What do you want for Christmas? Socks? A tie? Another freaking David Hasselhoff CD?

A Fool does not seek these things.

Instead, tell people you want stock ideas. Who could possibly say no to something like that?!

The Motley Fool is offering its annual book of stock ideas, but we've changed things around a bit. In times past we focused upon noteworthy industries and then drilled down to select companies we considered interesting. That industry-focused approach led our high-priced consultants (the guys who run the pizza shop down the street) to come up with the product name Industry Focus. We know, we know -- it doesn't exactly grab you. But the runner-up title had been Anchovies: Buy, Sell, or Hold?

Yes, people should be interested in industries -- we at the Fool are firm believers in the need for investors to know something about and have a passion for the businesses they own. However, in our constant drive to make our products more usable, we came to this simple conclusion:

Giving people our best stock ideas is much more important than just giving them the best idea in certain businesses.

Thus we offer Stocks 2003, the successor to Industry Focus. (Not to worry, we came up with this particular title ourselves.)  The Fool's usual suspects, including David Gardner, Matt Richey, Tom Jacobs, Zeke Ashton, Rick Munarriz, and yours truly had the charge of putting together not the companies that we felt people would be most interested in, but rather the stock ideas that we feel offer the most compelling investment theses. These are companies in leadership positions in their industries, offering growth, strong economics, and excellent financial performance at prices we consider reasonable.

One of the issues that we have always had with big end-of-year "HOT STOCK!!!" lists is that they are static in a dynamic environment. Things change; problems come to light; new opportunities make themselves known; other avenues close. A high-profile analyst last year (one whom many of us at the Fool hold in high regard), Michael Mauboussin, picked Enron as his "one-stock-to-own" last year. Before the year closed out, as we all know, Enron collapsed. We had the same thing happen with one of our picks here, A.C.L.N., which seemed fantastic until it turned out that the company's books were cooked.

That's a danger for every outside investor, just as it is for people who analyze and write about stocks for a living. So when we asked ourselves what would make a product more useful, these experiences immediately came to mind. We decided to flesh out the risks section and demand each analyst offer thoughts on what events would make him change his mind on a given stock. That way, if the investment thesis changes suddenly, as they are wont to do even with conservative companies, we're still providing a road map.

It's a bit sad that this is necessary, but as we have learned so painfully in the past few years, audited financial statements are not what they once were. In 2000, more than 200 companies had to restate their financials -- more than 2% of all listed companies. You might think that 2% isn't that much, but it is hundreds of times higher than the same rate a year ago. We've long known that most Wall Street analysts were not our friends, but in the last few years, we've learned the value of being skeptical about executives, auditors, even boards of directors.

It's enough to make one run away from the stock markets entirely. But you shouldn't. There are hundreds of companies out there with top-notch shareholder-friendly management dedicated to providing good information and market-beating long-term returns for shareholders.

In Stocks 2003, we believe that we have found 11 of them. We're going to tell you about the companies, their industries, what makes them the most compelling investments we can find, the timeframes, and even what would make us change our minds.

We learned with our two subscription products, The Motley Fool Select and Motley Fool Stock Advisor, that the thing that makes these products most valuable is our dedication to play Monday-morning quarterback, to go back and discuss whether or not our predictions came to pass. Telling you what we think will be good is only half the battle. We're also telling you in Stocks 2003 what will cause the companies' prospects to be less good, so that you'll have the warning signs in your mind before everyone else.

The reality of investing is that 100% correctness is impossible. Never been done; never will be done. But with Stocks 2003, we're trying something new -- we're going to tell you where we might go wrong in advance! Of course, that's not really our aim -- the ideas we put forth in Stocks 2003 are ones that we believe offer the prospect of market-beating returns. That's a present that should be exciting to most anyone.

Fool on!

Bill Mann
Stocks 2003

P. S. If you're interested, you can get 10% off if you order by Dec. 20. So, save some dough for yourself -- or better yet, for any gift-giver who might order it for you. After all, if there's anything better than putting Stocks 2003 in your Christmas stocking for yourself, it's having someone else buy it.