Friday, January 16, 2009

Book Review...YouTube: An Insider's Guide to Climbing the Charts

Authors: Alan Lastufka and Michael W Dean Paperback: 301 pages Publisher: O'Reilly Media, Inc. (November 28, 2008) ISBN-10: 0596521146 ISBN-13: 978-0596521141 I suppose this would be a better, or at least a more contextually relevant review, if it were a video on YouTube instead of in text on my blog. Alas, my face and voice wouldn't do either YouTube, this book, or this review justice, so you'll have to read it instead of watching it. Also, since Lastufka and Dean chose to write a book and not produce a short movie, posting a blog is a good way to respond. The blurb on the back of the book lists Lastufka as "one of the Top 100 Most Subscribed Comedians on YouTube" and bills Dean as the director of the film "D.I.Y or DIE: How To Survive as an Independent Artist". I figured the book would be all about the art of YouTube and contain little or nothing about the technique or technology involved. Of course, what can you really learn about a book just from reading the back cover? I pressed on. As the subtitle states, this is a book not only about using YouTube, but about self-promotion (self-promotion isn't a bad thing...why do you think I write a blog?). Again, quoting from the back cover, "Want to make a splash on YouTube? Even go viral? You've come to the right place." To go into a bit more depth, the Why You Should Buy This Book section of the Preface says that this book won't promise to make you rich and famous. It promises not to lie (which always makes me suspicious), and promises that, if you're smart (the definition of being smart anyone who buys this book) and talented (the definition of being talented is being attracted to this book), and have some good ideas (no definition was offered by the authors for this part), you'll be able to use this book as a guide to making quality work and having that work actually viewed. The rest of the Preface is pretty standard boilerplate for an O'Reilly book as far as telling you how the book is organized, where to find bonus material online, how URLs are managed (and there are a lot of them, given the topic of the book), and so forth. Now, as they say, "on with the show". The first chapter is a history lesson. I get a history lesson in the first chapter of a lot of books I review. When I review Linux-related books, the first chapter tends to bore me, only because the history of the Linux kernel is the same in each one (if they're accurate). If you know little about YouTube though, it might be worth your time. On the other hand, if you picked up this book, you probably know at least something about YouTube beyond just viewing videos, so maybe you don't care and just want to cut to the heart of the topic: "climbing the charts". On the other hand (again), the first chapter also includes a section called "Going Viral" which, if you understand the term and want it to apply to your work, might be something you don't want to pass up. If you don't understand the term, it is definitely a section you'll want to read. I mentioned earlier that I thought this would be more of an "artsy" book, but it does contain the technical aspects related to YouTube, at least the portions you'll need to know to get started. There's even a section (if you need it) on how to shoot a video. This is the authors' (and O'Reilly's) effort to cast as wide a net, in terms of gathering an audience for the book, as they can. If the book were written strictly for the video professional or talented amateur, people like me and thee (assuming you know as little about shooting videos as I do) wouldn't give the book a second thought. If you are a person who is considering shooting a video for YouTube and want to learn more, this book is basic enough to serve your needs as well. Fortunately, the book doesn't end there. If it did, it would only appeal to beginners and amateurs and the more experienced videographer who wants to get more out of their YouTube experience, would have to seek information elsewhere. There's also the audience of experienced film maker/YouTube newbie to consider. The book also is a good guide for those folks who are old enough to have been making films before anyone ever heard of YouTube, let alone the Internet, and want to make the digital transition. Lastufka and Dean (who aren't that old) wrote this book to also fill that gap, and present plenty of information to keep experienced film makers and YouTube users engaged. The book, taken as a whole, isn't actually for the amateur, who will be satisfied posting their vacation-to-Hawaii videos to YouTube, so the Aunts and Uncles back home can see them. While the book starts at the beginning for the neophyte film maker, the expectation is that you want to learn the craft or improve upon what you already know, and produce good, quality films for the web. In many ways, it's a book as much about the art and craft of film making in general, as it is on how to use YouTube as your primary venue. I can't evaluate this book from a film maker's point of view (though I had something of a flirtation with film making decades ago), but I can tell you that this book will generate the desire to make good art for YouTube, if even just a seed of that desire exists in your mind and heart. I hate giving books "top marks" in my reviews because I always feel like I must have missed some flaw, but I can't find where you'd go wrong in buying and using this book. If you are a film maker who wants to learn YouTube or learn it better, you've come to the right place. If you want to be a film maker, I can't say this book is all you'll need, but relative to YouTube, it's not a bad place to start.


  1. Thanks.

    One comment, re: "The book also is a good guide for those folks who are old enough to have been making films before anyone ever heard of YouTube, let alone the Internet, and want to make the digital transition. Lastufka and Dean (who aren't that old)...."

    Alan's 25, and started doing motion art on video. I'm 44, and started on film, super-8, in 1978.

    Michael W. Dean

  2. My bad. I was thinking of people my age, and I've got 10 years on you. Thanks for the correction. You look younger in your photos. ;-)

  3. It's all that clean livin'. lol....


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