Book Review – Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson

Most people ‘glazed over’ as I tried to explain the premise of this book.  But to ‘internet obsessives’ like us – this book is a mind-bending and scintillating look into the business model that is ‘Free’.

Chris Anderson, the esteemed editor-in-chief of Wired magazine and best-selling author, takes the reader on a journey from the traditional model of selling ‘atoms’ (i.e items that consist of atoms such as material goods) to the digital business model of ‘bits’ (i.e items that exist in digital form such as information or software). ‘Bits’ business can take a significantly different form from the ‘atoms’ business, simply because the monetary cost of reproducing ‘bits’ products, Chris points out, is so close to zero as to be rounded down to nothing. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for business but can require a whole new way of thinking as he discusses  monetising the ‘reputation’ and ‘attention’ economies by giving away ‘bits’ for free.

Many real world examples of this are featured, the most obvious being Google, who give away many services; Google Docs and Gmail as examples,  and have monetised this ‘attention’ and ‘reputation’ through their extremely profitable Google adwords business. 

There are a few holes in the argument, Chris lucidly points them out, and making money from ‘Free’ could require a huge monetary investment to gain attention before you can turn giving things away into a profitable business model. But if this book makes you take another look at the way you do business – both online and in the ‘atoms’ world – it could just create the ideas that set you apart from your competition.

Highly recommended for the thought provocation value. 

Buy it:  Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson.

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