(Reprinted with permission from Electronic Media, written by Diane Mermigas.)

If there is something you don’t like or understand about Esther Dyson’s new Internet primer, Release 2.O: A Design for Living in the Digital Age, you can let her know on the book’s Web site <www.release2-0.com>. The cyber feedback will be incorporated into a revised edition, an example of the media interactivity that becomes more routine as average folks learn to rely on the Internet as a tool for living.</www.release2-0.com>

Dyson’s stated objective is “to make this new world more intelligible and its structure more visible” for those who are not readers of her well-regarded Internet newsletter, Release 1.0. The underlying message of her book is that the Net will give individuals more personal and professional power. That’s an intriguing lure.

Still, Dyson faces the dual challenge of cutting through the general inhibitions many people feel about reading about the Internet, much less using it. She successfully meets those challenges by using a plain-speaking style that makes the book an easy read, even if the subject matter is not.

Whether writing about the Net as a real-time tool for democracy that “depends on its citizens rather than its history” or describing e-mail protocol, Dyson gently guides the layman through the tangled Web and issues that are becoming more urgent now.

The book’s real value is in effectively addressing such complex matters as security, privacy, freedom of speech, governance, the creation of intellectual property, and content control—by breaking them down into small bites.

If the book has a flaw, it is that it continually makes hopeful pleas for an honor system that remains largely untested in cyberspace and widely unenforceable in corporate America.

In an attempt to neutralize the ground between techies like herself and the rest of humanity, Dyson devotes the opening chapter to explaining how she made the leap into cyberspace. The self-described cyber pioneer attributes the success of her newsletter, PC Forum, and Internet deal-maker status to skillfully staking out and mapping new territory. She now can add the general public’s basic Internet education to her list of accomplishments.


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