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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson



A fascinating and enjoyable read

Free: The Future of a Radical Price is an exploration of the future. It is an exploration of how advancements in computer technology, specifically the ultra-cheap price of computerized data storage, has changed the flow of information and data and has changed the rules of data-based business.

Written on computers using free programs, accessing free internet at coffee houses and using as many free sources as possible, such as Wikipedia* and blogs, Anderson discusses the concept of "free" as a business tool from its beginnings to now.

Anderson keeps a light and breezy tone throughout the book, but don't let that lull you into a sense that weighty business concepts are not being discussed. The exploration of "free" starts with marketing ideas such as the ubiquitous "Buy One Get One Free" to ideas such as giving the razor handles away but charging for the blades as he discusses the beginnings of American business institutions such as Gillette and Jell-O.

But, those brick and mortar type businesses are not the focus of the book. He is looking at the information age. Businesses like Amazon.com (free shipping once a strategic price point has been reached, free home pages for reviewers, lots and lots of reviews by regular folks, and not "professionals") and Google (free searches, free document programs, free uploads on video sites, etc.) are thoroughly discussed as are concepts such music piracy.

Chris Anderson
He includes lots of other examples, such as websites that offer free services to all (such as photo uploading or video games) but allow premium (paying) members extra privileges. He also includes in a listing at the end 50 business models based on free (he calls it Freemium) and provides concrete examples of companies that use these models, such as Disney, WordPress and MicroSoft).



*Wikipedia has its flaws (I teach high school history and for 20 minutes in 2005 one of my students listed himself as the first Emperor of Rome, but it was caught, corrected and our school was banned from editing Wikipedia), but it is a tremendous resource and is good for a quick check on facts.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson.

Reviewed on September 5, 2009.

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