Blown to Bits (Evans & Wurster)

By , December 28, 1999

(December 28, 1999) You must read this book, “Blown to Bits.”

I rarely recommend books to others.

Books are personal (like music and art films, it’s difficult to predict whether others will find your favorite book as life-altering as you did).

In the fall of 1998, I made an exception, and I strongly recommended that anyone planning to launch a web site business should absolutely, positively read the poorly-named (by Jaclyn Easton).  That book offered no “unique insight,” but it did provide an extraordinarily well-written, engaging, and candid discussion of 23 “successful” website businesses (an updated paperback version is due in February 2000). was so well-written and captured so many ideas about creating new businesses on the internet, that I wrote: “This book should be required reading before launching a web-based business.”

Several weeks ago, a fellow Rotarian (Ron Rel of Foglight Software) enthusiastically recommended the book Blown to Bits by Philip Evans and Thomas S. Wurster.  I finally bought the book last week.

These guys actually get it. And thanks to this book, I feel as if I might just “get it,” too — I thank Evans & Wurster for helping me to finally understand some business practices that I have wrongly ridiculed  (as well as some other strategies that I have rightly ridiculed, but for some wrong reasons).

I now add Blown to Bits to my list of books that should be “required reading.” This time it’s not just for people starting web businesses: anyone planning to operate a business (online or offline) must read this book.  I don’t care if you have a degree in economics, or if you have been president of a retail chain for fifteen years, nor if you have read and re-read both of the “internet economy” books co-authored by John Hagel (Net Gain , about community,” and Net Worth, about “infomediaries”).  You must read Blown to Bits.

Blown to Bits is very well-written, especially when compared to Hagel & Armstrong’s Net Worth (which offers a harder-to-read and often quite different perspective on the same issues).  Blown to Bits is a book every business owner or manager should read.  I think Net Worth and Net Gain are only required reading for the most zealous netrepreneurs and those seeking to learn the strange internet vocabulary and grammar used by investment bankers and venture capitalists.

The authors of Blown to Bits are less prone than many internet-economy authors to making sweeping claims.  They readily acknowledge that one of the key features of the new economy is that even the most successful new player might actually still fail to make a profit, and remains vulnerable to other, newer players as well as retrenchment and new strategies from old competitors.

It’s hard for me to explain what the book is about: like the Rotarian who recommended it to me, I find that any words I use in recommending it seem inadequate.  (And although I think it’s well-written, it is definitely not a “quick read” — don’t try to read the whole thing on an airplane trip or even a long weekend. Sections that seem repetitive when skimmed, will prove more complex and nuanced when absorbed properly.)

At its simplest, Blown to Bits explains why so many of the new internet businesses are eschewing profits in favor of “eyeballs” and “relationships.”  It explains why that can make sense, while acknowledging that it could also result in a complete bust for the new players (and perhaps the old competitors also).

Stop reading my review.  Don’t waste your time reading reviews. Instead, buy Blown to Bits and read it, and when you are done, you will probably “get it,”  or at least you will have a better understanding of how the “New Economy” might work.

Mark J. Welch

Disclaimer: The book links to are affiliate links (paid advertising).

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