This is the week the reviews should start coming out. I'll quote from some of the longer ones in the maintream press as well as some of my favourite blog reviews. First, the current New Yorker has a long review by economics writer John Cassidy. It's largely positive, but argues that the trend towards niches has been underway for a long time:
All this is snappily argued and thought-provoking, if not quite as original as Anderson’s publishers would have us believe. Back in 1980, another futurologist, Alvin Toffler, anticipated the “de-massifying” of society in his best-selling book “The Third Wave” (Bantam; $7.99), which is still in print. “The Second Wave Society is industrial and based on mass production, mass distribution, mass consumption, mass education, mass media, mass recreation and entertainment,” Toffler said in a 1999 interview. But no longer: “The era of mass society is over. . . . No more mass production. No more mass consumption. . . . No more mass entertainment.”
The real novelty of Anderson’s book is not his thesis but its representation in the form of a neat, readily graspable picture: the long-tail curve. For decades, economists and scientists have been using this graph, which is formally known as a power-law distribution, to describe things like the distribution of wealth or the relative size of cities. By applying the long tail to the online world, Anderson brings intellectual order to what often looks like pointless activity. The teen-ager who spends his weekends updating a blog that nobody reads and shooting silly videos to post on YouTube.com? He is, as Anderson’s chapter on “The New Producers” tells us, a valiant citizen of the long tail.
Read the whole thing here.
And to give equal weighting to the Long Tail of book reviews, here's blogger Paul McEnany:
The real power in this book is more from a cultural standpoint, rather than a purely economic one. As we see companies like Netflix, Amazon, Itunes, etc. extend the tail further and further, the hits get less impactful. As the tail gets longer, the tools of production get less expensive, and the filters that help us seach the tail get better, we can see this shift happening.
It's happening on our television sets, our computers, our supermarkets, and our theaters. As the Internet grows, it allows us to have, as Chris says "the Paradise of Choice" and the means by which to find the things that interest us most, no matter the producer. It's an increasingly decentralized version of the media power structure that's falling apart today. As Chris puts it:
"Every time a new technology enables more choice, whether it's the VCR or the Internet, consumers clamor for it. Choice is simply what we want and, apparently, what we've always wanted."
This is a must read for anyone proclaiming the successes of new media, and both technically and rhetorically brings to light how we have been and will be affected by our new digital landscape, and the explosion of the niche.