Book review: Internet Riches
If you've never considered starting an internet business--but now that I mention it, it seems like a good idea--this is the book for you. If you've considered starting an internet business--but you've done no serious thinking about how to approach actually doing it--this is an excellent book. If you've already got an internet business, or you're otherwise familiar with one's inner workings, I'm afraid you won't find a lot in this book that you don't already know.
For me, the book started off a bit slow. A good bit of the first part of the book was devoted to two ideas: that the end of the dotcom boom didn't mean the end of internet business, and that an internet business can be started on the cheap, compared to starting a bricks-and-morter business. The thing is, I already knew those things.
After that the book picks up a good bit. It looks in some detail at a series of internet businesses, talking about how they were structured and how they earned money. It provides a number of worked examples of how different internet businesses work.
It's worth comparing this book with Tim Ferriss's book The 4-Hour Workweek. Both recommend creating small internet businesses. Ferriss, though, wraps his whole suggestion around a very specific pattern--creating a business (or a few businesses) that provide enough money to live on with an absolute minimum amount of work--to free the time up to do other things.
Fox's idea is different. He recommends that you create your internet business around something that you're interested in--a hobby, perhaps. Something that, if you spend a good bit of time doing it, you'll be happy to have done so.
Perhaps the best part of Fox's book is the section on brainstorming possible business ideas and then evaluating whether they might support an internet business--it's good stuff.
Because there's a steady stream of newer, better, easier tools and systems to build e-commerce sites with, Fox faced an impossible task in discussing the mechanics of actually building your site--anything specific enough to be useful would have been out of date before the book was printed. On the other hand, the target audience for this book--people who had barely begun to think that running an internet business might be a neat thing to do--need a considerable amount of handholding. Fox does a pretty good job of threading that needle. There's a lot you'd have to learn to actually create and run a web-based business beginning where Fox's book leaves off, but nothing that a bright person who was willing to put in some effort couldn't do.
If all you want to do is make a bit of money off your hobby, I think there's a pretty good chance you'd be successful following a program like the one that Fox lays out. If you pay particular attention to the sections on evaluating and testing your ideas, and follow his advice to start small and keep early costs to a minimum, your risk is very small, and your chance of at least some reward is pretty good.
Just about at that point, though, the book quietly slips from talking about creating small sites where your hobby brings in enough money to support itself (and maybe pay for beer and pizza), to sites that let you quit your job, and then to sites that bring in millions. If the book explained how to take your site from the first category and slide it into the second or third, though, I missed it.
If you've thought of setting up an internet business (even if you've just thought of it for the few minutes that it's taken you to read this review), Internet Riches will show you how to get started--and how to do so at minimal cost and minimal risk.