This essay first appeared in the June 2023 issue of Choice (volume 60 | issue 10).
The internet has become an almost constant component of daily life. From social interactions to business dealings and recreation, it is almost impossible to imagine how we could live without its ease of access and ubiquity. As a result of its tremendous adoption since the early 1990s, the internet has spawned some of the largest and most powerful corporations in the world. How did a military research project result in the creation of companies that now dominate all aspects of daily life?
This bibliographic essay offers an overview of the evolution of the internet as a tool for commerce from its earliest conception as a communication system to its present state of dominance. The books it highlights show how the internet became commercial, how the early days of the internet led to a financial boom and bust, how the companies that survived that bust grew to become near monopolies, and how monopolization has resulted in a reexamination of government policies, which bring to the fore discussions of antitrust and worker rights. Despite an attempt to organize the essay chronologically and group books together based on specific periods of e-commerce development, not all books fall neatly into categories. For instance, several books by former workers at Amazon are also heavily influenced by the dot-com boom period in which they were written. It also is difficult to point to just one book that offers a comprehensive history of e-commerce from its beginnings to the present. By breaking down the history into sections, this essay focuses on books that have a narrower scope.
Sammy J. Chapman Jr. is a reference librarian and collection development coordinator at Purdue University Northwest and has Masters of Science degrees in Information Sciences and Human Resource Development, both from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.