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Stage and Page: The Relationship Between TED Talks and Authors

TED Talks -- a series of recorded lectures in which industry leaders in technology, entertainment, and design are invited to present forward-thinking ideas -- are a relatively new phenomenon for the nonprofit organization TED. To put this into perspective, the first TED conference, held in 1984, included Sony and Lucasfilm; they presented the CD and 3D graphics respectively. Two decades later, TED started posting the talks online, and now they seem to be everywhere.

Often a presenter's biography will mention a book he or she has authored, and sometimes the speaker is even an author by trade. In fact, currently among the top 20 TED Talks (determined by views) are Bonk and Gulp author Mary Roach (No. 19) and Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert (No. 13).

Some other author TED vets you may recognize include Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling, McSweeney's founder and editor Dave Eggers, food and agriculture expert Michael Pollan, The Joy Luck Club author Amy Tan, and The Fault in Our Stars author John Green.

But there was a moment, a week or so ago, when something truly new happened: our two bestselling books were Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. Each was the debut book by a TEDTalker-turned-author who used her presentation as the basis of her book. Is it a new trend? Is there such a thing as a "TED effect" now?

It's too soon to tell, but we're keeping our eyes open. Meanwhile, TED has teamed up with Kindle Singles to publish shorter nonfiction (around 20,000 words) pieces by many TED Talks participants. You can find them here.

Which of your favorite authors would you want to see give a TED Talk? Which TED Talks presentations would you like to read more about in a book? Comment below.


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David Sedaris

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