A book review

Occasionally I find time to read a good book. Unfortunately I don’t often know it is a good book until I’ve started reading it, at which time I’ve invested the effort in opening the book and ignoring the phone that I plough on regardless.

Three books that I read recently that gave me more than I needed to put into them are The Long Tail and Freakonomics, and finally Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. I thought I’d do a quick review of both here (and see if anyone might buy them – click on the images to go to Amazon.co.uk).

The Long Tail
The Long TailThis is a really cool book. The basic premise is that you can make money in the margins through the wonderous world of the Interweb thing which has removed traditional economic barriers to sales success (location, inventory storage etc etc). Apart from the thinking involved, which is explained very clearly, one of the biggest boons to me was the links and pointers to useful on-line services that I can use to support a professional Association I’m involved with (the IAIDQ) which has a need to develop merchandising and other ‘products’ and have them shipped world wide while avoiding the cost and hassle of a product inventory in some volunteers garage in Boston while we need the T-shirts (or whatever) at a conference in London.

Amazon is an example of a good ‘Long tail’ success. Through its business model it derives a sizeable chunk of its sales and profits from the margins of its business – the niche interest books, cds and stuff. Amazon’s model has been to push that model into other markets other than books.

This book made me think about how I can make my web-presence work for me. It also made me think about how to develop a few ideas I have in an on-line context as well as providing me with immediately actionable ideas about how to use the long tail industries to help promote the IAIDQ.

Buy this book on Amazon by clicking on the picture above.

Freakonomics pictureWhere the Long Tail examines the infinite applicability of Pareto efficiency (read the book and that will make sense) Freakonmics examines the way in which we often assign root cause to things with out a sound evidentiary base. From why crime rates didn’t explode in the US in the 1990s to why drug dealers live at home, this book is a thought provoking romp through the fallacies of “conventional wisdom”. I like it because it shows the value of speaking with data – having actual statistics to back up your arguments as well as the impacts of jumping to conclusions about the real causes of any effect.

Well written and thought provoking, Freaknomics is a definite must buy for those of us looking at information in our daily jobs and trying to make sense of it all.

The Tipping Point
The Tipping PointAll of life is an accumulation of little things and eventually one little thing causes a situation to change dramatically. Be it the sudden popularity of a brand of shoe or the jump from a minor outbreak to a disease epidemic, everything comes down to a single tipping point. Read in conjunction with Freakonomics and The Long Tail, this book gives rounds out the macro implications of micro things – be they the small unit sales of niche books on Amazon (which add up to big money volumes simply because Amazon never runs out of room) or the impacts of seemingly unrelated issues on a chain of events (such as Roe vs Wade and the crime wave that never happened in Freakonomics).

Well written and thought provoking it makes one consider how the minor things you do (or don’t do) can have a snowballing effect.

Each of these books on their own has strengths and weaknesses (see the reviews on Amazon for some of those). However combining them together a cohesive view can be formed. We are living in interesting times where the ability of ‘the little guy’ to have an impact either through blogs and social networking etc as they feed a snowball effect of lots of little events in The Long Tail that reach a tipping point.

My advice – read all three.