Book Value

Cyber this

'Dot-com' mania yields books that help you jump -- or not -- into the frenzy

  • The 21st Century Entrepreneur, by Mike Powers (Hearst, 1999)
  • Clicking Through, by Jonathan Ezor (Bloomberg, 1999)
  • The Clickable Corporation, by Jonathan Rosenoer, Douglas Armstrong, and J. Russell Gates (Free Press, 1999)
  • Cyber Rules, by Thomas M. Siebel and Pat House (Doubleday/Currency, 1999)

So you thought it was tough trying to design a Web site for your business? Try wading through the plethora of how-to-do-a-Web-site-right guides. They all have a hint of quiet desperation, probably because it's so tough for slow-moving publishers to keep up with the lightning pace of the Internet. In the interactive want-to-have-it, got-to-have-it, zap-me-now world of the Web, yesterday's news is about as desirable as a portal to Palookaville.

The vast majority of the books now hitting the shelves are of the step-by-step, how-to variety. Take, for example, Mike Powers's The 21st Century Entrepreneur: How to Start a Business Website and Jonathan Ezor's Clicking Through: A Survival Guide for Bringing Your Company Online. Both offer lots of resources, tips, and practical advice on getting your Web site up and going. You won't be surprised by anything you read here, but if you want a detailed checklist of everything you'll need to know, from recording credit card information to finding a service that will host your site, it's in these books.

Of course, each author has his own set of priorities. Powers includes his picks of sample sites that are good to learn from. Ezor gives the URL of a site that lists the names of current and recalcitrant spammers.

Then there are the books that reach deeper into a business's relationship to the Web and commitment to E-commerce, including The Clickable Corporation: Successful Strategies for Capturing the Internet Advantage, written by three Arthur Andersen experts. Structured around the transformational powers of the Internet, it covers issues ranging from choice and information to customization and convenience. Although most of the companies profiled are large corporations, any reader will get the main point: the time for waiting is over, and to have a prayer of being competitive, you must blaze your own Internet trail now.

The best recent title -- one that really helps readers think about how the Web fits into an overall business strategy -- is Tom Siebel and Pat House's Cyber Rules: Strategies for Excelling at E-Business. The authors make a strong argument against the principle that "simply because the Web is there, you should jump to be a player." Yet if everybody is telling you to be on the Internet, they say, "that's an excellent reason to start investigating the possibilities."

Most of Cyber Rules is designed to help you decide if the Web is important to your business, and, if so, how. The authors' startlingly commonsense conclusion is that "in the networked future, as in the pen-and-ink past, only customer-oriented organizations will survive." The "rules" of the book's title are really observations that Siebel and House make about the future of the Web. The terrain is familiar, but their analyses of such common observations as "Internet pioneers will reshape their industries" are so astute and clearly written that if you don't yet understand how Jeff Bezos's has redefined the book industry, for example, you will after reading this work.