Highly recommended: The World is Flat

Highly recommended: The World is Flat

: I’m only a third of the way through Tom Friedman‘s new book, The World is Flat, but I have no hesitation in recommending it highly, even urgently. In fact, I bought it twice: on old, dead paper and on my iPod so I could use my commute to gobble it up faster.

What’s surprising about the book is how tech-savvy it is. Friedman shows the respect and curiosity of a true journalist in understanding the world-flattening significance of open-source software, of technology that enables outsourcing, of citizens’ media. And on that topic, yes, he reads and quotes blogs and bloggers. He says he has not read the paper version of The Times, his paper, in two years. He says news should be free and so he won’t pay for The Wall Street Journal Online. But he’s also honest enough to admit that he’s not crazy about Amazon selling used copies of his books.

Well, Tom, here’s a suggestion: Take giant swaths of your book and put them up online — using Dan Gillmor and Cory Doctorow as your models — and I guarantee that you will find your theses and writing and name spread farther faster than the best damned publishing PR campaign in the world. And you’ll sell more books (and audio downloads).

That is especially true of this book, for it speaks to the very online audience that is finding new ways to flatten this world of ours.

But don’t wait for Friedman and his publisher to wake up and put the book online. Don’t wait to buy a used copy off of Amazon. Go buy the book now. You’ll thank me for the advice. (And I’ll tell you if I change my mind after the next two-thirds.)

  • …available now for download on audible.com
    I also highly recommend.

  • James

    Funny. I thought the review in the NYPress was bloody brilliant.
    This would be a small thing were it not for the overall pattern. Thomas Friedman does not get these things right even by accident. It’s not that he occasionally screws up and fails to make his metaphors and images agree. It’s that he always screws it up. He has an anti-ear, and it’s absolutely infallible; he is a Joyce or a Flaubert in reverse, incapable of rendering even the smallest details without genius. The difference between Friedman and an ordinary bad writer is that an ordinary bad writer will, say, call some businessman a shark and have him say some tired, uninspired piece of dialogue: Friedman will have him spout it. And that’s guaranteed, every single time. He never misses.
    On an ideological level, Friedman’s new book is the worst, most boring kind of middlebrow horseshit. If its literary peculiarities could somehow be removed from the equation, The World Is Flat would appear as no more than an unusually long pamphlet replete with the kind of plug-filled, free-trader leg-humping that passes for thought in this country. It is a tale of a man who walks 10 feet in front of his house armed with a late-model Blackberry and comes back home five minutes later to gush to his wife that hospitals now use the internet to outsource the reading of CAT scans. Man flies on planes, observes the wonders of capitalism, says we’re not in Kansas anymore. (He actually says we’re not in Kansas anymore.) That’s the whole plot right there.
    Pure gold.

  • Well, that’s what make the world go round.

  • Matt Taibi hates it? That’s a recommendation right there.

  • jim Colby

    He was on NPR this morning with Diann Rehm, he had her hanging off every word during the interview. She definitely was overwhelmed by his story about discovery in India.

  • Christy

    I heard the Diann Rehm interview yesterday, and I thought he was just awful — repetitive, condescending, pedantic — full of buzzwords and soundbytes but no really interesting content, and did I mention condescending (especially with the callers)? And I usually think that Diann Rehm draws people out quite well. I’m glad to have read the reviews, since the book sounds good. Based on the interview alone I would have completely skipped it. His publicist needs to work with him.

  • You take Taibbi seriously? Wow, that makes one of us.

  • Cal

    The greatest book review ever. And I care not if he is right or wrong! Pure gold indeed.

  • Angelos

    I don’t care who’s side you’re on, Taibbi or Friedman, that is the most laugh-out-loud book review I’ve ever read.
    A total destruction.
    And the man has a point. You read one Friedman column, you’ve read them all. Didn’t I see a Friedman Column Generator floating around a couple months ago? Boring, repetitive, trite. And I’m going to read 500 pages of his BS?
    This was my favorite passage:
    It’s impossible to divorce The World Is Flat from its rhetorical approach. It’s not for nothing that Thomas Friedman is called “the most important columnist in America today.” That it’s Friedman’s own colleague at the New York Times (Walter Russell Mead) calling him this, on the back of Friedman’s own book, is immaterial. Friedman is an important American. He is the perfect symbol of our culture of emboldened stupidity. Like George Bush, he’s in the reality-making business. In the new flat world, argument is no longer a two-way street for people like the president and the country’s most important columnist. You no longer have to worry about actually convincing anyone; the process ends when you make the case.
    Things are true because you say they are. The only thing that matters is how sure you sound when you say it. In politics, this allows America to invade a castrated Iraq in self-defense. In the intellectual world, Friedman is now probing the outer limits of this trick’s potential, and it’s absolutely perfect, a stroke of genius, that he’s choosing to argue that the world is flat. The only thing that would have been better would be if he had chosen to argue that the moon was made of cheese.

  • John

    This country is ultimately directed by the average person, not by intelligensia (as evidenced in 2004). There is a great need for someone who can bring the “news ” to the average Joe, as well as the average media. Friedman, who is a journalist who has no pretensions to being a great literary talent, serves this role.
    If some of the recent posters would spend more time bringing ideas to the masses and less time in online intellectual sex, the world would be a better place.