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The Tipping Point, How Little Things Can Make a Difference Paperback – Import, 2002
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"The best way to understand the dramatic transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life," writes Malcolm Gladwell, "is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do." Although anyone familiar with the theory of memetics will recognize this concept, Gladwell's The Tipping Point has quite a few interesting twists on the subject.
For example, Paul Revere was able to galvanize the forces of resistance so effectively in part because he was what Gladwell calls a "Connector": he knew just about everybody, particularly the revolutionary leaders in each of the towns that he rode through. But Revere "wasn't just the man with the biggest Rolodex in colonial Boston," he was also a "Maven" who gathered extensive information about the British. He knew what was going on and he knew exactly whom to tell. The phenomenon continues to this day--think of how often you've received information in an e-mail message that had been forwarded at least half a dozen times before reaching you.
Gladwell develops these and other concepts (such as the "stickiness" of ideas or the effect of population size on information dispersal) through simple, clear explanations and entertainingly illustrative anecdotes, such as comparing the pedagogical methods of Sesame Street and Blue's Clues, or explaining why it would be even easier to play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with the actor Rod Steiger. Although some readers may find the transitional passages between chapters hold their hands a little too tightly, and Gladwell's closing invocation of the possibilities of social engineering sketchy, even chilling, The Tipping Point is one of the most effective books on science for a general audience in ages. It seems inevitable that "tipping point," like "future shock" or "chaos theory," will soon become one of those ideas that everybody knows--or at least knows by name. --Ron Hogan --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
From Publishers Weekly
The premise of this facile piece of pop sociology has built-in appeal: little changes can have big effects; when small numbers of people start behaving differently, that behavior can ripple outward until a critical mass or "tipping point" is reached, changing the world. Gladwell's thesis that ideas, products, messages and behaviors "spread just like viruses do" remains a metaphor as he follows the growth of "word-of-mouth epidemics" triggered with the help of three pivotal types. These are Connectors, sociable personalities who bring people together; Mavens, who like to pass along knowledge; and Salesmen, adept at persuading the unenlightened. (Paul Revere, for example, was a Maven and a Connector). Gladwell's applications of his "tipping point" concept to current phenomena--such as the drop in violent crime in New York, the rebirth of Hush Puppies suede shoes as a suburban mall favorite, teenage suicide patterns and the efficiency of small work units--may arouse controversy. For example, many parents may be alarmed at his advice on drugs: since teenagers' experimentation with drugs, including cocaine, seldom leads to hardcore use, he contends, "We have to stop fighting this kind of experimentation. We have to accept it and even embrace it." While it offers a smorgasbord of intriguing snippets summarizing research on topics such as conversational patterns, infants' crib talk, judging other people's character, cheating habits in schoolchildren, memory sharing among families or couples, and the dehumanizing effects of prisons, this volume betrays its roots as a series of articles for the New Yorker, where Gladwell is a staff writer: his trendy material feels bloated and insubstantial in book form. Agent, Tina Bennett of Janklow & Nesbit. Major ad/promo. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
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a) Malcolm Gladwell is not a scientist, and he lacks the skepticism which is so mauch an important part of science. He starts with the story of the crime fall in NY that came shortly after the start of the "broken windows" policy. The "fact" that the "broken windows"policy made such a huge change serves him well for his arguments, but there is a problem here. the claim that the "broken windows" policy was the main factor in reducing the crime at that time in NY, is an assumption, and by now we have strong reasons to believe that it played only a mior role in the crime reduction. Other factors such as reduction of lead in fuel have much stronger correlation with the crime reduction, and in many other places, as well, while efforts to replicate the "broken windows" policy elsewhere did not produce the same results. So his first chapter is about a nice but false story that if it was true, was showing an interesting nature of how vast changes in behavior happen.
The second problem, is that the book was written before that Internet became a major player in the field. By now it is problably the most major player, but the book describes how things were before the Internet became a major player. In this sense, the book describes how things were in another era. Things have completely changed since then.
With a degree in social psychology, I can’t help being excited and impressed by the research contributions of the field. The findings he cites often seem obvious and “of course” once the results are in. And sometimes the results contradict “common sense.” Always they require clever design by those who create the hypotheses and methods of measurement.
But this book does not claim to produce new research. What the author does is present interesting and validated findings in a way that organizes them for potential application to a given range of problems. Readers who want more scientific journal type evidence are free to take the suggestions and create their own statistically designed clever research.
As for me, his suggestions set me to thinking and observing life as it is lived. I will confess, I wish he had been able to identify a numerical
tipping point. It would help me a lot in my efforts to create an epidemic of readers for my latest book. But maybe some of what I’m doing will be helped by thinking along the lines he suggests.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book – a good, thought provoking read.
Gladwell is adept at explaining the academic research that led to such popular ideas as “six degrees of separation” and relating such social science experimentation to his overall theme of how change happens. He goes deeply into the discoveries about learning that led to the success of “Sesame Street” and “Blue’s Clues”—these shows’ producers used the idea of “stickiness” to instill basic principles and values in pre-schoolers. The “broken windows” theory of policing gets a thorough explainer, including a side trip into how do-gooding seminarians can allow themselves to avoid being good Samaritans. Advertising is one of the great accelerators of trends, and Gladwell marshals a few Madison Ave. case studies to show how commercials tip us into parting with our hard-earned cash.
Absolutely painless learning is what Gladwell offers, with a side benefit of greater self-awareness.