Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Age of the Infovore

Just read The Age of the Infovore by Tyler Cowen. I enjoy his blog very much but I was disappointed in the book. It's about how to thrive in what he calls the information economy.

It's poorly written - baggy, rather cliched and lacking clarity of expression at times. One of its major problems is that it sets out to explain how we should think about the digital economy through a couple of analogies that will be unfamiliar to most readers: autism and Buddhism (contemporary culture also happens to be like a marriage). Analogies are usually used to enlighten by translating the strange into the familiar. In this case the strange is being explained - very extensively - through comparison with the even stranger; there are too many moving parts. The lack of clarity of expression becomes an even more serious problem in these parts of the book.

Unfortunately, where it's not confusing its observations are mostly commonplace, wrong-headed or just bizarre. From a couple of pages chosen more or less at random (pp58-60), we learn that Shakespeare is losing out to the internet; that a Walmart store 'doesn't compare' to Mozart's Don Giovanni; that carrying around an iPod is preferable to carrying around a Caravaggio or Picasso in a pop-up box.

How and why do books like this get written?


zmkc said...

Because people who love reading are not in control of publishing any more? Instead, things are run by marketers who like to have concepts pitched at them rather than have good manuscripts to read?

Gaw said...

That sounds horribly likely.