Category: Book Reviews

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Great Name But Is It a Great Product? Thoughts on Amazon’s Kindle

library 2.JPGJeff Bezos is an impressive manager. The recent Harvard Business Review interview with him, The Institutional Yes: The HBR Interview with Jeff Bezos, (payment required) shows someone offering real insight about how innovation functions at his company. So when I saw that Newsweek had an article detailing Bezos’s latest take on books, I had to read it. The product is called the Kindle, and it is supposed to be the latest reason to think digital books will replace analog ones. One possibility of the new technology is that books will continually evolve as authors change their mind or update a text. This idea brings images of revisionist Greedo shootings; more on that later. Now back to the Kindle.

First Kindle is a great name. It evokes images of fire and light which seem to travel with thought and creativity (the Newsweek article suggests that was the idea behind the name). Plus for me it reminds me of spindle which has several different practical and quite useful contexts. Second, as opposed to Sony’s eReader, the Kindle seems more useful. Both use E Ink but the Kindle does much more than the eReader. One thing that stopped me from buying the eReader was that one could not mark the text. In addition, the Kindle allows one to change font size and search within the book. The search within the text feature could be great. Sometimes when I want to find a cite or know a passage exists but not its exact location Amazon’s search the book feature is most useful. Having the same ability for my library would be even better. Perhaps the most revolutionary idea is the wireless aspect of the Kindle. Now one can read a book and enjoy what Amazon calls its service. The upside of this service could be finding related information or having easy ways to look up a definition while reading. One option was that one might even annotate a book highlighting both accurate or inaccurate aspects of it (the article notes the idea of a Coulter book annotated for misstatements). As Gizmodo points out, however, the Kindle poses some problems as far as format and cost go (apparently the Kindle does not easily support pdf, doc, rtf, etc.).

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Responses to Blog Reviews of The Future of Reputation: Part II

Cover 4 120 x 176.jpgThis post responds to more reviews of my new book, The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet (Yale University Press, Oct. 2007). I posted Part I of my responses to reviews here. This is Part II.

1. Susan Cartier Liebel at Build A Solo Practice

Susan Cartier Liebel, a lawyer who started her own law firm and now works as a consultant on developing a law practice, reviewed The Future of Reputation in her blog Build A Solo Practice, LLC. In her review, she writes:

[A]nyone who uses the internet in any way shape or form, blogging, YouTube videos, social media and all sharing of information in digitized form needs to read this book. And even if you don’t use the internet, you can still be a victim of another’s use of the internet to invade what you believe is private. . . .

There are no clear cut answers although the author poses some interesting thoughts. It is a book sure to stimulate serious debate amongst layperson and lawyer alike. But in the end we are responsible for ourselves and our uses of the internet. With every action taken we self-define free speech and privacy. I highly recommend this book.

I am delighted by Susan’s thoughtful review of my book.

2. Bram Strochlick at Harvard Crimson

Bram Strochlick at the Harvard Crimson wrote a very nice review of the book. He was not part of my free-review-copies-for-bloggers experiment, but I can’t resist quoting briefly from his review:

Rather than simply warning readers about possible scenarios, Solove shows first-hand the lives that have been ruined, combining descriptions of the original events with verbatim reproductions of comments posted by various bloggers throughout the Web. . . .

Solove’s crisp and refreshing writing strays from the ponderous tone many writers take when criticizing the Internet, achieving a balance of humor and levity that keeps the pages turning and demonstrates a real understanding of and engagement with the youthful Internet culture he analyzes. Another key strength is the unassuming nature of the author’s prose; one does not have to be at all familiar with how the Internet works or what the current laws regarding Internet usage entail to fully enjoy this often saddening chronicle of lives destroyed by virtual gossip.

My goal was to write a widely-accessible book, and I’m quite pleased that Bram believed I succeeded.

I have little more to say about Susan and Bram’s reviews. The lesson I learned from clerking on federal district court was that if the judge indicates strong agreement with an attorney’s argument, then it’s generally best for that attorney to shut up before the judge changes his or her mind.

3. Amber Taylor at Prettier than Napoleon

To counterbalance the two reviews above is this review from Amber Taylor, a Harvard-educated lawyer who describes herself as a “small-l libertarian.” Having read Amber’s blog, Prettier Than Napoleon, I knew that she would vehemently disagree with my arguments in the book. And she did not disappoint. I found her review to be quite good and thought-provoking. I don’t mind disagreement as long as it is smart and interesting — which Amber’s perspective is. She begins:

If the reader does not accept certain first principles (and I do not), Solove’s analysis will not be persuasive nor his recommendations appealing. This book does, however, provide an excellent summary of the internet’s effect on personal information distribution and reputations.

Amber first critiques my suggestion that the law better empower people to have defamatory or privacy-invasive information taken down from websites:

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Responses to Blog Reviews of The Future of Reputation: Part I

Cover 4 120 x 176.jpgA few weeks ago, I offered free review copies of my book, The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet (Yale University Press, Oct. 2007) to bloggers who would agree to write a review of the book. A few reviews have now come in, and they are quite thoughtful and interesting. Many engage with the book at a more substantive level than the typical mainstream media reviews, and I’d like to discuss and respond to some of them.

1. David Giacalone at f/k/a

David Giacalone,a lawyer, haiku writer, and former FTC official, has written two posts about The Future of Reputation at his blog f/k/a. His first post, a prelude to his review, is a fascinating etymology on the word “gossip”:

If you click on Dictionary.com, you’ll see the many meanings of the word gossip. . . . The first three meanings were expected. But #3 and #4 were surprising. A gossip is “a close friend or companion,” and in Britain the term is sometimes used to denote one’s godparent. . . . Similarly, Wiktionary explained, “From Old English godsibb, where it meant “godparent”. Later it came to mean a person who is your friend or companion. Since friends do a lot of talking the modern meaning of ‘idle talking’ has stuck.” . . . . So, “a gossip” went from being a friend you would choose to serve as godparent to your child to “A person who habitually spreads intimate or private rumors or facts.”

In his second post, he reviews my book. David writes:

The Future of Reputation brings together the themes in useful and interesting ways, showing important connections and ramifications, and making me want to talk about them with friends (and foes) and to find solutions to the problems he raises. . . .

This book is the perfect playground and mosh pit for guys and gals who enjoy designing or critiquing statutory (or common law) legal solutions to important societal problems. Dan Solove has suggested an ample variety of potential legal changes (with lots of details both offered and lacking) to keep the wonks up late at night debating the proposals — talking them out, fleshing them out, or throwing them out. Of course, law students and professors, lawyers and legislative staffers, come readily to mind. But, you don’t need a law degree to be intrigued by the proposals in The Future of Reputation, and to have a contribution to make in the discussion this book should inspire and provoke.

David’s review isn’t without some thoughtful criticism of my book:

Dan speaks of wanting the law to “cast a wider net, yet have a less painful bite,” and of using the law to shape norms rather than imposing direct prohibitions. But, laws that create wider nets of responsibility and impose new restrictions are unlikely to be effective if their “bite” doesn’t draw some blood or leave a scar. Likewise, new norms usually only make an impression and change behavior when there is a genuine downside to ignoring their prescriptions and proscriptions.

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Christopher Slobogin’s Privacy at Risk

slobogin.jpgProfessor Christopher Slobogin (University of Florida College of Law) has just published Privacy at Risk: The New Government Surveillance and the Fourth Amendment (U. Chicago Press, Nov. 1, 2007). According to the book description:

Without our consent and often without our knowledge, the government can constantly monitor many of our daily activities, using closed circuit TV, global positioning systems, and a wide array of other sophisticated technologies. With just a few keystrokes, records containing our financial information, phone and e-mail logs, and sometimes even our medical histories can be readily accessed by law enforcement officials. As Christopher Slobogin explains in Privacy at Risk, these intrusive acts of surveillance are subject to very little regulation.

Applying the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures, Slobogin argues that courts should prod legislatures into enacting more meaningful protection against government overreaching. In setting forth a comprehensive framework meant to preserve rights guaranteed by the Constitution without compromising the government’s ability to investigate criminal acts, Slobogin offers a balanced regulatory regime that should intrigue everyone concerned about privacy rights in the digital age.

I wrote a blurb for the book. Here’s what I wrote:

Privacy at Risk is a thoughtful examination of how new surveillance technologies are allowing the government to subvert the basic constitutional principles underpinning the Fourth Amendment. It is a very fine book—one that is timely, interesting, and of essential importance in light of current events. With clarity and depth, Slobogin sets forth a comprehensive and sophisticated vision for how to reinvigorate the Fourth Amendment. His book is a must-read for anybody concerned about establishing an appropriate balance between government surveillance and privacy.

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Book Signing for The Future of Reputation in Washington, DC

Cover 4 120 x 176.jpgToday, I will be discussing and signing my book, The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet (Yale University Press, Oct. 2007) in Washington, DC.

Borders Bookstore

18th & L, Washington, DC

Monday, November 5th, at 6:30 PM

Please feel free to stop by just for the discussion or signing or both.

Here is a story about the book in today’s Washington Post Express.

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Belle Lettre on The Future of Reputation

Belle Lettre, the pseudonymous blogger at Law & Letters, has posted a very thoughtful and interesting review of my book, The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet. It is unlike most reviews that typically summarize ideas in the book and quickly react; Belle Lettre has really engaged the issues and arguments of the book at an intellectual and personal level. She also has interesting musings about blogging pseudonymously, shaming, privacy, sharing personal information, and more. From the review:

One of Solove’s take-away points is that privacy is fluid: we might violate our own privacy all the time to our friends, but we are appalled when strangers know our business. Privacy is not rigid, it is fluid–but it has not altogether disappeared either. I would call it “bounded,” that we have a certain expectation of privacy between our friends, a different type amongst our colleagues, and limited to our geographic area. The Internet takes this boundedness and destroys the borders. On the other hand, the internet expands the bounds of “public concern”—if it reaches the Internet, everyone believes they have a right to know, a stake in their interest, and a freedom to opine, snark, shame. Boundaries are shattered and expanded, but nothing is contracted. The context is everything, the readership entirely determinative of interpretation: but even though privacy has its bounds, they mean almost nothing on the Internet. Before, public stonings occurred in the town square, but that is an example of a bounded community of norm-enforcement: four corners, only a certain number of people, and only those with an actual interest-stake participated. Not so, now, with the vast blogospheric public square. The one to cast the first stone may not be the one with the highest interest-stake, but rather the one with the most vitriol with the biggest voice.

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How to Get a Free Copy of The Future of Reputation

future-of-reputation-1.jpgAre you a blogger?

Are you interested in the issues of Internet gossip, rumor, privacy, anonymity, and free speech?

Are you interested in writing a short book review?

If so, I’m offering you a free review copy of my new book, The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet.

My book is about blogging, and I discuss how information spreads rapidly throughout the blogosphere – with both good and problematic effects. Obviously, I want to try to harness the good side of the blogosphere’s power, and that’s why I’m trying this experiment. The purpose of my book is to spark a discussion about the issues, and I cannot imagine a more appropriate way to do so than in the blogosphere.

If you’re interested in reviewing the book, please send me an email with your address, a brief description of your blog, information about your readership and visitor traffic, and a link to your blog.

If the response is overwhelming, I may not be able to send a book to everyone. My publisher only supplied me with a limited number of free review copies, so once they’re gone, you’re out of luck. Preference will be given based on the following factors: the promptness of your request, the relevance of the issues you blog about to the issues discussed in my book, and your visitor traffic. In other words, if you primarily blog about albino panda bears, or if you are the only reader of your blog, I won’t be too keen on depleting my precious stock of review copies for you.

Please note that I’m sending copies in exchange for your writing a review — so whether you like the book, love it, or hate it — I’d like you to air your candid thoughts on your blog.

So please email me a request soon, while supplies last!

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Reactions to The Future of Reputation in the Blogosphere and Elsewhere

Cover remix 2b.jpgHere are a few reviews and discussions of The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet:

* Mark Williams reviews the book at MIT’s Technology Review

* John Tierney discusses the book and online gossip at Tierney Lab blog at the NY Times

* Kathleen Fitzpatrick has review at BarnesandNoble.com

* Taran Rampersad has this review at his blog, KnowProSE.com

* Frank Pasqaule reviews the book at Madisonian.net

* David Freeman has this review at Pajamas Media

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Christopher Eisgruber’s The Next Justice

book-eisgruber-next-justice.gifIn the mail: Professor Christopher Eisgruber’s (Princeton University) new book, The Next Justice: Repairing the Supreme Court Appointments Process (Princeton University Press 2007). From the cover jacket:

The Supreme Court appointments process is broken, and the timing couldn’t be worse–for liberals or conservatives. The Court is just one more solid conservative justice away from an ideological sea change–a hard-right turn on an array of issues that affect every American, from abortion to environmental protection. But neither those who look at this prospect with pleasure nor those who view it with horror will be able to make informed judgments about the next nominee to the Court–unless the appointments process is fixed now. In The Next Justice, Christopher Eisgruber boldly proposes a way to do just that. He describes a new and better manner of deliberating about who should serve on the Court–an approach that puts the burden on nominees to show that their judicial philosophies and politics are acceptable to senators and citizens alike. And he makes a new case for the virtue of judicial moderates.

Long on partisan rancor and short on serious discussion, today’s appointments process reveals little about what kind of judge a nominee might make. Eisgruber argues that the solution is to investigate how nominees would answer a basic question about the Court’s role: When and why is it beneficial for judges to trump the decisions of elected officials? Through an examination of the politics and history of the Court, Eisgruber demonstrates that pursuing this question would reveal far more about nominees than do other tactics, such as investigating their views of specific precedents or the framers’ intentions.

Written with great clarity and energy, The Next Justice provides a welcome exit from the uninformative political theater of the current appointments process.

Sounds interesting.