Chris Anderson’s “FREE” Book Is Available for Free…Really
I just finished reading a Chris Anderson’s “Free: The Future of a Radical Price.” He’s the editor of Wired Magazine who also wrote “The Long Tail” (which is the shape of an economic demand curve and not related to kangaroos). He proves his free point by making his “Free” book available for free.
I didn’t really read it. I listened to a MP3 down loadable copy of it which I got for free on Audible.com. It didn’t cost me a single penny and I even got Chris Anderson the author himself that read it to me. Pretty nice.
Of course, if you want a hardbound copy, you’ll have to go on out to the bookstore and pay for it. When physical atoms are involved, you have to pay for the material, distribution and physical space. The book does a good job of explaining the differences between these two business models.
I read the book on the recommendation of one of my students (an under twenty-fiver). The concepts in the book are as natural to that age group as walking and chewing gum (and not even at the same time). I am fascinated by this new way of thinking he proposes.
With storage and related technology costs dropping so fast (and as a techie I remember when a terrabyte cost well into the six-figures), the cost of providing content like music, books (in electronic form anyway) and videos is rapidly going to zero. I just priced a terabyte of storage in a Western Digital Passport drive at $149 on Amazon.com. That has huge implications making the possibility of delivering free electronic content practical.
Chris explores the concepts theoretically going back in history. Did you know the expression “there’s no free lunch” started early this century when saloons did give away free lunches. They figured you pay for the drink and then probably a few more drinks so you could have at all the food you wanted. (That reminded me college days when we’d hop on over to the bar on Friday’s when for the price of a cheap beer you could fill your stomach too.
Then he give some practical examples to illustrate his points. Think:
- People buying Starbucks coffee when they can get a free cup at work
- Practically free air travel (in Ireland)
- Free versus pirated music, video and software.
He presents an idea I think every working professional, young and old, and especially aspiring entrepreneurs should consider. Business models that were once unsupportable have arrived and are thriving. You have the Huffington Post giving away the news, Google giving away MS Office-like software and paper magazines costing you something when their online equivalents go for free.
He discusses intellectual property, basically ideas, protected ideas by trademarks, copyrights and patents. They are completely ignored in countries like China yet they have working business models based on free. Industries based upon intellectual property laws are under attack and it’s not just music, videos and software. He cites examples from well-established industries like drug manufacturing. What’s the cost of producing the actual pill you take versus the years of R&D required to invent it? Even they can be easily pirated.
What is anyone supposed to do?
Chris is proposing ideas some consider completely radical, but others are embracing them and using them as the foundation for new business models leveraging technology that didn’t even exist five and ten years ago. You can fight it all the way if you like, but I recommend you consider a few of Chris’ ideas that take a more “if you can’t beat ’em join ’em” approach. Definitely something to consider.
Let me know what you think of the information you got out of your free or paid for copy.
Hope this helps.