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Author: Gayla Koerting
Title: Bruce Abramson's Digital Phoenix: Why the Information Economy Collapsed and How it Will Rise Again
Publication Info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
September 2005
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Source: Bruce Abramson's Digital Phoenix: Why the Information Economy Collapsed and How it Will Rise Again
Gayla Koerting


vol. 8, no. 2, September 2005
Article Type: Book Review
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.3310410.0008.212

Digital Phoenix: Why the Information Economy Collapsed and How it Will Rise Again

Gayla Koerting

The University of South Dakota (Vermillion, SD)

Abramson, Bruce. Digital Phoenix: Why the Information Economy Collapsed and How it Will Rise Again. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2005. xii + 361 p. $34.95

The accelerated growth of the Internet led to a boom by investors in dot.com companies in the early 1990s. Information became a commodity, but by the end of the decade, the economic bubble burst. Abramson, an attorney (Georgetown Univ.) with a doctorate in computer science (Columbia Univ.), examines the rise and fall of the information economy. He also addresses the future implications for business technology. The author contends that there are competing interest groups in the information world. There are those that advocate the open source movement (Linux) and encourage file sharing (Napster) to make information cheap versus those that want to protect proprietary rights (Microsoft) in order to ensure profits. These conflicting ideas cause intellectual property rights, economic conditions, and legislation to intersect. In essence, Abramson asserts IP policy does not work in conjunction with IP legislation.

Abramson contends that current IP laws keep obsolete business models in place which stifle technological innovation, especially with P2P (peer to peer) and open source software. Open source alternatives such as Linux break down technological barriers in order to make information accessible to consumers. On the other hand, the author explains the intricate nuances of how Microsoft confronted charges of violating antitrust laws. The author argues that Microsoft is a platform monopolist because the company created obstacles through a combination of marketing, product development, and business strategy to stave off competitors such as Netscape Navigator. Such actions caused consumers to be locked into their pricing structure. In another chapter entitled “The Computer Ate My Industry,” Abramson looks at the case by the music industry against Napster. Napster was able to by pass technological barriers for an easy distribution of music by connecting desktop computers in P2P networks. The author’s main point is that Congress must reform IP laws that are increasingly draconian in nature. Companies should be able to protect copyright claims, but must be encouraged to promote innovation and foster competition in the information sector. Abramson believes that the information economy will thrive again to empower individuals to make informed choices. However, he explains that it is vital that new business management models must effectively merge human labor with the information economy over the next two decades.

Abramson is a very good writer; he is able to explain complex theories and terminology in a manner that all readers can understand. This book is highly recommended reading for librarians, economists, and information professionals.