Well Written and Easy to Understand Guide To….”

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