Competition to produce the best international business textbooks gets hotter every year. As courses in international business proliferate, it is easy to see why so many authors and publishers are joining the fray.
It is now de rigueur for an IB textbook to blend theory with practice, use case studies, be glossy and, of course, have a website. North American textbooks, like US international business itself, led the way, giving our traditional UK texts the feel of barely legible samizdat . But things are changing.
Frank McDonald and Fred Burton's text has up-to-date content and is clearly set out, with case studies and a website. A gloss-deficit exists, and it lacks the free CD with its "Global Business Plan Project" that comes with Charles Hill's book.
On the other hand, there is some compensation in the form of discussions, missing from Hill, on e-commerce, "clusters" and industrial districts, as well as a more sophisticated treatment of recent developments in the European Union.
Both books are pitched, with appropriately judicious and flexible use of material, at audiences ranging from business studies undergraduates to MBA students. McDonald and Burton explain how different elements in their 15-chapter book can be cut and pasted to suit the particular needs of different audiences and courses such as marketing or finance. Yet, despite similar content and format, there are differences between the two books.
McDonald and Burton are critically disposed towards globalisation, pitching in with longer historical context, reminding us of the sophisticated internationalisation of 1870Ð1914, the age of the empire. For Hill, globalisation is viewed almost entirely from a post-1945 perspective.
Hill's globalisation account opens with an illustration from the contemporary world of the supermarkets. Caught in the glare of Wal-Mart's powerful headlights, globalisation comes across as a dazzling phenomenon only relatively recently switched on and, despite considerable efforts to allow anti-capitalists some space, admiration seems not far from the surface.
McDonald and Burton's stronger European feel may offer a leading edge in the UK market. Their chapter on e-commerce is another welcome feature that Hill has yet to match.
George Blazyca is professor of European economic studies, the Paisley Business School, and director of the University of Paisley's Centre for Contemporary European Studies.
International Business. First edition
Author - Frank McDonald and Fred Burton
Publisher - Thomson
Pages - 374
Price - £28.99
ISBN - 1 86152 452 8