Book Review: From Gutenberg to Google

  |   Books Print Friendly and PDF

Tom Wheeler is the author of From Gutenberg to Google: The History of Our Future. He’s also a businessman and a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Either he can’t write well, or Brookings Institution Press has given up on editing. This is a very poorly done book.

Here’s what Mr. Wheeler says the book is about.

“This book looks at the pattern of such network-driven outcomes over time. The first sections tell the stories of how the great network technologies came to be. They also recount society’s response to the changes—those who rose in opposition and those who saw opportunity. Finally, each of these chapters draws a Darwinian connection between the earlier technology and today’s technology.”

This quote is from the Preface to the book. After the Preface comes a Prologue. You can skip the Prologue. Here’s a sentence that’s an example of why it’s not worth your time.

“The original information network was Johannes Gutenberg’s 15th century discovery of movable type printing.”

Gutenberg did not discover printing with movable type. He invented a way of doing it. Whether it was an invention or a discovery, it wasn’t a network.

I understand how stuff like this gets written. I work with people who write books but who aren’t professional writers. If they don’t write well, I tell them that’s okay. We can clean up your prose and get a good professional editor to polish it. Evidently, no one did that with this book.

The prose is far below professional grade throughout the book. The editing and fact checking are sketchy, at best. But there are some things that may make this book worth reading for you. Here’s my thought on how to approach things.

Check out the Preface. Use Look Inside the Book for the Kindle version on Amazon. If it doesn’t send you screaming from the room, you can probably handle the good parts of this book. If you keep putting the book down and muttering curse words under your breath, don’t buy the book at all.

Skip the Prologue.

Part 1 is “Perspective.” There’s one chapter. Read it. Don’t make faces.

Part 2 is “Predicates,” chapters 2 through 7. I have no idea what the word “predicate” means in this context, but that’s not important now. It’s reasonably readable and has some good information.

The last part of the book is called “Our Turn.” If you are interested in the FCC, or government policy you may enjoy this section. If you aren’t, skip it.

In a Nutshell

Brookings Institution Press should be ashamed to publish this. Check out the book on Amazon to see if you can handle the writing. Buy From Gutenberg to Google at your own risk. You’ve been warned.

You can check out some of my highlights and notes from this book on my GoodReads page.


What’s the fastest way to learn the big ideas from a great business book? Book summaries. Check out summaries from The Business Source, where you can watch, read, or listen to the big ideas from a great book in under 20 minutes.

Join The Conversation

What People Are Saying

There are no comments yet, why not be the first to leave a comment?