New economy books arrive on my desk as frequently as commuter trains pull into Penn Station. Theyre preview copies or first-bound editions aching for public review. Until a few months ago, many dwelled on how the Internet has transformed society. How-to-get-rich schemes by standing in the right spot at the right time were standard fare, too.
Please refrain from sending any more books essentially titled "How to Be Dumber Than a Post and Get Rich at the Same Time—All Before Youre 20." Ive got a bookcase at home brimming with the shiniest-looking hot-damn business titles for loan to anyone whose eye they catch. Amazingly, the only one taken recently was a 10-year-old book by management and organizational guru Rosabeth M. Kantor.
I grabbed three from my desk to test if you really can judge a book by its cover and by reading its last page. Here goes:
"Pride Before the Fall," by John Heilemann, a former staff writer at The New Yorker and The Economist, chronicles the "end of the Microsoft era." The book asks why the government pursued Bill Gates—not exactly a mystery to anyone who cares—and why Microsoft finds itself in such a "weakened, vulnerable" condition.
This is nonsense. PC sales may be down, but we all still use Windows, and well probably all use Whistler, too. Linux hasnt made huge inroads onto the desktop. Microsoft has $24 billion in cash and is still reporting strong numbers, and Microsoft ally Dubya is ensconced in the White House. Worse, this is the umpteenth book on Gates and Microsoft. This one, whose last line— "For the wreckage of the trial revealed Gates was mortal"—belabors the obvious, at this moment is on the fast track to the freebie table at work.
"How to Hack a Party Line, the Democrats in Silicon Valley" looks intriguing. First, as many of you irritatingly know, Im a Dem all the way. The jacket reads: "In this wickedly funny and often disturbing tale of power, [author] Sara Miles introduces us to a clique of successful geeks, unschooled in politics, and the political operatives who saw their potential." Most disturbing is Miles use of "wickedly funny," suggesting stylistic snobbery. If she had a clue, shed know its "wicked funny."
"Entrepreneur America," by Ascend Communications founder Bob Ryan, has a strike against it simply by being a business book.
Their authors are often dry and way too serious. Worse, this book has lots of org charts, slides and spreadsheets. But it redeems itself with the chapter "Peeing in the Wells."
The last line of the book reads, "... If you have guts and brains, youre going to make it." Ryans optimistic tone is irresistible. "Guts" is a great word and an even better human trait—in the same league as "Old Blood n Guts" and "guts and glory."
Speaking of shilling, make sure you check out www.ZCast.tv, the new streaming media technology news channel from Ziff Davis Media. Its real as of today. More on this next week.