"Information Wants to Be Shared"

The Australian economist Joshua Gans, who has shown up on this blog before, has published a new book called Information Wants to Be Shared. It “looks at the struggles facing information content industries — most notably, publishing (books and newspapers) — and examines the underlying economics of those industries.”  Gans and his publisher, HBR Press, are also running a pricing experiment:

HBR eBooks are all DRM-free but, in this case, if someone were to purchase the book (from HBR or from, say, Amazon or Apple), then they will find on the last page a coupon that they can send to a friend. The friend can then buy the book for only $0.99 directing from HBR. In other words, when you share with a friend, your friend gets a great deal. The usual price of the book is $4.99. I have outlined the rationale behind this at my blog Digitopoly. Basically, it is the sort of thing I advocate for information businesses in general.



I'm about 1/3 of the way through on the B&N copy that I bought this weekend. I'm skipping to the back as soon as I get home. Unfortunately I don't know anyone else that has a Nook, maybe I can convince my Dad to by it on his PC. Anyone with a Nook want it?

Joshua Gans

The sharing applies to all platforms -- the path is through HBR.org. So you don't have to worry whether people have a Nook or not.


Am I the only one who sees the irony in charging for a book about sharing information? Would "trade" be a better word than "share" since we are in effect trading currency for information?


In the end I will get with my book reading buddies and we will collaborate and create a "purchasing rotation" so that no one of us gets stuck paying the $5 fee plus taxes all of the time. And then this will fall apart because, similar thinkers that we are, not all of us want to buy all of the books all of the time.

What I might do is send the coupon to a client or prospect if the information in the book is of value to them.


Why would I send my friend the coupon rather than the book itself. Either way, I'm sending a file to him. Why wouldn't I just cut out the middle man?


Well, I think the point he's making, and one that is often brought up, is that people don't mind paying reasonable prices for this stuff if you don't make it damned inconvenient to do so. Look at Apple's success with iTunes...$0.99 for a song, and it'll update wirelessly to all my devices...it's worth the $0.99 not to hunt the sketchy parts of the internet, worrying about viruses, manually synching to all your devices.

Neil Gaiman had a similar argument about piracy, BTW. He convinced his publisher to put a book on the internet, for everyone, for free. That book turned into one of his best sellers. His point was this: if you have a favorite author, one that you'll pre-order a hardcover of his next book, sight unseen, one that you'll pay extra for a special edition or that you recommend to all your friends...odds are very, very good the first time you ever read something from that author, you didn't pay for it. You probably borrowed it from a library or a friend, neither of which pays the author...but NOW, you are a steady stream of income.

Information wants to be shared, but it doesn't have to be free. Just don't make me feel like a criminal for buying your product (I'm looking at you, DRM for PC games!)



I just torrented this book off thepiratebay, can't wait to read what it's about.