Monday, July 27, 2009

Read FREE by Chris Anderson for FREE (or not...)

"Free is a big economic force that is all around us yet poorly understood." His book identifies several instances in which giving something away allows another aspect of a business to be monetized."-Chris Anderson

Sometimes what purports to be free, is not. "Free: The Future of a Radical Price" (Hyperion; $26.99) by Chris Anderson (, editor of Wired and the author of the 2006 best-seller “The Long Tail,” seems to be almost an extended elaboration of a February Wired article Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business. If you're having as much difficulty and/or frustration trying to read FREE for FREE on Scribd or Google, you might want to save yourself some time by reading the Wired article instead.
"...the thing about offering free products is that you’re not really expecting zero returns. Free downloads earn you human attention, and human attention is the real currency of the Internet. You may not consider it particularly valuable, nor may you consider it particularly helpful when the landlord comes knocking for the rent, but publishers and independent content producers would do well to sit up and take notice of this untapped resource - human attention usually leads to community, and community in turn leads to a captive audience … always a good thing to have on hand if and when you finally decide to monetize your online efforts." (1)
Here's a little snip from the aforementioned Wired article that explores the "free" model:
On a busy corner in São Paulo, Brazil, street vendors pitch the latest "tecnobrega" CDs, including one by a hot band called Banda Calypso. Like CDs from most street vendors, these did not come from a record label. But neither are they illicit. They came directly from the band. Calypso distributes masters of its CDs and CD liner art to street vendor networks in towns it plans to tour, with full agreement that the vendors will copy the CDs, sell them, and keep all the money. That's OK, because selling discs isn't Calypso's main source of income. The band is really in the performance business - and business is good. Traveling from town to town this way, preceded by a wave of supercheap CDs, Calypso has filled its shows and paid for a private jet.
The vendors generate literal street cred in each town Calypso visits, and its omnipresence in the urban soundscape means that it gets huge crowds to its rave/dj/concert events. Free music is just publicity for a far more lucrative tour business. Nobody thinks of this as piracy.
In the actual book "Free," Anderson writes about newspapermen "...they may be paid far less, and for many it won’t be a full time job at all. Journalism as a profession will share the stage with journalism as an avocation. Meanwhile, others may use their skills to teach and organize amateurs to do a better job covering their own communities, becoming more editor/coach than writer. If so, leveraging the Free—paying people to get other people to write for non-monetary rewards-may not be the enemy of professional journalists. Instead, it may be their salvation.

Anderson cautions that the philosophy of embracing the Free involves moving from a “scarcity” mind-set to an “abundance” mind-set. Giving something away means that a lot of it will be wasted. But because it costs almost nothing to make things, digitally, we can afford to be wasteful. (2) The ease with which content speeds to consumers over the Internet is just one of the issues Anderson touches on in "Free." Throughout the book, he explores "the paradox of Free," in which "people are making lots of money and charging nothing."

In an effort to take the information from Wikipedia and remix it in his own language -- a process Anderson calls a "write-through" -- several passages were left unaltered, and without any credit to Wikipedia.

The irony that some of the book's contents might have been lifted for free from Wikipedia was not lost on media watchers: Gawker, Fast Company and the Associated Press quickly picked up the story of the pilfered material.(3)

(1) Why Free Isn’t Free - Or At Least, Not Really.
by Eli James
July 13 2009 Noveler

(2) Priced to Sell
Is free the future?
by Malcolm Gladwell
July 6 2009 The New Yorker

(3) New York Magazine
Carolyn Kellogg
June 25, 2009

Chris Anderson Discusses the Free Business Model and What It Means ...
Chris Anderson Reponds To Malcolm Gladwell On Charlie Rose - PSFK
Chris Anderson on Free — The Mediavore
Bernard Leong » Free by Chris Anderson

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