Andersen on Andersen: “Free” Doesn’t Go Far Enough
I bought Chris Andersen's book "Free" and read it cover to cover. This is notable, I think, both for the buying and the reading. First the buying: I bought it hardcover, at my local bookstore, for $26.95 plus tax (I'm sure my friends at Hyperion are pleased). It was available cheaper on Amazon, but I couldn't wait for it; it was available for Kindle ($9.99, previously free); Sony eBookstore ($11.99, or you can get a "bundle" with The Long Tail, for the same price, and I don't see why you wouldn't); it wasn't yet available for the Cool-er Reader on coolerbooks.com.
Now for the reading: I wouldn't think this was an exceptional activity except that when I got to page 240, I found this passage and realized that the fuss about Free taking over everything is nothing to worry about after all:
"Does this mean that Free will retreat in a down economy? Probably not…But it does mean that Free is not enough. It also has to be matched with Paid. Just as King Gillette's free razors only made business sense paired with expensive blades, so will today's Web entrepreneurs have to invent not just products that people love but also those that they will pay for. Free may be the best price, but it can't be the only one." (Chris Anderson, Free, Hyperion p. 240).
I and everyone else who had been reading snippets of the book from Wired and hearing Anderson defend his thesis in the media were under the assumption that Anderson actually believed his thesis that $0 was the future of business (that was, in fact, the title of the cover article in Wired). But rest assured, Anderson becomes his own critic by the end of the book, and in this one passage retracts pretty much everything he's been building up for the previous 239 pages.
I recommend the book–it's better than a lot of business books out there–and it's worth considering how your business may be vulnerable to Free. But don't lose sleep trying to puzzle out how Free can be the basis of our new economy–as Anderson himself says, it can't and won't.