I'll say it right at the top. I found this book a fantastic read. I could hardly put it down. Why? Simply because it is the story of what happened in the very recent past, what is happening right now, and what will probably be happening in the future. About what? Well, about the way we purchase goods, use them to improve our lives, and our attitude toward the whole process of being a contemporary consumer. So, is this really important? You bet. The truth is, while many consider the consumer-culture as manifested today to be too "materialistic," and consider globalization -- the international market which is well on its way to fruition -- to be a decadent program of "exploitation" and "negative values," and, in general, to consider any "free market" economic policy to be the result of some conspiracy brought about by nasty "capitalists" -- there is one thing no one can deny. Most of us are living better lives than our ancestors, and for a longer time, and are enjoying the many benefits offered to us by a revolution in consumer technology. The technology? Why, the Internet, of course.
Daniel Nissanoff has written a valuable and most interesting book about the new "Auction Culture" and why and how it will revolutionize the way we buy, sell, and get the things we "really" want to have in order to improve our lives. In fact, much of that latter phraseology is the subtitle to his book entitled "FutureShop." Nissanoff is a man "in the know." An independent entrepreneur (in the true sense of that somewhat overused word), Nissanoff founded Partminer, one of the first successful online business-to-business exchanges and then, in 2004, founded Portero, a new online company which specializes in the resale of luxury goods and which is affiliated with that giant in the auction culture, good old eBay. Nissanoff's credentials in the area of Internet marketing are difficult to surpass.
If people had asked me ten years ago about my shopping practices, about how I went about purchasing those goods which I needed or wanted, I would have looked at them with some apprehension. What do you mean? I went into my little town or made a trip to the big city and went to a retail store and bought what I wanted. Or, maybe, sometimes, I bought some items from a mail-order catalog. That was about the limit of my (or anyone else's, for that matter) venture into consumerism. There wasn't, in most cases, a whole lot of choices for most people; some cities had large department stores and supermarkets, a lot did not. You were content with what was available (or maybe not).
Now we are all into a whole new (and vastly expanding) empire of Internet marketing, led by such gigantic merchandisers as Amazon.com and by selling and buying "facilitators" as eBay.com and its imitators. This is, in my humble opinion, a real modern "revolution" in marketing and Nissanoff tells the story and unveils the future prospects of where this revolution is going. We have, in his words, only "scratched the surface." There is more coming, lots more. He refers to this marketing phenomenon as the "auction culture," since many of us will not be as interested in permanently "owning" things, as in "using" them for a limited time and then selling them to someone else. It is in this way that many of us will be able to buy "luxury" goods, previously unaffordable to us, because we can resell them -- without a significant loss in our purchase price -- on the auction block, to someone else, who couldn't afford to purchase them new either. Talk about a win-win situation!
One of the really interesting chapters in Nissanoff's book (worth the price of the book itself!) is the story of eBay and how that website came into existence and developed. It was particularly interesting to me because eBay and the website with which I am associated (radicalacademy.com) sort of evolved in the same way, although eBay was online about two years before we were. The founder of eBay, Pierre Omidyar, actually began with a program called AuctionWeb, which was a hobby for him and he wasn't interested in making money. Our website, which went online in January of 1998, was a hobby for us and we weren't interested in making money online either. Of course, eBay eventually became the premier website for the "auction culture," generating millions in revenue with tens of millions of customers. Our website, on the other hand -- which offers information and resources about philosophy, politics, and the human condition -- had to settle for just over 18.7 million page-views in 2005 and a few hundred bucks a month. But those few bucks pay the bills so we can stay online. No complaining here.
According to Nissanoff, most of us will undergo a transformation in attitude and buying practice. Having been an "accumulation society" for so long -- where "permanent ownership" of a product was so important --, we will now become committed to the phenomenon of "temporary ownership," a culture where we buy the goods we most want, even at prices we haven't been able to afford, and then sell them for optimal resale value when we are ready to trade up to the next best thing. We will, in effect, be able to lease the good life by becoming part of the "auction culture." And websites such as eBay and its imitators, plus subsidiary websites and outlets functioning as authenticators, repackagers, and selling consultants, will be always available to help us take the journey through the developing Internet retail marketplace.
If you're really interested in the new ways in which we may be purchasing products we deem important or essential to living the "good life," and you are into the Internet way of doing things, I think you will enjoy this book and benefit from it. "FutureShop" is a great read from a knowledgeable author.