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Global Electronic Commerce: Theory and Case Studies (1999)

Westland, J.C. and Clark, T.H.K. (1999) Global Electronic Commerce: Theory and Case Studies. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Reviewed by Tino O. Fenech, School of Marketing and Management, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia.

The version of the book reviewed was the fourth reprint of the 1999 first edition. Because it was released in 1999, the book represents the theory and propositions that pertained to the Internet, World Wide Web, and emerging electronic commerce (e-commerce) as the end of 1998 prior to the Web approaching a critical mass of buyers and sellers. As such, the material needs to be read not as the latest reference source on global e-commerce but as a very good overview of this topic to supplement a user's research. Still, the book does provide the reader with a single reference point to understand the elements that compose e-commerce systems including search engines, e-payment methods, and security validation.

Each section—redefining the geography of space, time and money; electronic financial markets; and digital storefronts—has been very well written for use by both the academic and the commercial practitioner. But the authors need to update the book to incorporate the changes in the market; for example, the section on supply chain management and information alliances for the Internet omits market changes of the last few years such as the growth of the Web-only e-tailer and combined clicks and mortar retailer rather that the traditional manufacturer-middle man (wholesaler)-buyer model.

There have been many attempts in journals and books to summarize the beginning of the Internet, and this has also been done in this book. The authors have given us their own version of this history and one that I would recommend for its simplicity and coverage when one needs to integrate some of those events into new written projects.

As a reference source, most of the incorporated cases studies will aid the reader to better understand the environment of uncertainty that faced e-commerce pioneers and the strategies used to overcome the market risks—as in, for example, the Security First Network Bank, the world's first Internet bank. However, other cases, such as Procter & Gamble, seem misplaced in the book due to the lack of relevance to e-commerce.

As a professionally printed book, this reviewer anticipated that if the authors did not notice grammatical or citation anomalies that an editor would have performed this function. Regrettably, this has not been the case in a number of situations. For example, there is a reference to Wired magazine's term "Great Web expansion" on page 71, but there is no publication author, date, or issue details for followup research work. Even the graphics and figures in the book are very disappointing in terms of the print quality. The images are faded and lack visual contrast and are more emblematic of a third generation photocopy.

Finally, one must question the lack of balance in comments about successful e-commerce operations. Taking the best-known Web-only e-tailer, Amazon.com, the authors make no reference to consistent losses and twice near-bankruptcy of this retailer in its attempts to maintain high sales and technological advantages over their competitors. Overall, this is one of those books that need to be on the shelf for reference, but only if you are into history.

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