Top critical review
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Big subject, flat delivery
on 3 October 2012
I was really looking forward to this book as the subject is red hot. I am a believer - this really is a world changing time, akin to the coming of the web twenty years ago. However, as with so many American books of this type, the hype does not live up to the delivery.
Chris Anderson is certainly well connected and in the right space to write about this subject. He is good at seizing the zeitgeist and carving out space in it. This time, however, he seeems strangely flat about the whole thing. For sure, he's got a personal stake in using the new technologies for a startup (he owns an electronics startup), and he there are several things coming together in this space that cry out for deeper analysis. But that, perhaps, is where this book falls down. Rather than dive deep into the issue, problems, opportunities and ramifications, Anderson skates across the surface in a hodge podge of chapters that never really get to the nub of anything. Maybe this is an American problem (and note this book was published in the UK before the US) - talking down to an audience that is not assumed to have much knowledge of anything. Or maybe it is an attempt to write a mass market book. Whatever, the book skates across the surface.
A shallow review of the original UK (Manchester) based industrial revolution (which will be so familiar to anyone who went through school in the UK in years gone by), a visit to a FabLab in Manchester, some meandering about bits and atoms, 3D printers, laser cutters, crossover into the network effect, marketplaces such as Etsy, the potential of crowd sourced and crowd funded startups. Some funny moments. And then - he dives into things like bio printers, which are the realms of fantasy so far. And then the book is done. It might take you a day or so to read.
There really isn't much you would learn from this that a steady perusal of various blogs and company sites on the subjects wouldn't teach you - and you'd be more up to date. What I looked for was the evangelical zeal, the white-hot moments where you find yourself nodding along with your heart beating, confident that you were looking directly into the future. In this book it's all a bit more ho-hum, as if Anderson knows he has to keep on spotting the future while he's actually lost much interest in it.