Is Free Free?

Wired editor and Long Tail author Chris Anderson sees free things everywhere — Google, YouTube, even The New York Times — and concludes that $0.00 the price has revolutionized the modern world as much as zero the concept revolutionized the ancient world. Anderson’s book on the subject, Free: the Future of a Radical Price, goes on sale next week for the decidedly un-radical price of $26.99. You can, however, read Malcolm Gladwell’s not-so-friendly review of the book online for free. Free, except of course for the price you paid for your computer, mobile device, electricity, and internet connection. This hitch is just one problem Gladwell has with Anderson’s idea. (Separately, Anderson seems guilty of Wikiplagiarism.) [%comments]

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  1. Mike B says:

    You’re right, if Anderson really wanted to prove his point with the book he would have offered online copies for free.

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  2. Eric M. Jones says:

    All this points to (but ignores!) Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity.

    In short we will see, in a very few years (about 2030), the cost of computer memory will become essentially zero and the performance will be essentially infinite. What strange results will we see. And all essentially free…!

    For one, we will see computer intelligence so powerful that they will be indistinguishable for gods. The computer on your desk will be far smarter than any human brain. It will CLAIM to be conscious and we will believe it.

    Data point–One Terabyte of hard-drive memory is now below $100. That’s 0.000000001 cent per byte. Business plan indeed!

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  3. Jessica says:

    Here’s a little something refuting Malcolm:
    http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/06/malcolm-is-wrong.html

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  4. ambrose pierce says:

    Gladwell is brilliant and sums up where the freetard culture’s unbridled race to the lowest common denominator has brought us. With all the grandiloquent speech and flexing of grey matter that Anderson offers, he has yet to suggest “Free” as a business model that is truly viable. The problem with the “Free” thing is that you can’t compete with “Free”, unless of course you are a student, a college professor working under the auspices of a university, or have a trust fund. When the newspaper market made its content “Free” on the internet, they rendered that very content worthless. Now why would they do this? They did it because the competition was doing it, which is why the entire newsgathering business is moribund. They were trying to compete with “Free”, which you simply cannot do. If there are any ironclad laws at work, it’s that “Free” doesn’t work.

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  5. mab3oos says:

    he could have offered the book for free (on and off line) in way of paid ads just like magazines/newspapers and articles online.

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  6. Fred T. says:

    Try explaining to the RIAA that the music you downloaded isn’t free because of the price of your computer, electricity, internet connection, etc. and see just how far you get.

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  7. Mike D says:

    Marginal Cost <> Average Cost

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  8. Ken says:

    The paper version of the book, the rights to which are owned by the publisher who is spending the non-marginal cost to have it printed, distributed, and marketed the old-fashioned way, will not be free for obvious reasons. The audiobook version, the rights to which Anderson owns, and which Anderson has produced on his own dime, WILL BE FREE.

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