Book Review - Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson
On the internet, the word "free" is often used to describe products and ideas. But what does "free" really mean, and how can you make a living if no one wants to actually pay money for what you produce? Chris Anderson seeks to clear up some of that confusion in his book Free: The Future of a Radical Price. After reading Free, I have a much better idea of how "free" fits into a business and marketing strategy, and how it can actually lead to higher sales of things that aren't gratis...
Prologue; The Birth of Free
Part 1 - What Is Free?: Free 101; The History of Free; The Psychology of Free
Part 2 - Digital Free: Too Cheap To Matter; "Information Wants To Be Free"; Competing With Free; De-Monetization; The New Media Models; How Big Is The Free Economy?
Part 3 - Freeconomics And The Free World: Econ 000; Nonmonetary Economies; Waste Is (Sometimes) Good; Free World; Imagining Abundance; "You Get What You Pay For"
Coda; Free Rules; Freemium Tactics; Fifty Business Models Built On Free; Acknowledgments; Index
Anderson starts out by explaining the different meanings of "free". It would seem that definitions would be unnecessary, but I found that it really helped clarify my thinking behind what is meant when people say something is free. There's the direct cross-subsidy "free" (get something in hopes that you'll pay for something else), the three-party market "free" (you get something for free because someone else pays for it to get your attention), the freemium "free" (a basic version of something in hopes you'll upgrade to a paid premium version), and the non-monetary "free" (something that is just given away with no expectation of payment). That last form of free can be either a gift (like contributions to Wikipedia), labor exchange (I do something to get something in return), or piracy (I take something for free that is supposed to be paid for). I found all these discussions immensely useful, as they clarified what one can expect when drawn into a discussion of how you can afford to give away something and still expect to make money.
Of course, there are those on the other side who insist nothing is free, and Anderson also takes on those arguments. The "You Get What You Pay For" chapter does a good job in summarizing the arguments and applying much of the material found in the book. Again, I found it useful in that it allowed me to think through the concepts and take them from theoretical knowledge to practical application. If I were to choose to do something "for free", how best could I expect to benefit from that, either monetarily or emotionally... And if I needed any examples on how to structure a business based on these concepts, the "Fifty Business Models Built On Free" does an excellent job in giving concrete illustrations of how "free" can fit into a business and benefit it.
Free was, for me, a worthwhile read. I now understand better what and why companies "give stuff away", and what the motive behind it might well be.
Obtained From: Publisher