Book Review: Tipping Point

I just got around to listening to the audiobook version of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell reads his own book and this time it is a good thing.

I find this book to be well-reasoned and well documented. It is discouraging in that it shows how basically irrational many of our decisions truly are. But it is encouraging in that it documents the power of small groups or even an individual to make a difference. To make this difference, you don’t have to be wealthy to get your message out, just savvy in finding the right people to target with a sticky message. Some of things that this book explains in reasonable sounding way are:

  • Why we remember Paul Revere and not WIlliam Dawes.
  • Why the “broken window” theory of crime seems to explain why NY crime rates dropped faster than other cities in the 1990s.
  • Why Hush Puppies had a second period of coolness.
  • Why a breast cancer campaign flopped in churches but soared in beauty salons.

This book should be of special interest to librarians because the Tipping Point is largely concerned with targeting limited resources to great effect. We need great effects to convince people that “everything” isn’t on the ‘net and we certainly have limited resources.

A word about the platform I heard this book on. This audiobook was on a Playaway dedicated audiobook. When I initially heard about Playaways, I wasn’t merely skeptical, I was outright hostile to the idea. An MP3 player with one single book? Why would anyone want to borrow one when they could download books from Overdrive? I didn’t want to have anything to do with it or “waste my time” learning about Playaway players — even though the local public library carried some. But then two things happened:

1) Our efforts to promote our Overdrive portal (Listen Alaska) to state employees foundered on the rock of locked desktops. The downloadable audio books required downloading Overdrive Media Console (OMC) and in most departments employees were prevented from installing the software. This is not malice on Big IT’s part but part of an understandable security initiative. We may be able to get Big IT to allow OMC eventually, but it will be awhile and take effort we don’t available yet.

2) A co-worker brought home a sample Playaway unit from a library conference and passed it around. My head of public services was REALLY impressed and insisted I try it. Once I actually had a concrete player in my hand, I was impressed by it’s ease of use and storage capacity. I also liked how it couldn’t be hijacked for other purposes so theft didn’t seem to be a likely issue. I checked out a couple of the Playaways (Common Sense and Tipping Point) for the flights to and from Denver and was hooked.

If you have people that you think could benefit from digital audio books but shy away from downloading, try buying a few playaways and see what happens. Reaction to our dozen or so units has been so favorable, we’re looking at new nonfiction titles.

If your library lends playaways, I’d be interested in your reactions.

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5 Responses to Book Review: Tipping Point

  1. Charles Fries says:

    Gladwells later book “Blink” is also noteworthy. I just finished reading it a few weeks ago. Painful with regard to how error filled human decision making is, but many worthwhile insites.

  2. alaskanlibrarian says:

    I read Blink also and was very impressed. I must have been busy because I didn’t get around to a book review. But very impressive. Good explanations of the good and bad shortcuts people take in making their decisions.

  3. Not sure how much you’d be interested in the studies that go deeper into what Gladwell gets into – but there is a whole subset of what is somewhat now commercialized psychology called memetics, but a few pretty engrossing books and interesting theories have come out of it. Probably the most accessible is: Richard Brodie’s virus of the mind. Here’s a link on Amazon:

  4. alaskanlibrarian says:

    Thanks for these links. I will try to check them out. I’m definitely interested in mental viruses, social epidemics, etc. Also very interested in the field of positive psychology.

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