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Small Business Online: A Strategic Guide for Canadian Entrepreneurs

by Jim Carroll and Rick Broadhead

In strictly commercial terms, the Internet has been a boon for some and a bust for many, many more. For every Yahoo! there are probably scores of outdated, unvisited, and expensive corporate web sites occupying space online, standing like empty storefronts in an abandoned boomtown. The information age gold rush hasn’t quite materialized, but an ocean of ersatz “information” has. In times such as these it’s comforting to know that, should a preternatural interest in mayonnaise exist, mayo.com is only a few clicks away.
When a huge corporation squanders millions on what it imagines to be the next big thing, it’s funny. When a small business misdirects resources in an effort to get online, the results can be fruitless, if not fatal. Luckily, there are many sites on the Internet providing free information designed to help the entrepreneur negotiate a first foray into the networked economy.
Many of those sites are listed in Small Business Online, the latest in a growing series of guides by infopreneurs Jim Carroll and Rick Broadhead – “the Lennon and McCartney of the Canadian Internet.” Also listed in the book are pointers to sites to help with aspects of planning, funding, equipping, and maintaining a small business in Canada, including a good roundup of government resources on the Web. There’s no doubt these links are valuable, but one questions their value in book form, since a well-organized web page of the links can provide much more efficient access to the information. But then, it’s unlikely anyone would pay $18.95 to access such a page.
Carroll and Broadhead are sharp observers of what’s available online, and their commentary on individual aspects of Internet commerce is often on target, but the majority of the information is of practical value only to the absolute beginner – both online and in business. In this respect Small Business Online resembles the monthly “Internet lifestyle” and entrepreneurial magazines that seem to exist to provide the same entry-level facts month after month.
The book also suffers from flaws that dog many poorly executed web sites: first in sheer usability – the addresses for sites are swept together into lists at the back of individual chapters, far away from the related commentary – and second in terms of clutter: the pages are broken up with far too many blurry screen shots of the sites being discussed. Other than to pad the book up to 400 pages, all those unreadable reproductions seem unneccessary when a web site address will take the reader to the real thing.