Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Farce to Force Book Review

My Going-in Position
I selected this book to help round-out my understanding of e-commerce, specifically to help generate some general principles to build e-commerce strategies from. I purchased this book from Amazon because the description seemed intriguing and the one customer review was very positive. My expectations for the material included finding indications of successful strategies with detailed case studies that could help me identify both the pitfalls and the recipes for success.
The Book
The title of this book implies that it spans the period of internet upstarts, inflated potential and prices, the market crash (Farce) to the point of solid business practices, effective strategies, and successful e-commerce business (Force). It does not. This book appears to have been written between 1996 and 2002. There are no examples of truly successful e-commerce/e-business strategies, because at the time of the writing there were few, if any in existence. None of the companies she looked at had a clear vision of the future, or of what long-run success would look like.
The author doesn’t discuss weblogs at all, includes little about the potential of chat, and doesn’t see the full potential of advertising as an income generator or as at targeted marketing tool. She assumes that big businesses will potentially shut-out small businesses on the web, and she focuses on many problems of the past that have now been reduced to small hurdles or less. Reading this book would be much more tolerable if the author had stuck to the facts and not injected so many false prophesies into her writing. An example that identifies both her key assumptions and touches on some of her other positions follows:

We have several more years to go before the Internet is organized
efficiently and technology is affordable and practical for e-commerce. And it
will be longer than that for buyers and consumers to reorient fully and
completely their traditional buying practices, psychology, and thinking to use
the Internet for their everyday needs. This is true for all countries,
especially the United States… Pg. 9

The portion of the book that is dedicated to strategic planning is the most interesting and relevant part of the book, but it offers more questions than answers, is fraught with generalities, and relies on a frustrating number of dated examples. Her guidelines for creating and implementing an e-commerce strategy tend to be general in nature as well, and identify common brick and mortar strategies that have been infused with some e-commerce-specific considerations. Overall, the strategy portion of the book is the best part, but still fails to deliver anything that is truly new or unique about e-commerce.
My Recommendation
This book was written during the early stages of internet maturity, and provides no significant lessons for the current marketplace. I have to question the motivation of both the author and the publisher who released this obviously outdated book in 2006, without so much as updated notes, references, or insights to make it relevant in the current marketplace.

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