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Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload Hardcover – June 15, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Creative Good, Inc.; First Edition edition (June 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0979368103
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979368103
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (203 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #268,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Praise for Bit Literacy

This is The Elements of Style for the digital age.
- Seth Godin, author, The Dip

Mark Hurst has written the indispensable guide to the digital era. Instead of a mere "how-to" guide, Hurst shows what's really going on when we struggle with e-mail and todo lists. For anyone who has ever used a computer, this will not just wildly increase their productivity (as it has for me!) - it'll also let their ideas fly.
- David Bodanis, author, E=mc2 and Passionate Minds

An informative and clear step-by-step guide on how to turn the ever-increasing avalanche of bits into a force that will propel your life and career.
- Tom Hughes, Chief Design Officer, Idealab

Mark Hurst is the smartest person thinking about ways technology can make our lives easier rather than harder. If you're willing to give up some of your useless bytes for true knowledge and crowded RAM for zen clarity, then get bit-literate today.
- Douglas Rushkoff, author, Get Back in the Box

A lot of people feel left out of the whole Internet and computer thing, but realize it could be really valuable for them. Bit Literacy provides the basic skills required for anyone to engage the wave of informational change.
- Craig Newmark, founder,

Most of us learned how to deal with digital technology in piecemeal fashion. We developed habits that served us well for a time. But for the modern digital age, almost all of our habits are bad. In Bit Literacy, Mark Hurst provides brief, no-nonsense, clear, and unbelievably helpful advice on how to replace those bad habits with good ones. Take his advice and instead of being tyrannized by the overload that comes at you daily, you'll be liberated.
- Barry Schwartz, author, The Paradox of Choice

The word 'empowerment' should be included in the subtitle of this book, as I believe reading it reduces the hypertension involved in our daily journey through the flotsam and jetsam of life. Bit Literacy helps make the complex clear.
- Richard Saul Wurman, author, Understanding USA

About the Author

Widely credited for popularizing "customer experience" online, Mark Hurst has worked since the birth of the Web to make Internet technology easier to use. Named one of the 1,000 most creative individuals in the U.S. by Richard Saul Wurman, and Netrepreneur of the Year by InfoWorld magazine, Hurst is a leading authority on making people more productive with technology.

As the founder of Creative Good and Good Experience, and host of the renowned Gel conference (Good Experience Live), Hurst and his companies help organizations work more productively and create better customer experiences. Hurst holds bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science from MIT. He lives in New York City with his wife.

Customer Reviews

From what I read about the book it seemed like an interesting read.
A. Maurer
This book is quick and easy to read and I believe everyone who works with emails and computers will find something within that can benefit them.
This book gives very detailed guildelines into every day work life and how you can make your emailing much more effective.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth Shubin Stein on October 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a superb book. As a doctor and an entrepreneur I have read many books on time management and being more efficient, and been disappointed by most of them. This book is by far the best I have read.

It has just enough theory to help the reader get the big picture, but nothing more. Unlike a lot of books that are twice as long as they should be, this short book respects the reader by delivering the information in an efficient and easy to digest manner.

I especially appreciate the clear instructions on how to implement the author's suggestions. I gave the book out to all my co-workers and several friends. Recently, our entire team talked about how each of us has implemented the book's ideas. Some of us are using all of them, and some are using a few of them, but no one decided not to use any of them. Given how challenging it is to change human behavior, I think this is amazing.

I give this my highest possible recommendation without any reservations at all.
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52 of 59 people found the following review helpful By George D. Girton on May 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The other night sitting at dinner, someone asked me the small-talk question of the age "So, how much time do you spend on your email?" I listened in surprise as I heard myself say "Oh, ten or fifteen minutes at most."

I used to think I was SO clever, for having discovered I could use my email inbox as an address book, database, calendar, bookmark, and to-do list all rolled into one. "Gee," I thought, "I bet most people aren't this effective in managing information." Was it any surprise that I had two thousand emails in one inbox, and seven thousand in another, stretching back seven years? And I even thought this was a GOOD thing. Oy!

It's the genius of Mark Hurst's Bit Literacy that he gives a thoughtful and convincing set of reasons for getting your email inbox down to ZERO every day. "Let the bits go" he says. He tells you exactly how to do it -- and no, it doesn't involve just deleting everything -- as well as why. He gives you the day-to-day method, and he gives you the one-time "induction" procedure that tells you how to get to that point. These MIT grads are so methodic about technology! Anyway, soon you too can share the shock of seeing an empty email inbox. And then... go on to get something done!

Hurst tells you how to perform the magic on your email in-box, your to-do list, your photos, tells you how and where you store your files (and a good way to name the files too) and how to manage your media diet. He recommends some free tools, and some you might want to pay for.

For me, the greatest value of this book will most likely be using what Hurst calls a bit literate to-do list.
Read more ›
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Brian Felsen on July 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I don't typically buy business books but want to be more effective in reaching my goals, and this book is worth its weight in gold. It helps you understand the problem of a huge amount of "bits" of information flooding your life (and inbox!) in this digital age, as well as multiple "bitstreams" - the bit sources one has to manage (your desktop, your family, your mailbox, your inbox, to-do list, task lists, voicemail etc.) This book, better than any other system, gives you a simple set of tools to get your inbox down to absolute zero and to pare down the number of bistreams you have to manage, so you can focus on achieving the more important goals and enjoying the finer things in life. Get this book.
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Kindall on August 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The advice in "Bit Literacy" is solid, no doubt about it. Some is even novel and thought-provoking; to-do items that can be deferred to specific later dates are definitely a "why didn't anyone think of this before?" idea, and I've been fiddling with my Outlook calendar to try to get it to work in a similar way. However, the smug tone of the writing is often off-putting. Most of Hurst's advice is fairly obvious, common-sense stuff that clearly works for him, but there is little consideration given to personal working style, almost as if he can't imagine anyone working or thinking differently from the way he does. If you don't clean out your e-mail inbox every day, for example, I assume he would deem you "bit illiterate." (FWIW, I tried this advice for a couple weeks but didn't notice any difference in my happiness or productivity, so abandoned it and went back to the way I've been managing my e-mail for the last twenty years. I have never felt any kind of pressure or stress from having a lot of things in my inbox.) Also mildly annoying is the term "bit lever," which is a term Hurst coined for a type of software that has been around for years and doesn't really need a new name (it's basically a fancy keyboard macro utility). There are some curious omissions; he talks about time lost switching between mouse and keyboard, but doesn't explain how to operate the computer entirely from the keyboard (even the Mac is largely capable of this) or how to add and customize keyboard shortcuts. He does get brownie points for discussing the Dvorak keyboard layout, although for most people the primary benefit of that is comfort, not productivity. Overall, the book presents a good solid system for dealing with digital information, but don't buy into the implication that there's only one right way. The "Bit Literacy" method is a tool, nothing more; take what works for you, and leave the rest.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews

More About the Author

Mark Hurst, who founded Creative Good in 1997, has spent his career writing and speaking about how organizations and individuals can create better customer experiences. In 2003 Hurst founded the Gel conference, which annually spotlights people and projects that create some good experience. Hurst also wrote "Bit Literacy," the 2007 book about managing email and information overload, and created Good Todo, the mobile productivity suite. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science from MIT and lives in New York City with his wife and son.

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