Do you really want amateurs interfering in your own profession? When the poop hits the prop you probably don't. There is a place for amateurism and a place for professionalism, but they shouldn't be mixed too freely.
In my Central European travels I recall Polish museums exhibiting a panoply of pamphlets from people's underground printing presses. During the Solidarity era these helped to undermine and finally to dismantle the Iron Curtain. This show of expression proves how circumventing the establishment can be an urgently necessary thing to do. Often though these presses were manned not by amateurs but by professionals - forced underground by totalitarian insanity.
This book suggests that we need to foster a healthy establishment to complement our latest people's press, the Web. After all we don't want our own institutions to go the way of Brezhnev's and Jaruzelski's.
Before we proceed, some etymology:
Cult-> cultus -> to tend or take care.
Amateur -> amor -> love
[source: Dispatches from Blogistan: A Travel Guide for the Modern Blogger (Voices That Matter)
Yet, before we get too gushy, lets not forget that there's plenty of destruction and hate on the Web too.
Like any polemic this one should not be swallowed whole. Yes I regret every record and book shop killed off by Amazon and iTunes. In this and other specifics the book preaches to the converted. However it does not give due credit to the sheer energy in amateur circles such as those enabled by the Web. After all, any professional was once an amateur. For example Punk's D.I.Y. ethic put a firecracker up the backside of the musical establishment, but subsequently was assimilated by that establishment, re-energizing it in the process. The Web will continue to be a place where authors, musicians, filmmakers (etc) find their feet before they move on to prove themselves in the wider world (The Arctic Monkeys headlining at Glastonbury springs to mind).
However, for all the dynamism in amateur circles, it is counter-productive to build a cult around amateurism. Andrew Keen is right - it is wrong to preach that amateur content will supersede all that has preceded it. In this vein Keen criticizes Wikipedia's model of hive intelligence, and recommends Citizendium instead. In my arbitrary test neither encyclopedia was perfect; both still need uncyclopedia to leaven the mix. Long-term perhaps we will see the mighty institution of Wikipedia assimilate Citizendium's ideas - a webosphere instance of this book's argument of the need for stable institutions.
And we in turn, as social individuals, need to learn how to assimilate the web, rather than vice versa. To avoid becoming locked into poor web design models we will benefit from a plurality of web models and from books such as this one that fertilise the debate.
It is hard to dispute the author's central argument that we need a healthy professional establishment with its quality control and rule of law. We should not blot out the hard won lessons of our past. Regarding this constant need to maintain a realistic outlook, Gordon Brown's quote that technologies like Twitter would mean that "You cannot have Rwanda again" comes to mind. Gordon should Tweet that to people in Sudan, Northern Sri Lanka, Somalia, Iraq.
Keen argues that we need professional editors and campaigning journalists who have skin in the game, i.e they might be sued. Alternatively you might argue that through this book the publishing industry kills two birds with one stone: egging on a technologically savvy author to provide them with profitable product while simultaneously bolstering their cause. While there may be some truth in this it is also true that the publishers should be rewarded for bringing this illuminating read to market. Book length studies are necessary to make sense of things.
Unfortunately I am in danger of making a cult of The Cult Of The Amateur. After all plenty of specialists benefit from mainstream Web tools to write expert content. Ultimately though the book delivers a professional hit job on the Web's lazy establishment bashing. Worth a read.