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The Box

6 recommendations

Maersk installed 100-foot-tall rotating sails on one of its tankers

Some years ago I read The Box by Marc Levinson, a history of containerized shipping. Highly recommend it. If you live in SF and have wondered about the numerous barely used piers, this book explains their history as well - and why the major container terminal ended up in Oakland instead.

One of the painful early lessons for the industry was the discovery that minimizing operational costs (particularly fuel and maintenance) trumps every other value. A pioneering containerized shipping company went bankrupt pursuing a high-speed shipping strategy that cost marginally more than low-speed competition.

Edit: Oh, there is a second edition! Updated link.

Edit: replaced unhelpful snark.

abtinf, about 4 years ago

Ask HN: Good books/resources that provide overviews of large industries?

I've personally read the "Box: How the shipping container..." book. Its a pretty good read, it talks about the history of caravel ships's cargo load eventually turning into standarized freight containers. It talks about how pulley systems eventually turn into cranes used in ports. And the logistics of extracting freight inside of the hull of a ship (system is like a claw machine in an arcade). It gaves you the history of how The Box came to be, by solving issues every shipper faced.

As to things related to distribution logistics, my favorite is anything from the national association of distributors. I've read 1 or 2 books there, the content there is topnotch Its got some good very specific applicable MBA-level topics on there, such as pricing schemas and optimizations.

Ecommerce books I really don't see the point. This is an evolving field. Your exposed to ecommerce best practices everyday. My favorite go to has always been things like, amazon, and a few private-based companies. The recommended read for ecommerce is the amazon book for something that's more of a narrative. As a side note, analyzing ecommerce sites is also how I learned a lot of best practices for UX, frontend design, and marketing (just fire up the debugger, you'd be surprised how different companies do frontend in different ways).

Private labelling & importing I've read a few. I found this one to be helpful when I first started private labelling , it talks about chinese culture and negotiation tactics

Fintech I am not really up to date on so I couldn't really tell you.

Logistics - I think this is something best learned by experience. But, the recommended standard text is this I've read bits and pieces here and there, its more of a reference manual.

Hardware - A really good book I've read is called "Code: the hidden language" It talks about how software integrates with hardware, to understanding how morse code, the decimal system was created, and leading up to flipflop gates / and embedded processing. First half of book is readable by anyone, 2nd half requires a CS degree to understand

Database design schemas - I have a few of these books, I personally prefer anything from kimball group here. Airtable has some really great database design schema blog posts as well, including case studies from WeWork.

Finally as a side note, depending on the industry, you might find better youtube channels over book content, better content on private sites / blogs, or better content on reddit forums.

One of the best ways of learning an industry is to find what the standard software is used. You can find it in a google search usually. Just pretend you own a company in the industry. What would you search up? Find the top 2 or 3 softwares used in that industry. Then, you go to youtube search "Software tutorial". Binge watch it at 4x speed, and find the recommended intro playlist. Software tells a rich history of why certain things came to be, and good UX made software highlights best practices in that industry. Check forums related to it, and you can find a lot about how an industry operates.

Kagerjay, over 4 years ago

The Shipping Container Is a Blessing to All Humanity

"The Box" is a great book. If anyone is into podcasts I can recommend this Omega Tau episode Full disclosure: I am one of the persons being interviewed.

macmac, over 4 years ago

The Best Books I Read in 2015

I went through his list last year and selected two books that got my attention.

The first is a book about the rise of the shipping container. Really informative and clearly describes the design process behind a technique we've always taken for granted. It's a historical account mainly, starting from the idea all the way to modern day shipping.

The second, which I read through the first few chapters of, describes the origins of the steam engine, but it was a bit bland for my tastes.

Both are interesting books to be frank so I'd recommend at least checking them out.

Cyph0n, almost 7 years ago

Ask HN: Which book are you reading these days?

Stories of Your Life and Others is a collection of short stories by Ted Chiang. The stories explore wildly different topics, but every one of them is amazing.

Someone on HN had recommended The Box by Marc Levinson. It's a history of the shipping container. That sounds dreadfully prosaic, but the book is well written and the shipping container's influence on our modern global economy cannot be overstated.

Not reading per se, but Dan Carlin's WWI podcasts on the Hardcore History blog are well worth listening to.

loudmax, over 7 years ago

Containers have been more important for globalisation than freer trade

I highly recommend the book "The Box" which goes deep into the history of the shipping container.

In a nutshell, it was messy. It's not easy in the physical/infrastructure world to create a standard and then impose it world-wide. (ie, competing standards, etc.)

Then the container literally created and destroyed neighborhoods & cities, but as the article notes revolutionized world trade. I can HIGHLY recommend the book.

jedc, over 9 years ago

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