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Free: The Future of a Radical Price

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  • Posted April 11, 2011

    Love Wired but bored by Anderson's books.

    I should have stopped reading after the prologue. Here, Chris Anderson describes two types of critics wary of his idea that economies can be built upon giving consumers something for "free". He found distinct responses based upon age; the older critics thought there was no such thing as free, there had to be a "catch" and they would eventually end up paying while the younger generation thought, "duh"- yes, free does work and products are built, bought and sold based on this model. For me, "duh" accurately describes how I feel about this book. According to Anderson, I am a member of "the Google generation who grew up on the internet", therefore this free concept is not foreign or new to me. For most of my life, free has factored into many, if not all, of my purchases. I get a free cell phone, but I pay for monthly service. When shopping online, I get free shipping if I spend a certain amount. In fact, I am less likely to purchase something online unless shipping is free. I refuse to download an iphone app that's not free.
    While I didn't enjoy most of the book, the history of how "free" business models came to be was mildly entertaining. Some of the sidebars where Anderson describes his thoughts on how things like college education, textbooks, and even cars can be free were interesting. Since I work in IT, I found some of the digital and internet history to be interesting as well even though some of it elicited another "duh" response. Companies spend money on expensive servers and hardware but can host thousands of customers for next to nothing. Duh. Doing things like this is what gives software companies a competitive advantage over those who require each customer to purchase their own hardware in addition to software. I like articles in Wired, but don't want to read them as expanded versions in books.

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  • Posted November 8, 2010

    Good - the middle of the book was a little boring.

    I first started reading and i got hooked, but then i got to the digital free section and it got boring. In the beginning I learned how companies used 'free' as a way to make their product they sell more attractive to the public. I also learned about the Corn Economy and how almost everything created has a trace of corn in it (i.e. gas for your car or cardboard boxes). Also there is such thing as a free lunch, and that term was created when saloon-keepers would give a meal to any one who bought a drink. The more that i read the more confusing things got. I think it's mostly because I didn't know what he was talking about or understand. There we some parts that dealt with the online line world, but some techie example were given which aren't easy to understand if you are not a computer geek. The charts in the book were a little confusing to me too. If could be the topic or my reading level, but I don't recommend anyone not on an adult reading level to read this book. I also recommend you should fully understand how our economy works before reading it will help a lot. I found myself making connection to my Econ. class.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2009

    Worth a "radical price" ($0.00)

    I flipped through the free ebook, which was offered for a limited time on various platforms, but is there enough here to justify a hardcover price, even with discounting? I don't think so. The book reads like an energetic but not very trustworthy blog--breathless, careless, and shoddily researched and argued.

    It's been widely discussed that Chris Anderson lifted passages straight out of Wikipedia without attribution; now that the credits have been added to the electronic text, it looks pretty silly to see the notoriously uneven online reference cited again and again. I guess it was too slow/too old-school (too expensive?) to bother to do the primary research we have come to expect in a book--or even in a decent high school paper. Again and again the text feels dashed off and sloppy. Just a few examples from Chapter 7, which starts off, "On February 3, 1975, Bill Gates, then 'General Partner, MicroSoft' wrote an 'Open Letter to Hobbyists...'" and says on the following page that "Microsoft, now without a hyphen, grew rich." What hyphen? Does he mean a capital s? There's a subhead, "The Penguin Attacks," that's incomprehensible to people who don't already know the history of free software he's supposed to be explaining; then another subhead, "Case Two," without a "Case One."

    What is "free," anyway? A lot of it sounds like a variation on bait-and-switch: e.g., give away a free cell phone but charge activation and monthly fees; offer a free basic version of a product but charge for the "premium" edition people really want; give doctors free software for electronic health records in return for access to data on those doctors' patients (yikes). Chris Anderson applies a version of the model to himself: "So you can read a copy of this book online (abundant, commodity information) for free, but if you want me to fly to your city and prepare a custom talk on free as it is applies to your business, I'll be happy to, but you're going to have to pay me for my (scarce) time. I've got a lot of kids and college isn't getting any cheaper."

    Sadly, based on the quality of the thinking in this (free) book, I can't recommend paying for any premium version. Let the buyer beware.

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