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Free: How today's smartest businesses profit by giving something for nothing [Paperback]

Chris Anderson
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 May 2010

What happens when advances in technology allow many things to be produced for more or less nothing? And what happens when those things are then made available to the consumer for free?

In his groundbreaking new book, The Long Tail author Chris Anderson considers a brave new world where the old economic certainties are being undermined by a growing flood of free goods - newspapers, DVDs, T-shirts, phones, even holiday flights. He explains why this has become possible - why new technologies, particularly the Internet, have caused production and distribution costs in many sectors to plummet to an extent unthinkable even a decade ago. He shows how the flexibility provided by the online world allows producers to trade ever more creatively, offering items for free to make real or perceived gains elsewhere. He pinpoints the winners and the losers in the Free universe. And he demonstrates the ways in which, as an increasing number of things become available for free, our decisions to make use of them will be determined by two resources far more valuable than money: the popular reputation of what is on offer and the time we have available for it. In the future, he argues, when we talk of the 'money economy' we will talk of the 'reputation economy' and the 'time economy' in the same breath, and our world will never be the same again.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Business (6 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 190521149X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905211494
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 118,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chris Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Wired magazine, a position he took in 2001. Since then he has led the magazine to nine National Magazine Award nominations, winning the top prize for General Excellence in 2005, 2007 and 2009. AdAge magazine named him Editor of the Year in 2005. Previously he was at The Economist, Nature and Science magazines. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed The Long Tail, which was shortlisted for the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award in 2006 and won the Loeb Award for best business book in 2007. He lives in Northern California with his wife and five children.

Product Description


"Turns traditional economics upside down" (Guardian)

"Even if you're a freesheet-reading Spotify user, this is the best £18.99 you'll ever spend" (GQ)

"An insightful, steady and scrupulous analysis" (Financial Times)

"There are many books about the workings of the new economy, but Anderson ... [is] ... one of the most reliable and skilful guides. Free is worth the money" (Management Today)

"An enjoyable jaunt through business land" (Daily Telegraph)

Book Description

The author of The Long Tail unveils his radical vision of the new economy

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Virtually free 24 July 2009
The author of the book, Chris Anderson, has solid credentials. He is the editor of Wired while he has previously held posts at The Economist, Nature and Science magazines. He is the author of the widely acclaimed and best selling 'The Long Tail'and was the recipient of the Loeb award for best business book in 2007.

The two books, 'The Long Tail' and 'Free' bear a family resemblance in that they are both based on the argument that rapid technological innovation has led to a paradigm shift in business model, product marketing, and cost. But unlike 'The Long Tail', 'Free' lacks an elegant underlying explanation for why some of the new models work and others do not, consequently while 'Free' is interesting is not as compelling as its illustrious sibling.

'The Long Tail' provided an illuminating perspective on the success of internet companies such as Amazon, eBay and Google. These very different companies were all exploiting the internet's capacity to open up niche markets that their rivals with physical facilities, limited precisely by the lack of physical space, could not.

The author divides the idea of Free into four subcategories:cross-subsidies e.g give away the razor, sell the blade;advertising-supported services from radio and television to websites;freemium in which a small subset of users pay for a premium version, supporting a free version for the majority;and non-monetary markets in which participants motivated by non-financial considerations develop things like open-source software and Wikipedia.

Obviously at least the first two categories are old and the author readily acknowledges that. He argues that Free is not new but it is changing. What is different, he argues, is that Free can be more widely applied in the digital era.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, but where are his references? 7 July 2009
Just finished this.

A good, interesting book, but very annoying that there are next to no references. It makes his arguments weaker as you can't verify his sources.

This is more of an academic gripe, and the book is very good aside from this.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
Economists swear there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone always pays. That may be true in the "atoms" world of physical things, but Chris Anderson explains why it does not apply in the "bits" world of the Internet, where "free" is the ruling paradigm. If, as Stewart Brand (founder of the Whole Earth Catalogue and the Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link) said, "Information wants to be free," now it is, at least in many instances, particularly online. While the idea of giving things away as a promotion or loss leader isn't new, Anderson's fresh insight is that giveaways are becoming a business imperative that companies are going to have to accept and use. Actually, companies online and off can become immensely profitable when they give products or services away for free to bring customers in and to create the need for future ancillary product sales (in other words, take the printer and buy the ink). Anderson, author of The Long Tail and editor of Wired magazine, tells you how to make money by providing most of your offerings for free and charging for just a few of them. getAbstract recommends this perceptive, innovative, idiosyncratic book to all marketers.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Business models in the digital age 23 Aug 2009
In the spirit of Free, I didn't buy this book, but downloaded the ereader version gratis. The book's big claim is that Free is coming to dominate in business. This idea is propped up with some history of the roots of the concept of "zero". None of this is entirely convincing. And as you click through the pages, the grand thesis becomes much-diluted. What's left in an account of how business models are coping (in some cases with spectacular success) in a world where the marginal cost of all things digital falls by half each year: it's about digital abundance rather than gifting.
Still there is plenty of interesting, if not wildly new, material not least about how the Google business model rests on assuming in advance the giddy, inexorable lowering of data storage costs.
Anderson's take on things is pretty grounded in commercial realities - and certianly rings true for the digital world. But the forays into the non-digital world, such as the cheap-razors-expensive-blades Gillette model, are a little tired. There is also a touch of digital cheerleading. I read this on a trip to Kenya: injunctions to "manage for abundance, not scarcity" sound pretty hollow amid growing food scarcity.
But the way Anderson applies his perspective to some of the world's most exciting new businesses is intriguing and illuminating - and his conversational style in highly readable. Only digital natives, the under thirties, may find it all very predictable
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Freedom isn't free 2 Jun 2011
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER
The best things in life are free, or so the old saying goes. These days, however, it seems that more and more companies and retailers are trying to get us something for free, and it is becoming increasingly doubtful that all of those freebies are the best that life can offer. Nonetheless, all this free stuff has certainly contributed to making many aspects of our daily lives simpler and more convenient, especially when it comes to those parts of our lives that we spend in digital world.

The raise of free predates computers, and it has a venerable history in the annals of marketing. Chris Anderson, the editor in chief of the "Wired Magazine" and the author of insightful "Long tail," narrates the greatest highlights of the history giving products for free. He also explains the rationale behind how the prices get set in a free market, and the reason why in the absence of almost any production costs we can expect products to eventually end up free. The reason that there is a proliferation of free nowadays has everything to do with the fact that the cost of creating and moving bits of information around is essentially zero.

Anderson spends an entire chapter defending the free model against its many critics. He takes every common objection to free that has been heard in recent years and provides a cogent and well-informed refutation. How convincing his arguments are, however, may depend on your own attitude and point of view.

At the end of the book there is a list of fifty different business models where products or services are given out for free. This is a useful list for anyone considering a cutting-edge modern business, and for the rest of us it gives us an opportunity to take a look at what kinds of things can be obtained for free these days.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A must have for online business owners
Chris breaks down the concept of free in economics like never before. If you are interested in freeconomics, you'll love this book.
Published 3 months ago by RW Lamont
5.0 out of 5 stars Free is Good
Great read. As a fan of the Long Tail I wasn't disappointed. A must read for online marketers, any marketer in fact.
Published on 6 July 2011 by Grant Perry
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
This Book was recommended but I found it very disappointing. I thought it was going to outline various methods of giving away something for free instead of the general idea of... Read more
Published on 26 Jun 2011 by khime
3.0 out of 5 stars Better then Long Tail, focused almost solely on web and media
The next morning I woke up after I had finished the book I had breakfast made of ingredients I paid for and then I commuted paying some real money for the tickets and somehow I... Read more
Published on 18 Jun 2011 by Mikolaj Pietrzyk
3.0 out of 5 stars Better then Long Tail, focused almost solely on web and media
The next morning I woke up after I had finished the book I had breakfast made of ingredients I paid for and then I commuted paying some real money for the tickets and somehow I... Read more
Published on 16 Jun 2011 by Mikolaj Pietrzyk
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent book, a bit one-sided
I bought this book hoping it would help me understand a little better the economics of the internet world. Read more
Published on 15 Jun 2011 by Sofia Romualdo
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
Great book that really takes time to explain how we can all see the world a little differently. Reading this book had a remarkably positive effect on my outlook not just of... Read more
Published on 13 Jun 2011 by TassieTiger
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as Long Tail theory
I had a great expectation about FREE but it failed to meet that. The author started with historical background of how Free give away came into picture. Read more
Published on 15 May 2010 by Mobi
5.0 out of 5 stars If you want to know the future of marketing...
The marketing bullies wont like this book, because it tells them that they have to give things away for free. But, they're missing the point: there is method to the madness. Read more
Published on 14 April 2010 by C
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good read
Clearly well researched, Chris takes you through FREE, what it means and how it's being used more and more, and how, in many respects, is the ultimate pricing end point. Read more
Published on 28 Jan 2010 by Mr. Gordon E. Piggott
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