A genial guide to this brave new world of Napster and Netscape.




An economist describes and assesses for the lay reader the varieties of current e-market models and speculates about the future of e-commerce.

Hall (Economics/Stanford Univ.) knows the territory—and forecasts a bright future for it. A consultant to Napster, Apple, and Oracle, he lives comfortably in the e-world, speaks the language, understands its principles, and usually explains them so that even Internet tyros will comprehend. (Further evidence of Hall’s cyber-savvy: He has created a Web site featuring material to supplement his text.) Hall begins with a simple assertion: “In e-markets, people make deals.” He then proceeds to explain what he has identified as the six primary e-market models, using such familiar names as eBay, Amazon, Priceline, and Nasdaq to illustrate. Along the way, he explores some basic economic concepts—most prominently, what he calls the “zero-profit principle,” holding that new sellers will continue to enter an emerging e-market until the last one in stands to earn a profit of zero. There is a compelling chapter about on-line auctions (with prudent advice for eBay users and an explanation of how eBay has come to dominate the market), a dense discussion of Nasdaq, and an interesting assessment of online book-buying (books are almost always more expensive than at a bricks-and-mortar bookshop). Hall’s brief account of the recent Napster case is also intriguing. He argues that the music industry, by failing to protect itself against copying, has proved rather more intransigent than innovative. And he twice declares that Priceline teetered at the precipice of destruction when they attempted to supplement their profitable airline ticket business by entering the grocery, gasoline, and phone service arenas, where, says Hall, it didn’t belong. Hall includes numerous graphs and charts, most comprehensible, and he ends each chapter with a feature he calls “Takeaways”—bullet-lists of his main points, arrayed, one supposes, for harried businesspeople troubled by paragraphs and other indications of complexity.

A genial guide to this brave new world of Napster and Netscape.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-393-04210-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.


A well-constructed critique of an economic system that, by the author’s account, is a driver of the world’s destruction.

Harvard Business School professor Henderson vigorously questions the bromide that “management’s only duty is to maximize shareholder value,” a notion advanced by Milton Friedman and accepted uncritically in business schools ever since. By that logic, writes the author, there is no reason why corporations should not fish out the oceans, raise drug prices, militate against public education (since it costs tax money), and otherwise behave ruinously and anti-socially. Many do, even though an alternative theory of business organization argues that corporations and society should enjoy a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit, which includes corporate investment in what economists call public goods. Given that the history of humankind is “the story of our increasing ability to cooperate at larger and larger scales,” one would hope that in the face of environmental degradation and other threats, we might adopt the symbiotic model rather than the winner-take-all one. Problems abound, of course, including that of the “free rider,” the corporation that takes the benefits from collaborative agreements but does none of the work. Henderson examines case studies such as a large food company that emphasized environmentally responsible production and in turn built “purpose-led, sustainable living brands” and otherwise led the way in increasing shareholder value by reducing risk while building demand. The author argues that the “short-termism” that dominates corporate thinking needs to be adjusted to a longer view even though the larger problem might be better characterized as “failure of information.” Henderson closes with a set of prescriptions for bringing a more equitable economics to the personal level, one that, among other things, asks us to step outside routine—eat less meat, drive less—and become active in forcing corporations (and politicians) to be better citizens.

A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-3015-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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