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Digital Business
Ray Hammond

Digital Business
Ray Hammond
Hodder & Stoughton
London 1996

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UK Edition: Amazon.co.uk

Book publishers on the whole have so far failed to understand the Internet, something which is rooted in their initial suspicion of the new media and its implications for the book. Perhaps as a direct result of this failure, the last couple of years have seen a steady stream of volumes about the Internet which have ranged from the ill-informed to the laughably pretentious and all the way back again – but entirely skipping the bit where someone says something remotely intelligent or interesting. Ray Hammond’s Digital Business goes some way towards redressing this situation, and his method is quite simple: he describes the business potential of the Internet – and other networks – from a perspective which embraces most or all of the now traditional values of experienced Internet users. Privacy is good, open standards is good, the free flow of information is good, the distributed organisation is good, the nation state is bad, borders are bad, censorship is bad. Etc.

There’s not a whole lot of news in this book for experienced Internet users – you don’t need to have been around for too long to know about burning issues like encryption, the changing shape of copyright, and so on – but for non-users or new users of the Internet, Digital Business serves as an excellent primer to many of the most important issues of the last couple of years and has some sound analysis along the way. There are interesting sections on pornography (Hammond sees it as one of the prime drivers of the Internet’s nascent economy), digital money, the philosophy behind the best web sites and so on, all of this presented in a simple and unpretentious way.

The book is supported by a cd rom and a web site where, apparently, the text of the book is available for free along with all the hyperlinks referred to in the volume edition. Irritatingly if you have no cd rom drive and a lowish tolerance for giving away personal information to people you’ve never met before, the dozens of interesting looking links in the book do not come with URLs, and you need to register at the web site to reach them there. This is presumably out of a reasonable fear that they would soon be outdated, but it would be nice to see them freely accessible from the web site instead of tucked away behind password protection as they are.

Inevitably some of the information in the volume edition is already out of date, you can certainly take issue with Hammond’s faith in trusting credit card details to "secure" servers, and most of all with his tendency to puff his own work by quoting ad nauseam from his own earlier books on the subject. These details aside, this book is well-worth chucking at your boss if he or she hasn’t quite got things yet, and even for experienced Internet users it makes a useful, if pricey, compendium.

Reviewed by Steven Kelly


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