An entertaining chronicle of creativity, luck, and unflagging perseverance.

THAT WILL NEVER WORK

THE BIRTH OF NETFLIX AND THE AMAZING LIFE OF AN IDEA

The rocky road from startup to colossal success.

Randolph, co-founder of Netflix, makes an engaging book debut with a candid memoir recounting the history of the company as it evolved “from dream to concept to shared reality.” After co-founding the magazine MacUser and working in direct marketing for a software giant, Randolph, eager to work for himself, had been coming up with new business concepts (e.g., personalized dog food) when he hit on the idea of renting videotapes. When his friend Reed Hastings, looking to fund a new company, expressed mild interest, Randolph gathered a dozen “brilliant, creative people” to see if the idea made sense financially. Videotapes, it turned out, were prohibitively expensive to mail, but the upcoming new technology of DVDs seemed viable. Inventing a name for the new company (NowShowing and CinemaCenter were possibilities) was the least of their problems: Only by contracting with Toshiba and Sony to offer free rentals with the purchase of a DVD player did they entice customers, but even then, sales of DVDs were stronger than rentals. For a few years, the company was “almost always on the razor’s edge between total success and total failure.” When individual rentals failed to put the company on secure footing, Randolph and his team came up with the idea of a monthly subscription service with no late fees, a move that proved popular. Yet even with 200,000 subscribers, Netflix still lost money and was forced to trim its staff; the layoffs, writes the author, were painful. Besides internal changes, the company looked for alliances with more successful enterprises, but a deal with Amazon (it would sell DVDs and steer customers to Netflix for rentals) collapsed and a hopeful bid for Blockbuster to buy Netflix fizzled. Elevating Hastings to CEO helped to lure investors, and after “years of work, thousands of hours of brainstorms, dire finances, and an impatient CEO,” Netflix went public in 2002. Now with 150 million subscribers, Netflix has morphed into a media behemoth.

An entertaining chronicle of creativity, luck, and unflagging perseverance.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-53020-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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