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Free: The Future of a Radical Price

Free: The Future of a Radical Price

3.9 30
by Chris Anderson

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The New York Times bestselling author heralds the future of business in Free.

In his revolutionary bestseller, The Long Tail, Chris Anderson demonstrated how the online marketplace creates niche markets, allowing products and consumers to connect in a way that has never been possible before. Now, in Free, he makes the compelling case


The New York Times bestselling author heralds the future of business in Free.

In his revolutionary bestseller, The Long Tail, Chris Anderson demonstrated how the online marketplace creates niche markets, allowing products and consumers to connect in a way that has never been possible before. Now, in Free, he makes the compelling case that in many instances businesses can profit more from giving things away than they can by charging for them. Far more than a promotional gimmick, Free is a business strategy that may well be essential to a company's survival.

The costs associated with the growing online economy are trending toward zero at an incredible rate. Never in the course of human history have the primary inputs to an industrial economy fallen in price so fast and for so long. Just think that in 1961, a single transistor cost $10; now Intel's latest chip has two billion transistors and sells for $300 (or 0.000015 cents per transistor—effectively too cheap to price). The traditional economics of scarcity just don't apply to bandwidth, processing power, and hard-drive storage.

Yet this is just one engine behind the new Free, a reality that goes beyond a marketing gimmick or a cross-subsidy. Anderson also points to the growth of the reputation economy; explains different models for unleashing the power of Free; and shows how to compete when your competitors are giving away what you're trying to sell.

In Free, Chris Anderson explores this radical idea for the new global economy and demonstrates how this revolutionary price can be harnessed for the benefit of consumers and businesses alike.

Editorial Reviews

Rob Pegoraro
Anderson…provides useful insights into both the market forces he describes and what to do about them.
—The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
Mr. Anderson has come up with a lively conversation piece. Even when the particulars of his argument are easily assailable, the gist is clear: Now that a cornucopia of Internet material has been made available without fee, and in some cases without scruples, the smart business must find ways to adapt to that new reality. "The way to compete with Free is to move past the abundance to find the adjacent scarcity," he writes. And Free is full of specific examples of how to do just that.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

In the digital marketplace, the most effective price is no price at all, argues Anderson (The Long Tail). He illustrates how savvy businesses are raking it in with indirect routes from product to revenue with such models as cross-subsidies (giving away a DVR to sell cable service) and freemiums (offering Flickr for free while selling the superior FlickrPro to serious users). New media models have allowed successes like Obama's campaign "billboards" on Xbox Live, Webkinz dolls and Radiohead's name-your-own-price experiment with its latest album. A generational and global shift is at play-those below 30 won't pay for information, knowing it will be available somewhere for free, and in China, piracy accounts for about 95% of music consumption-to the delight of artists and labels, who profit off free publicity through concerts and merchandising. Anderson provides a thorough overview of the history of pricing and commerce, the "mental transaction costs" that differentiate zero and any other price into two entirely different markets, the psychology of digital piracy and the open-source war between Microsoft and Linux. As in Anderson's previous book, the thought-provoking material is matched by a delivery that is nothing short of scintillating. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

While the best things in life may be free, a business model based on giving stuff away seems a little crazy. But Anderson (editor in chief, Wired), who made a big splash with The Long Tail, tells us that this business model is already here. In The Long Tail, he showed how online businesses were making good by selling less of more, that is, by selling a huge range of niche or low-volume products that added up to big bucks. Here he demonstrates that the concept of making money by giving things away has already taken hold in the digital world. VERDICT With explanations of basic economic principles like supply and demand and an analysis of the differences between products in the physical world and those in the digital world, Anderson makes the Free premise sound quite reasonable. Lots of companies are making lots of money from "free." Google and Yahoo, for instance, have some of the biggest computer server complexes in the world, yet they let us use their email, news, and search services every day. While this book may not be free, it will generate interest among both academic and general readers.—Carol J. Elsen, Univ. of Wisconsin, Whitewater

—Carol J. Elsen

Product Details

Hachette Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.54(h) x 0.94(d)
1220L (what's this?)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Chris Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Wired magazine, a position he's held since 2001. In 2002 and 2004, he led the magazine to a 2002 National Magazine Awards nomination for General Excellence. He has worked at The Economist, where he served as U.S. Business Editor. His career began at the two premier science journals, Science and Nature, where he served in several editorial capacities. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from George Washington University and studied Quantum Mechanics and Science Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley.

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Free: The Future of a Radical Price 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
johnhiltoniii More than 1 year ago
Chris Anderson has (once again) nailed it! If you enjoyed the Long Tail, you will likewise enjoy Free. Anderson starts out my telling the history of Jell-O. The short version is that around 1900 the owner tried to sell the failing Jell-O company for $35, but the potential buyer refused. How did Jell-O become "America's Most Famous Dessert"? Well, it's in the book, but it centered around giving away free Jell-O recipes. What's great about this book is that Anderson has thought of so many different angles. Free is much more "give away the blade, sell the razor," although that is one effective model. Anderson describes many different ways that "free" can be used both by individuals and businesses. I'm sure that a lot of people are going to argue about the content of this book without even reading it. The whole book needs to be read because there is a lot more to Free than initially meets the eye. Anderson looks fairly at both sides of the issues. He points out the enormous profits Google makes on "free" while acknowledging that YouTube has yet to make a profit on "free." "Free" is also discussed as an international phenomenon. Favorite chapters include "You Get What You Pay For" in which Anderson addresses 14 doubts people have about free, and "How big is the free economy?" There are also some excellent summaries at the end of the book, including 50 business models built on free. As a consumer, I'm hooked on free. As a producer I want to implement the principles Anderson explores. I give it my highest recommendation.
IMA15 More than 1 year ago
In "Free: The Future of the Radial Price" Anderson delves into the phenomena of companies succeeding on giving away their product, or services, for free. He states that more and more companies are offering things for free, and that in order for other companies to remain profitable and relevant they will eventually have to get on board this same way of thinking, and doing business. In today's world of technology and online services, getting something for free is an every day practice. Once customers are exposed to the companies wares, or services then they may be more willing to purchase from them again. Free products are not to be looked at as cheap, throw aways, but something of value. Customers expect these free 'samples' to work properly and be something that is of value to them. While Anderson foresees a future where more and more things are given to the public for free, I do not think this will occur in the too near future. I think Anderson did a great job showing the evolution of the idea of 'Free.' He was able to show that while this practice may be more popular now, it is definitely not a new idea. His examples, such as Jell-o and Ryan Air showed how this idea has been used successfully for decades. These examples were valuable to me, as it allowed me to apply this concept to ideas beyond those of digital media, where it is easier, and cheaper, to give things away for free. While there is an increase of 'Free' in the marketplace, I think this is mainly due to the ever increasing use of digital media, email, and the internet. I think it is hard to imagine a totally free world, as Anderson says is the future, as there are many companies where this idea isn't as easily executed as it is with music and email.
RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
Economists swear there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone always pays. That may be true in the "atoms" world of physical things, but Chris Anderson explains why it does not apply in the "bits" world of the Internet, where "free" is the ruling paradigm. If, as Stewart Brand (founder of the Whole Earth Catalogue and the Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link) said, "Information wants to be free," now it is, at least in many instances, particularly online. While the idea of giving things away as a promotion or loss leader isn't new, Anderson's fresh insight is that giveaways are becoming a business imperative that companies are going to have to accept and use. Actually, companies online and off can become immensely profitable when they give products or services away for free to bring customers in and to create the need for future ancillary product sales (in other words, take the printer and buy the ink). Anderson, author of The Long Tail and editor of Wired magazine, tells you how to make money by providing most of your offerings for free and charging for just a few of them. getAbstract recommends this perceptive, innovative, idiosyncratic book to all marketers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You can get this book for free on itunes this is a ripoff bn is making you pay too much. By the way this is a good book
Marlan Winter More than 1 year ago
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Tunguz More than 1 year ago
The best things in life are free, or so the old saying goes. These days, however, it seems that more and more companies and retailers are trying to get us something for free, and it is becoming increasingly doubtful that all of those freebies are the best that life can offer. Nonetheless, all this free stuff has certainly contributed to making many aspects of our daily lives simpler and more convenient, especially when it comes to those parts of our lives that we spend in digital world. The raise of free predates computers, and it has a venerable history in the annals of marketing. Chris Anderson, the editor in chief of the "Wired Magazine" and the author of insightful "Long tail," narrates the greatest highlights of the history giving products for free. He also explains the rationale behind how the prices get set in a free market, and the reason why in the absence of almost any production costs we can expect products to eventually end up free. The reason that there is a proliferation of free nowadays has everything to do with the fact that the cost of creating and moving bits of information around is essentially zero. Anderson spends an entire chapter defending the free model against its many critics. He takes every common objection to free that has been heard in recent years and provides a cogent and well-informed refutation. How convincing his arguments are, however, may depend on your own attitude and point of view. At the end of the book there is a list of fifty different business models where products or services are given out for free. This is a useful list for anyone considering a cutting-edge modern business, and for the rest of us it gives us an opportunity to take a look at what kinds of things can be obtained for free these days. Overall, this is an interesting book that takes a look at modern economy form a very unique angle. Only the time will tell if the paradigms used in this analysis will survive the test of time or are they just the latest fad.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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GabCDever More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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zgaines More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beware, this book sends out a creative vibe. Chris Anderson writes about how free marketing actually boost a business net profits. He explains that the world is becoming actually free; explaining it as 20th century free and 21st century free. It is the world of bits not atoms, where most things online in the cloud are thought as being free. Chris Anderson explains how free reaches the maximum amount of people possible to gain interest in the smaller part of the business. His ideas were amazing and wonderful but most of these business techniques only applied to major corporations, which was not much help to me - given that I am not the CEO of a corporation. His ideas were already proven by his examples, in fact this book could be read as a history of "free" and I applaud him for including intuitive historical information since it gives the reader a great understanding. His ideas can be seen in most of today's life, his biggest example was Google and how so many of its products are free. Many of his concepts were complicated to grasp, but he did give specific examples from our actual life which made his thoughts conveying and easier to understand. The theme of the book was "free" and the different types of free, but to some readers the theme might get old, and drawn out - he did not bring up any new and exciting brilliant ideas, it seemed like he ran out of stuff to say. He restated what most people, who spend any amount of time on the internet already, know - not to say it was a bad book but could have been a bit more insightful. His theme of the new free was very motivating - I found myself constantly thinking of ways to incorporate his ideas into my future plans. What other kinds of business could be built on "free"? Everyone needs to read this book, even though for some it might not be their type book. It shows how the fundaments of economics have changed with the "bit" world and what the new century brings to the meaning of free. This book changed my outlook on life, it made me think of what we get for free every day but in return pay for every day. The book is well written and well thought out; he gives clear examples and successfully expressed his ideas. Though I did find the book a bit repetitive from time to time I still would recommended it any one since it gave me great inspiration to find the next big thing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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wizardhlee More than 1 year ago
This was a frustrating book for me to read. My frustration lay mainly in Anderson's style and more importantly his lack of strong cogent structure behind his argument. On the one hand I am more persuaded after reading Anderson's book by his thesis that Free pricing in its many forms and across many media and atoms (real things) is effective, here to stay and many times more effective than any other pricing scheme for consumer and provider. He backs up his argument with many examples but I often failed to rationalize why and when he brought up certain examples. His flow seems somewhat like a blog or a collection of columns re-organized with some attempt at logic. Nonetheless for a book that is primarily an extended argument, written by an editor in chief and quantum physicist in grad school, I don't think his chapter outline is strong in argumentative style. There should be more of a step by step argument or logic behind his narrative but it's barely there. It's not cogent. You could leave out a chapter or two and not know anything was missing. It's argument by example which is okay but that's not the way it's laid out but it is the way it ends up. Induction (building your case from many specific examples, inferring a rule that works from case to case) can work and I found his most cogent section--in terms of reasoning--at the end which in a way is induction. It turns out many companies and individuals and artists have had to learn how to operate in the new largely digital Freeconomy by stumbling from business model to model until they or someone latched onto the right one. But you don't expect a book by such a renowned industry observer to be rambling with the benefit of hindsight and reflection. The chapter on how Free and piracy is a national model in China and Brazil is fascinating and most new to me especially with regard to how those models may be the solution for artists especially musicians elsewhere struggling with MP3 downloads at 99 cents or less.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
free has been one of the books that i have enjoyed the most. the author wanted to prove his point and in my opinion he did. i think you lean alot about life and economics.where your money is realy going. i recommend everyone of all ages to read this book!
srock7 More than 1 year ago
Chris Andersons Free is a look into the changing of the commercial world into one primarily focused on a new digital age. Anderson explores the queston of how will companies compete with this new market of free? this book is very interesting and i recommend it to anyone seeking information about our changing world and economy and a look into the future of technology.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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gregorm7 More than 1 year ago
I am finding myself reading this is bits and pieces. Wonder if this is a result of reading blogs all the time, skipping around and reading what sparks my interest. Not so good if you, ya know, want to finish a book. So far, pretty interesting but am not completely sold. Information may want to be free but people still need to pay the rent.