Make a killing as a screen icon

February 27, 2004

In a field dominated until recently by American texts, these three books add to a growing literature that focuses on online business activity from a UK perspective. All three offer case studies and, in addition, supporting websites, with resources aimed at students and lecturers.

E-Business and E-Commerce offers a comprehensive examination of electronically mediated business. In this second edition, Dave Chaffey has extensively reworked case studies from the 2002 edition - important given the rapid developments in e-business. The book discusses a wide range of subjects under straightforward chapter titles, such as "E-business infrastructure", "E-business strategy" and "Supply-chain management", "Change management", and balances technological with business analysis. It is filled with exposition of theory and supporting diagrams, and the case studies put some real-world flesh on theoretical bones.

The chapters are extensively referenced and contain activities and debating points for class discussion. Each concludes with exercises, further reading and useful websites for readers to follow up. The book is the only one of the three that includes a glossary of terms, which is an important feature, given the plethora of acronyms and concepts in the field.

If there is a criticism, it is that Chaffey's attempt to be comprehensive sometimes makes chapters too lengthy. Nevertheless, this is a classic text for undergraduate, postgraduate and professional learners and should also serve as a resource for entire e-commerce degrees (even if it may be somewhat daunting for first-year students).

Rana Tassabehji's text was published a while ago but wears its age well. While it is not as comprehensive as Chaffey's, it is much more discursive in approach, and as a result an easier read. It is well structured, and its 12 chapters maintain a balance between technological considerations and business issues.

There are chapters, for example, on "Technology" and "Security and e-commerce" on the one hand, and on "Public policies and legal issues" and "The impact of 'e' on economic and management thinking" on the other.

Each chapter contains extensive references for readers to further pursue their areas of interest, and the diagrams make for good exposition of theory. Summaries and discussion questions round off the chapters and help to make this a good all-round text for both students and professionals, whether e-business specialists or general social-science and business readers.

Ian Chaston's book differs from the other two in that it is aimed at small businesses - although its contents appear equally apt for their larger brethren - and naturally displays an understanding of the "small firm" perspective and potential pitfalls.

For example, it makes the point that success in electronic trading requires a systemic approach to online business - something a number of small firms lack. In common with the other two texts, there are "learning objectives" and chapter summaries in addition to "study questions".

Case studies and diagrams help to illustrate theoretical concepts. Chaston's expertise lies in marketing and strategy, and the majority of chapters in the book ("Buyer behaviour", "Assessing opportunities and threats", "Strategic e-planning", "E-product and e-promotion management") reflect this interest. This predominance means that consideration of the underpinning technology is relatively limited, and in places there are technical misapprehensions.

For example, Chaston conflates the internet and world- wide web, and his assertion that "the original intention of the internet was to create a system to support email and discussion groups" begs questions of the text, even if business success may not ultimately depend on such misconceptions. There is also limited discussion of security issues, and even less on legal issues - shortcomings that ill serve those considering the plunge into electronic trading.

Although this work is dated 2004, there are no references beyond 2001, which makes it appear a little out of date in places. Nevertheless, the book is useful for students and professionals who need a solid examination of internet marketing.

Fintan Clear lectures on e-business at Brunel University.


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