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Leaving Reality Behind: etoy vs eToys.com & other battles to control cyberspace Hardcover – February 4, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this penetrating examination of a seminal cyberspace turf war, Wishart and Bochsler tell a story about art imitating life and the artist being sued for trademark infringement. Documentary filmmaker Wishart and Swiss National TV reporter Bochsler recount the tale of etoy, a company of German-based avant-garde artists that held wild parties and issued stock to shareholders. It registered the name etoy.com to serve as an online gallery and virtual workspace. In September 1999, etoy was sued by the hugely popular online retailer Etoys.com, which at the time was valued at $8 billion, for trademark infringement. The authors thoroughly detail each volley in the "Toy War," including lawsuits, denial of service attacks and grassroots activism. More significantly, the battle serves as a case study for exploring the conflicting forces that have shaped the Internet's development. Backed by venture capitalists and led by CEO Toby Lenk, Etoys.com was out to make a profit by selling products. Etoy, on the other hand, was supported by a few wealthy patrons and run by media-savvy artists with shaved heads who went by code names and wanted to shake things up. The latter were much more successful. With extensive and entertaining firsthand accounts, Wishart and Bochsler reveal how the dot-com boom warped the perceptions of artist and corporate executive alike. Although Lenk was a seasoned executive, he was caught off guard by the collapse of Etoys.com, and despite etoy's subversive origins, it developed internal power struggles that rivaled those of a Fortune 500 company. Photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Wishart, a documentary filmmaker, and Bochsler, a reporter and TV producer, describe the battle between etoy.com, and eToys.com. eToys was a U.S. online toy store, an $8 billion darling of Wall Street during the heydays of the Internet bubble; etoy, operating from Switzerland, was constructed as an art project and inspired a community of hackers, activists, and artists to launch an enormous anticorporate campaign--etoy had a logo, a brand, and a Web site but no employees or infrastructure and sold a series of graphic posters that were called "shares." The confrontation between the two entities concerned control of domain names (Internet addresses), which was the central issue in the litigation, which began in November 1999. Their struggle continued until eToys filed for bankruptcy protection in March 2001. This fascinating story also provides insight into the history of the Internet, the invention of search engines, and commentary about online retailing, which initially lacked the expected customer base, as buyers were slow to adapt to this new form of shopping. Mary Whaley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1St Edition edition (February 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066210763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066210766
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,440,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on February 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As an MBA student and a former internet person, I can say with great authority that most business books are the driest, most soul-destroying texts on earth. This book, however, defies the odds and is truly compelling -- so much so that you can forget you're reading about a corporate legal battle and instead feel like you're following an Epic Drama of Good versus Evil.
Actually, that's not quite true. This book reads more like a comedy than anything (laugh-out-loud funny), yet it also intelligently examines the more serious issues behind this bizarre tussle between art and (e-)commerce in a way that has yet to be topped. It actually attempts to avoid taking sides as well, though you cannot help rooting for the artists in the end because they are just more charming.
A great and interesting read, and a must-read for anyone who had a pulse during the internet boom years.
The humor in the book comes in large part to the insane antics of the etoy crew, crazy Swiss conceptual techo performance artists who provide ample fodder for laughs throughout the book. Orange jumpsuits? Check. Mirrored sunglasses? Check. Shaved heads? Check? Earnest 'etoy offsite meetings' in random Eastern European motels? Check. Contrast them with the comparatively dopey Lenk and his team's inability to ship toys in time for Christmas, and the struggle comes to life. The best part is it's all true, and that you begin to understand that the etoy group were more than a bunch of merry pranksters; they were truly insane and ambitious, as most great artists tend to be. (And what they did was certainly a type of greatness in our current age; once set upon as innocents, they turned round and fought back!)
This book flows like a movie, a old-fashioned us-versus-them picture.
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Format: Hardcover
There was a time when people were just starting e-mail and the World Wide Web, and had no real idea what sort of life the internet was going to bring forth. In the early 1990s, there weren't many rules, and commercial use of the Web had not taken it over. In 1995, an anarchic group of seven Swiss artists started the site [...] In 1997, a billion-dollar firm to sell toys via the internet started up, registering as [...] Two years later, eToys sued etoy for damaging the eToys trademark. The resulting fracas is told in an entertaining story that is not just a dot-com bust parable, _Leaving Reality Behind: etoy vs eToys.com & Other Battles to Control Cyberspace_ (Ecco) by Adam Wishart and Regula Bochsler. The earnestness and foolishness and greed herein described are universal; the contemporary surroundings of this tale, however, have much to tell us about the founding philosophy of the internet and its commercial future.
The artists involved in etoy had worked on collaborative digital art projects, and developed their site as a parody of internet business. They issued shares, and strangely, the share certificates were art works on their own; etoy did not manufacture toys or anything, but it did sell shares, and the shares (or art) did sell. They mocked executive appearances, adopting orange flight jackets, black pants, and shaved heads as uniforms. They intended to be "the First Street Gang of the Information Super Data Highway." Official company communications were signed, "etoy, leaving reality behind." Of course, commercial dot-coms were leaving reality behind in their own fashion. The story of eToys is told just as fully in this book as that of etoy, and it is just as strange. eToys was one of the first companies that emerged from idealab!
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Format: Hardcover
In years to come when they're teaching the history of the internet in all its aspects at colleges this book will be one of a hand-full of books that will be essential reading.
There have been lots of "I was there" internet books - some early ones like "Burn Rate" were truly excellent accounts of life at the coal face but more recent titles such as "Dot.bomb" were dull reads that neither entertained nor informed. "Leaving Reality Behind" is different in that neither of the authors are telling their own story but rather reporting back on the events that helped define and shape the evolution of this internet thing. Both funny and intelligent this book stands out for the thoroughness of its research (in the rush to get them out many internet books have suffered from sloppy editing and factual inaccuracies) as is witnessed by its excellent bibliography - probably worth the cover price alone for anyone serious about understanding recent digital history.
Finally, in bringing together the European and American sides of the story there are deep insites offered in the differences and similarities that bind the two continents together - particularly pertinent at the moment.
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