The problem with writing a book on the current state of the Internet is that the current state of the Internet doesn’t exist. It’s a medium permanently in flux, and impossible to pin down to a static, understandable state. Books on the Internet, therefore, face a unique problem.
By the time the manuscript creaks through the gears of book production and appears in print form, the Internet itself has moved on—and the book is obsolete in comparison with a corresponding online source. It’s like comparing the Manorama Yearbook 2009 with Wikipedia.
It’s a shame though, because Honey, I Shrunk the World, a “handbook” on the “global digital media”, is a fascinating package filled to the brim with useful information. It’s also an excellently produced book with some great design. The book has four sections, three of which are dedicated to statistic after careful statistic—looking at Internet penetration and use in various countries, the most popular sites and listings, etc. It’s also a dictionary, listing out and explaining common terms used online, and a handy guide to the Internet’s most popular services across several categories—from photography to social networking.
Honey, I Shrunk the World—The Essential Global Digital Media Handbook: Ignitee Digital / Om Books, 552 pages, Rs995.
The book starts with a fact that seems to show how limited its use may be. It lists the number of years each medium took to reach an audience of 50 million. Radio, for example, took 38 years, while TV took 13. And Facebook? A little less than 24 months. The pace of growth of the Internet is phenomenal, as is the rate at which it generates new content. It’s appropriate that Honey, I Shrunk the World chooses to start with acknowledging this fact, but this doesn’t seem to deter the book from soldiering on anyway.
The second section is a country-by-country breakdown of Internet usage. How many people, the percentage of total population that is connected, what kind of sites people visit, and what projections are estimated for the near future. The next section is a tour of the Internet’s highlights, with crisp write-ups on each of the sites mentioned. The problem here is that most of the sites are US-centric (the book recommends the online edition of The New York Times and the Huffington Post under “news”), and as such not helpful for those sitting in India. There’s also a list of the “top 100 blogs of 2008”, which is again US-focused. The last section is a mini-dictionary that explains common terms, and even some Web-related slang. At the end of the book is a handy pull-out cheat sheet—a poster-sized table that summarizes the statistics in the book.
As a quick reference guide for research, the book is undeniably useful—though, again, the Internet is recommended for the latest statistics.
The information itself is presented strikingly; but one can’t help but feel that the book, in digital form, could have been a fascinating online experiment in maintaining centralized, up-to-date statistics on every aspect of the Internet and the people who use it. As a physical book, though, it will be obsolete in some months.
It’s a very small world
•About 91% of all Indians online use the Internet for emails; 72% use it to search for jobs, 49% for matrimonial sites, while 50% check cricket scores online.
• Nearly 75% of all Internet users in Manila under the age of 25 are “active online gamers”. The most popular of these titles is ‘RAN Online’, a campus-based online role-playing game based around several schools at war with each other.
• 35% of South Africans say they have more friends online than they do in the real world.
• Nearly two-thirds of all Internet users in Mexico access the Net from outside their homes—be it Internet cafes, offices or schools and colleges. Only 12% of all households in Mexico have Internet access.
• Malaysian youth (8-24 years) are reported to be able to multitask furiously: They chat online while surfing, checking email, working and talking on the phone—all the while listening to music. A survey found that they manage to fit in 43.8 hours of media activities in 24 hours.