Cory Doctorow tells the story in the near future of a two hardware hackers who fall in with microfinancing venture capitalists and invent the “New Work” economy, and then find themselves swimming with corporate sharks, fighting with each other, and leading a band of global techno-revolutionaries.
The New Work economy is small groups of entrepreneurs producing their wares. The origination comes from the private equity leader who combines Kodak and Duracell together. But he is not looking to rebuild these manufacturing giants. He is looking to use their platform to enable those small groups of entrepreneurs.
Those entrepreneurs are the Makers in the title. Backyard hobbyists cobbling stuff together, using the internet to make their products more widely available. The two lead makers, Perry and Lester, work in an abandoned mall that has been turned into a junkyard. They cobble together their initial ideas from the stuff in the junkyard.
Doctorow digs into capitalistic corporate economics, social networking, sociology, culture, abundance, waste, and poverty, in addition to the maker culture.
I first ran into Mr. Doctorow in a Harvard Business Review interview. One of his quotes on piracy or obscurity stood out:
“Of all the people who didn’t buy one of my books today, the majority of them didn’t buy it because they never heard of me, not because someone gave them a free copy.”
I like what he has to say. Unfortunately, his fictional storytelling is not as good. Most of the characters in this book are only minimally developed. I mostly liked Perry and Lester as loveable underdogs. The rest of the characters were very flat.
The story has some interesting vignettes, but seems disorganized. There are lots of ideas and subplots threaded throughout the book. The book is generally entertaining to read, although a bit clunky. I liked it enough to finish all 400+ pages in a few days.
Doctorow also continues the Van Halen myth that their aversion to brown M&Ms in their dressing room was just a wacky display of wealth. The true story is that it was a ploy to test reading directions. (see Compliance, Van Halen and Brown M&M’s)
Here are some of my other recent book reviews: