(Ben Mezrich's new book about Mark Zuckerberg and the founding of Facebook-- link in the Things I'm Reading sidebar)
Ben Mezrich makes it look easy. Establish Mark Zuckerberg, computer genius, social outcast. Jealous of the popular kids. Steals an idea for a social networking website. He builds it, people come. And he finally gets a girl.
Whatever, take this out of the library, you can read it in a couple of hours. For a 252-page book there just isn't much here. You want to know anything about why Facebook has become such a success? Not in the book. You want to know about the decisions made, the choices that ultimately propelled Facebook beyond Friendster, beyond MySpace? Not gonna find it here. You want to know anything about the business of Facebook, about Facebook the company, about the future of Facebook, about social networking and its place in society, about Mark Zuckerberg himself, about what it takes to start a billion-dollar software company when you're 20 years old? Nope, this isn't what you're looking for.
You want a quick read about a kid who's obsessed with being part of the in crowd, who rents a house in LA and practically destroys it, who screwed his best friend out of a share of the company, who may or may not be an intellectual property thief? Then read the book.
Mezrich does a lot of things really well here. He's a compelling writer, he tells a good story.
But it's not really about Facebook, at least not in any informative way. And it's not really about Zuckerberg, because he didn't have access to him. And it's not really about the life of a Harvard student, and it's not really about the founding of a technology company... he wrote the movie version of the story of Facebook.
Aaron Sorkin is actually writing the script for the movie based on this book. And I read the script. And liked the script a lot. It'll be a great movie. But you expect more from a book. More facts, I guess. More details. More knowledge. And it's not here. I learned nothing from the book that wasn't in the script. Which is fine, for the movie. But it's unrewarding for a book.
Two more specific things bugged me.
One-- and this is stupid, but it bothers me-- the book is riddled with typos. He mentions Aaron Greenspan, a Harvard student who created a Facebook-like site before Zuckerberg. In the next paragraph, "Greenspan" has become "Grossman"-- eh, one Jewish name is the same as any other. He writes about someone posting a "wanted add" in the newspaper. Uh, you mean a "want ad"? It's very clear they ran this book through spellcheck, and didn't actually copyedit the result. It's embarrassing. I noticed at least a dozen mistakes like that. I wasn't looking for them, but they're obvious and careless and I don't understand how a publisher can spend over a million dollars on a book advance and not bother to have a copyeditor read the manuscript.
Two-- it's pretty clear the guy Mezrich had the most access to was Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg's friend and original partner, who he tried to cut out of a share of the business. The book reads from Saverin's perspective and spends a good amount of time talking about Saverin. Saverin comes off as a good guy-- but while reading I felt like this could just as easily have been any of six other books, depending on who Mezrich had gotten access to. Could have been from Zuckerberg's point of view, could have been from the point of view of the Winklevoss twins (another pair of students who accused Zuckerberg of stealing their idea), from Greenspan's point of view, from Sean Parker's point of view... it's Saverin as the lead simply because Mezrich had access, not because it's necessarily the best way to tell the story, or the most accurate.
So, eh, it's not a bad book, it was just disappointing and I wanted a lot more packed into the 252 pages than there was. I'll probably see the movie though.