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Digital Phoenix: Why the Information Economy Collapsed and How It Will Rise Again [Paperback]

Bruce Abramson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

22 Sep 2006
While we were waiting for the Internet to make us rich - back when we thought all we had to do was to buy lottery tickets called dotcom shares - we missed the real story of the information economy. That story, says Bruce Abramson in Digital Phoenix, took place at the intersection of technology, law, and economics. It unfolded through Microsoft's manipulation of software markets, through open source projects like Linux, and through the file-sharing adventures that Napster enabled. Linux and Napster in particular exploited newly enabled business models to make information sharing cheap and easy; both systems met strong opposition from entrenched interests intent on preserving their own profits. These scenarios set the stage for the future of the information economy, a future in which each new technology will threaten powerful incumbents - who will, in turn, fight to retard this "dangerous new direction" of progress. Disentangling the technological, legal, and economic threads of the story, Abramson argues that the key to the entire information economy - understanding the past and preparing for the future - lies in our approach to intellectual property and idea markets. The critical challenge of the information age, he says, is to motivate the creation and dissemination of ideas. After discussing relevant issues in intellectual property and antitrust law, the economics of competition, and artificial intelligence and software engineering, Abramson tells the information economy's formative histories: the Microsoft antitrust trial, the open-source movement, and (in a chapter called "The Computer Ate My Industry") the advent of digital music. Finally, he looks toward the future, examining some ways that intellectual property reform could power economic growth and showing how the information economy will reshape the ways we think about business, employment, society, and public policy - how the information economy, in fact, c

Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press; New Ed edition (22 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262511967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262511964
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 15.3 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,865,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Abramson gives an intricate but lucid and engaging account of these controversies, illuminating the interplay of copyright and patent law, technology and marketing. He makes a case both for the government's role in policing abuses of intellectual property rights Microsoft, he believes, is indeed a monopolistand for a relaxed intellectual property regime that fosters competition and innovation." Publishers Weekly "A compelling explanation of the forces that produced the 1990s technology boom and bust." Choice

About the Author

Bruce Abramson received a Ph.D. in computer science from Columbia University and a law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center. He has held positions with the faculties of the University of Southern California and Carnegie Mellon. His consulting and legal practice, based in Washington, D.C., focuses on issues related to the digital economy. Abramson is also the author of The Informationist blog, which chronicles "life during the transition from industrial age to information age."

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful 5 Jan 2008
This is a masterful summary of many of the key recent episodes in the Information Economy - including the crash of the dot com bubble but the overall significant growth in value (to consumers) of the Information Economy. The author, unusually, seems fully at home in all three of the disciplines of computer science, IP law, and economics. That gives his comments real authority.

The book contains probably the best summary I've read of Microsoft's legal battles - and makes it clear why, with the present US laws, Microsoft is rational (and can be expected) to continue to seek to extend its market domination to adjacent industries, to the overall detriment of innovation and the consumer. The book also places Microsoft's behaviour (both the good and the bad) in a great theoretical perspective.

The author warns that entrenched interests (usually the current intermediaries and power brokers) will inevitably fight against the full economic benefits of new technologies, and he urges that governments seize the tough challenge of modifying legal frameworks to ensure that these full benefits have a proper chance of being realised, notwithstanding all the huffing and puffing from the entrenched interests. It would be interesting to see these ideas applied to the role that network operators currently seem to have as a blockage to certain kinds of mobile application innovation.

The epilogue ends the book by taking the main ideas of the book one step further, into the political arena, considering terrorism and totalitarianism. It's refreshing as well as educational, and shows real grounds of optimism - hence is well worth reading.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
It's hard finding a text for a university-level economics course on the internet economy. There is a choice. One one hand, there are relatively technical texts with mathematical modelling (such as Shy's excellent Economics of Network Industries) but short on examples and up-to-date cases. On the other, there are management-style books that have plenty of examples and lists like "here's five generic strategies" without the sufficient theoretical basis or frameworking that makes economics so powerful. Shapiro and Varian's uneven Information Rules paradoxically (given the status of the authors) falls into that category. Abramson has the best of both worlds. He's up to date, uses what's powerful about economics without going overboard technically.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for anyone in the Information Economy 7 Jun 2005
By Babkah - Published on
Finally, a book that explains what happened and where we're going. Abramson provides a lucid framework for understanding the dynamics of the information economy--a virtual theory of everything. Innovation isn't enough; bubble's are normal; a regulatory and legal framework is necessary for consistent advancement; most important, the choices we make now as a society will affect the direction and growth of the information economy. Read this book--then everything else you read about about the technology, law and economics of the information economy will make sense.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Crash Course in the Information Age 4 Aug 2005
By Communications Prof - Published on
Abramson is the ultimate story teller. This collection of essays provides a multi-disciplinary foundation to understanding how we became global citizens of the Information Age. Whether your interest lies in law, economics, politics or computer science, you will find the time invested in the book very worthwhile. Read it once for an overview; read it again to become truly knowledgeable. Keep it at hand as a reference.
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great storytelling 17 May 2005
By Critical Reader - Published on
Don't be scared...this is MIT press, but popular writing. Abramson nails it: why it happened, what's apt to happen in the future. But most of all, this is a great read--the stories are told with such panache that you hardly realize that you are tackling cutting edge issues in law, economics and, yes, politics. Worthy of reading twice: once for the stories, once for the underlying arguments.
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