- Paperback: 544 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press; Second with a new chapter by the author edition (April 5, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691170819
- ISBN-13: 978-0691170817
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.5 x 7.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (222 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, Second Edition with a new chapter by the author Second with a new chapter by the author Edition
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Winner of the 2007 Anderson Medal, Society for Nautical Research
Winner of the 2007 Bronze Medal in Finance/Investment/Economics, Independent Publisher Book Awards
Shortlisted for the 2006 Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year
Honorable Mention for the 2006 John Lyman Book Award, Science and Technology category, North American Society for Ocean History
One of Financial Times (FT.com) Best Business Books of 2013 (chosen by guest critic Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft)
"One of the most significant, yet least noticed, economic developments of the last few decades [was] the transformation of international shipping. . . . The idea of containerization was simple: to move trailer-size loads of goods seamlessly among trucks, trains and ships, without breaking bulk. . . . Along the way, even the most foresighted people made mistakes and lost millions. . . . [A] classic tale of trial and error, and of creative destruction."--Virginia Postrel, The New York Times [See full review http://bit.do/Box-NYT-Postrel]
"Marc Levinson's concern is business history on a grand scale. He tells a moral tale. There are villains ... and there is one larger than life hero: Malcom McLean. . . . Levinson has produced a fascinating exposition of the romance of the steel container. I'll never look at a truck in the same way again."--Howard Davies, The Times (UK)
"Like much of today's international cargo, Marc Levinson's The Box arrives 'just in time.'. . . It is a tribute to the box itself that far-off places matter so much to us now: It has eased trade, sped up delivery, lowered prices and widened the offering of goods everywhere. Not bad for something so simple and self-contained."--Tim W. Ferguson, The Wall Street Journal
"[A] smart, engaging book. . . . Mr. Levinson makes a persuasive case that the container has been woefully underappreciated. . . . [T]he story he tells is that of a classic disruptive technology: the world worked in one fashion before the container came onto the scene, and in a completely different fashion after it took hold."--Joe Nocera, The New York Times [See full review http://bit.do/Box-NYT-Nocera]
"By artfully weaving together the nuts and bolts of what happened at which port with the grand sweep of economic history, Levinson has produced a marvelous read for anyone who cares about how the interconnected world economy came to be."--Neil Irwin, Washington Post
"Mr Levinson. . . . makes a strong case that it was McLean's thinking that led to modern-day containerisation. It altered the economics of shipping and with that the flow of world trade. Without the container, there would be no globalization."--The Economist [See full review http://bit.do/Box-Economist]
"A fascinating new book. . . . [I]t shows vividly how resistance to technological change caused shipping movements to migrate away from the Hudson river to other East Coast ports."--Management Today [See full review http://bit.do/Box-MT]
"Marc Levinson's The Box . . . illustrates clearly how great risks are taken by entrepreneurs when entrenched interests and government regulators conspire against them. Even after these opponents are dispatched, technological and economic uncertainty plague the entrepreneur just as much as the vaunted 'first-mover advantage' blesses him, perhaps more. The story of the shipping container is the story of the opponents of innovation."--Chris Berg, Institute of Public Affairs Review
"International trade . . . owes its exponential growth to something utterly ordinary and overlooked, says author Marc Levinson: the metal shipping container.... The Box makes a strong argument. . . . Levinson . . . spins yarns of the men who fought to retain the old On the Waterfront ways and of those who made the box ubiquitous."--Michael Arndt, BusinessWeek [See full review http://bit.do/Box-BW-Arndt]
"[An] enlightening new history. . . . [The shipping container] was the real-world equivalent of the Internet revolution."--Justin Fox, Fortune [See full review http://bit.do/Box-Fortune-Fox]
"Marc Levinson's The Box is . . . broad-ranging and . . . readable. It describes not just the amazing course of the container-ship phenomenon but the turmoil of human affairs in its wake."--Bob Simmons, The Seattle Times [See full review http://bit.do/Box-ST-Simmons]
"Author and economist Marc Levinson recounts the little-known story of how the humble shipping container has revolutionized world commerce. He tells his tale using just the right blend of hard economic data and human interest. . . . Mr. Levinson's elegant weave of transportation economics, innovation, and geography is economic history at its accessible best."--David K. Hurst, Strategy + Business [See full review http://bit.do/TheBox-Strategy-Hurst]
"The Box is . . . an engrossing read. . . . The book is well-written, with detailed notes and an index. I found it absorbing and informative from the first page."--Graham Williams, Sydney Morning Herald
"This well-researched and highly readable book about the ubiquitous containers that carry so much of the world's freight will no doubt surprise most readers with its description of the immensity of the impact this simple rectangular steel box has had on global and regional economics, employment, labor relations, and the environment. . . . The Box makes for an excellent primer on innovation, risk taking, and strategic thinking. It's also a thoroughly good read."--Craig B. Grossgart, Taiwan Business Topics
"The ubiquitous shipping container . . . as Mark Levinson's multilayered study shows . . . has transformed the global economy."--The Australian
"Here's another item we see every day that had a revolutionary effect. The shipping container didn't just rearrange the shipping industry, or make winners of some ports (Seattle and Tacoma among them). It changed the dynamics and economics of where goods are made and shipped to."--Bill Virgin, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"Excellent."--J Bradford DeLong, The Edge Financial Daily
"An engrossing read. . . . The book is well written, with detailed notes and an index. I found it absorbing and informative from the first page."--Sydney Morning Herald
"A fascinating history of the shipping container."--Richard N. Cooper, Foreign Affairs [See full review http://bit.do/TheBox-FE-Cooper]
"For sheer originality . . . [this book] by Marc Levinson, is hard to beat. The Box explains how the modern era of globalization was made possible, not by politicians agreeing to cut trade tariffs and quotas, but by the humble shipping container."--David Smith, The Sunday Times (London)
"Ingenious analysis of the phenomenon of containerism."--Stefan Stern, Financial Times [See full review http://bit.do/TheBox-FT-Stern]
"This is a smoothly written history of the ocean shipping container. . . . Marc Levinson turns it into a fascinating economic history of the last 50 years that helps us to understand globalization and industrial growth in North America."--Harvey Schachter, Globe and Mail
"This is an ingenious analysis of containerization--a process that, Levinson argues, in fact made globalization possible."--Business Voice
"Using a blend of hard economic data and financial projections, combined with human interest, Levinson manages to provide insights into a revolution that changed transport forever and transformed world trade."--Leon Gettler, The Age [See full review http://bit.do/TheBox-Age-Gettler]
"There is much to like about Marc Levinson's recent book, The Box. . . . Levinson uses rich detail, a combination of archival and anecdotal data to build his story, and is constantly moving across levels of observation. . . . And the story of the box is a very good read."--Administrative Science Quarterly
"A lively and entertaining history of the shipping container. . . . The Box does a fine job of demonstrating how exciting the container industry is, and how much economists stand to lose by ignoring it."--William Sjostrom, EH.Net [See full review http://bit.do/TheBox-EH-Sjostrom]
"The Box is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in understanding the emergence of our contemporary 'globalized' world economy."--Pierre Desrochers, Independent Review [See full review http://bit.do/TheBox-IndReview-Desrochers]
"[T]he insights the book provides make it a worthwhile read for anyone interested in how international trade in goods has evolved over the last 50 years."--Meredith A. Crowley, World Trade Review
"The Box reveals the subject to be interesting and powerful, shedding light on all kinds of issues, from the role of trade unions to the Vietnam War."--NUMAST Telegraph
"A perfect illustration of how an idiosyncratic entrepreneur brings something new into the world, and a wonderful example of how business history can be made to sing."--David Warsh, Economic Principals Blog
From the Back Cover
"The continuous decline of ocean shipping costs in the last 40 years is rarely credited for the growth of global trade in contemporary literature. Don't miss this amazing history."--George Stalk, Boston Consulting Group and author of Surviving the China Riptide
"An excellent piece of work."--Bruce Nelson, Dartmouth College
"This book is dynamite. The experts who tell you the transistor and microchips changed the world are off base. The ugly, unglamorous, little-noticed shipping container has changed the world. Without it, there would be no globalization, no Wal-Mart, maybe even no high-tech. And what looks like low-tech is in fact a breathtaking technological innovation. Marc Levinson's sparkling and authoritative story is great fun to read, but it is spectacular economic history as well."--Peter L. Bernstein, author of Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk
"Fascinating, informative, wonderfully historicized. This is a terrific untold story."--Nelson Lichtenstein, University of California, Santa Barbara, and editor of Wal-Mart: the Face of Twenty-First Century Capitalism
"The adoption of the modern shipping container may be a close second to the Internet in the way it has changed our lives. It has made products from every corner of the world commonplace and accessible everywhere. It has dramatically cut the cost of transportation and thereby made outsourcing a significant issue. It has transformed the world's port cities, and more. This book, very nicely written, makes a fascinating set of true stories of an apparently mundane subject, and dramatically illustrates how simple innovations can transform our lives."--William Baumol, Director, Berkley Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, author of The Free-Market Innovation Machine
"In the second half of the twentieth century, an innovation came along that would transform the way the world did business. . . . I'm not talking about software. I'm talking about the shipping industry, and in particular an innovation you might not have thought much about: the shipping container. It is the subject of an excellent book I read this summer called The Box. . . . The story of this transition is fascinating and reason enough to read the book. But in subtle ways The Box also challenges commonly held views about business and the role of innovation."--Bill Gates, Gatesnotes
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Top Customer Reviews
Levinson's well-researched treatment of a seemingly pedestrian subject works effectively to show that the world is not flat. The original dust cover of Friedman's best-selling book shows a tall-masted ship going over the edge of the 'flat' earth, confirming flat earth society members' discarded beliefs but distorting and mischaracterizing globalization. Levinson's rich, detailed, data-filled work shows the stark difference between Levinson's work with The Economist and Friedman's with The New York Times. Levinson uses a thorough, comprehensive economic and technological analysis, while Friedman flies around the world with a consistent "gee whiz" attitude of surprise. Levinson traces multitudes of disparate events and finds common links where Friedman finds common links and illustrates them with cursory events. Levinson is an economist; Friedman is a journalist. Friedman mixes metaphors and hyperbole; Levinson mixes in a wide range of colorful characters and challenges. Levinson is an editor; Friedman needs one. People who want to understand the recent history, impetus and infrastructure of globalization need to read "The box."
Fifty years ago, maverick southern trucker Malcolm McLean devised a method for a quantum leap forward in the handling of cargo in transit. At that time, the process of loading and offloading of ships had not changed much in hundreds of years. Loose cargo, irregular, unpredictable and back-breaking work, light-fingered workers, corrupt stevedores, poor management, and mob-controlled unions were the order of the day and most orders changed on a daily basis. The workers probably suffered the most, but the hidden impact on global trade was severe as well. Some small and expensive products -- whiskey, watches -- could not be shipped reliably and safely when subject to massive pilferage. While containers started as a domestic solution, their global use worked miracles in reducing the costs of getting products thousands of miles, and not just on what came to be huge, fast new ocean sailing ships. Railroads and truckers participated in this transformation. Markets opened up. Ports like Felixstowe (England) and Singapore emerged rapidly, displacing older, intransigent ports. Military shipping in containers from America's west coast for the Vietnam War made return trips with stop offs in Japan a cheap, added source of shipping revenue. Cheap-to-ship Japanese products flooded America. Ports sprung up where investors and governments were willing to build cranes, re-build docks and dredge canals. Corrupt, inefficient labor could be bypassed and eliminated, no matter how powerful the union or onerous the contracts. Free trade multiplied.
Sometimes global revolutionary change is not sexy. It's not even computer-driven. Maybe the computer chip spurred globalization, but it was the container ship that made it possible. The idea is to make trade fast, reliable and inexpensive, not just to make the world flat. Containers are like computer chips; they hold lots of stuff in a well-organized fashion. Without the containers, the global transportation network would be running much slower and more costly than it does today. Levinson catalogs a history of shadowy billionaires, entrepreneurs, and a few enlightened governments (the demise of London and New York City ports under much less enlightened leaders is especially painful) that produced a true global revolution. This book is a greater tale of globalization.
I only wish Levinson had included some photographs and more drawings. Some of the technical and industry-specific language can be dry and hard to visualize through verbal descriptions alone.
=== The Good Stuff ===
* Marc Levinson takes a stab at a rather complex topic, and in some areas does quite well. The introduction of containerized shipping is also the death knell for powerful longshoremen's unions; the need for huge capital investments in port facilities, something that was always an afterthought; and the need to change the way just about every company does business.
* The author also does a reasonable job of describing the changes brought upon the world by the growth of the shipping container. Freight rates fell, which changed the way business was done in the world. But there were also changes in waterfront neighborhoods, creations of entirely new cities, and the decay and decline of what had always been major seaports.
* Malcolm Mclean, the founder of SeaLand, is profiled in this book, and he comes across as a interesting, if somewhat unfamiliar character. I definitely got a feel for his risk-taking, betting his company numerous times on what were little more than hunches about how shipping should work. There is also brief profiles of a few labor leaders, and their futile struggles to delay the loss of jobs to automated material handling in ports.
=== The Not-So-Good Stuff ===
* While Mclean is profiled, I never really got a feel for the man. He stays aloof throughout the book, although his accomplishments and strategies are discussed numerous times.
* The book repeats itself quite a bit. As an example, the text must have stated 25 times that there are few useable records of shipping costs prior to 1980. OK, I got the point. And while on the subject, surely there are ways of estimating these.
* I am a bit of a geek, and was hoping for more insight on how the system really works. Who tracks all the containers? Who owns them, and how are they paid. How exactly does the process work by which a container is picked up by a truck at a factory, shipped by rail, loaded on a ship, shipped again by rail, and finally delivered by truck. Who manages the whole flow? How are the containers tracked? Is this what logistics companies do? Does it cost extra for your container to be safely in the hold rather than deck cargo? None of these types of topics were even hinted at, a major disappointment for me.
=== Summary ===
The book was OK, but came up short in my opinion. There was so much more I would have liked to know about how containerized shipping really works, none of which was included. The book is more a history of how port facilities were planned and developed to support containers, with some analysis of the global effects of this technology. If you are interested in how shipping and globalization influence each other, this is not a bad book. If you are mostly interested in how containers actually travel, you will be disappointed.