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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, informative treatise on giving things away
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...
Published on 25 Aug 2009 by Rolf Dobelli

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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
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...
Published on 23 Aug 2009 by Victor Smart


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, informative treatise on giving things away, 25 Aug 2009
By 
Rolf Dobelli "getAbstract" (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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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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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Virtually free, 24 July 2009
By 
Serghiou Const (Nicosia, Cyprus) - See all my reviews
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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. He argues that while last century's Free was a powerful marketing method, this century's Free is an entirely new economic model.

Beyond the old-fashioned cross-subsidies and free samples, some companies have found new ways to make Free work, but there are not many of them, and the sustainability of others is unclear.

The inability of the author to shed light as to which of these new models are likely to work and which are not is, in my judgement, a flaw in the book.
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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
By 
S. Daintree (Eastbourne, UK) - See all my reviews
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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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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 (Indiana, USA) - See all my reviews
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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.

Overall, this is an interesting book that takes a look at modern economy form a very unique angle. Only the time will tell if the paradigms used in this analysis will survive the test of time or are they just the latest fad.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent book, a bit one-sided, 15 Jun 2011
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This review is from: Free: How today's smartest businesses profit by giving something for nothing (Paperback)
I bought this book hoping it would help me understand a little better the economics of the internet world. There's no doubt that the internet was built around the concept of Free, but like with every other topic I'm interested in, I missed reading a systematic study about what (if anything) had changed, and how. This book does a decent job at it, but it wasn't perfect.

It gives a historical account of Free, the different meanings it can have, and how people react to it. It goes into the web world and those that have benefited from it, and those who have not, and why. It starts off well, but after a while, I felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again. It gets better again towards the end, but I struggled to keep going in the middle since not much was being added to the discussion.

At times this felt very much like a one-sided account. The book touched upon the negative consequences of free but largely dismissed them in the grand scheme of things, and I wasn't convinced it was actually that simple. Still, a decent book on the topic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as Long Tail theory, 15 May 2010
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. He discussed several aspects of Freebies including manufacturing. A good part of the book is focused on digital media, which is not surprising in internet age. However, whatever he discussed in this book, is already known facts. Nowadays there are lots of books which showed how Google operates, software piracy works or Freemium model generates revenue. Yes, it is informative but not ground breaking. May be it is worth reading only if you get it free.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better then Long Tail, focused almost solely on web and media, 16 Jun 2011
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This review is from: Free: How today's smartest businesses profit by giving something for nothing (Paperback)
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 could not find a lot of "free" around me. I'm skeptical about the concept, not about the book though, as it seems to aspire to have much broader approach then the famous "Long Tail". I've read both and as far as Long Tail narrative tends to concentrate on internet based business models in Free Anderson tries to dialogue with classic economy and it gets quite entertaining even for those (or rather especially for those) who do not have academic background in economy. The motive of abundance ousting scarcity and the influence it has on economics is well reasoned and convincing. How the radio actually turned out to operate in free-to-air model as we know it today is another interesting and well researched episode. It did not seem that obvious at the start in 1920s.

At the end of the day though it's not easy to share authors' enthusiasm for new, free-based economy as when it comes down to reviewing some examples they are all dominated by dotcoms of different kind. Rarely if ever he leaves his dotcom kingdom, which is not a drawback of the book, unless you expected it to be of a more general approach which first few chapters seem to be suggesting not mentioning the title: "Free. How today's smartest businesses profit by giving something for nothing". Seems like you have to operate online to earn the "smartest" grade. Seems unfair, as there are quite a lot of successful enterprises in retail (Ikea, Tesco) or telco (O2, Vodafone) or automotive (Toyota) or... well, you name it, and they are not giving away anything for free (in a new, modern meaning Anderson is pursuing) yet yielding impressive cash flows. It would not be fair to blame Anderson for not writing about every possible business model existing on planet Earth. Isn't it tempting however to ask not only why and how some businesses move into "freemium" zone, but also why others deliberately do not even seem to be considering it? It's left for the readers to ponder.

The book has a nice surprise for those skeptical about "free" concept in a form of last chapter nicely summarizing in 14 points key arguments against it which obviously are not left without a comment. It might just be the most inspiring part of the book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing concept in the main, but unconvincing in parts, 13 Oct 2009
By 
Gaurav Sharma (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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It is not under deliberation that everything should be free, but in today's competitive world more things can be and indeed are. Changing corporate dynamics and web 2.0 have given rise to new business models and in some cases made "zero pricing" to be a new business mantra, according to Chris Anderson, the author of this work.

He makes projections for a welcoming world where new technologies, particularly the Internet, have reduced production and distribution costs in many sectors to such an extent that free goods would be "freely" available. In essence, the concept of free is not new and Anderson is not suggesting that it is.

He writes that the concept could be split along four lines - cross-subsidies (e.g. a free cocktail recipe book accompanying premium Vodka), freemium (some users subsidising the usage of others), advertising supported services and non-monetary business models (e.g. open source software).

The author's arguments are fine, but only up to a certain point. The classic problem here is that the concept of free is broad and all encompassing and cannot be generalised as such. In an attempt to sound convincing, Anderson puts forward some 50-odd business models revolving around the concept. The reader is supposed to pick one that works best in his/her case. Paradoxically, such a detailed list itself suggests how difficult it is to employ and measure this concept.

Furthermore, I think the book lacks a credible explanation about why some of these models do not work and yet others do. Devoid of such an explanation, the narrative comes across as a bit bland. Anderson, who is the editor of Wired magazine, describes free as "both a familiar concept and a deeply mysterious one." But by leaving this mystery unsolved and concluding the book with a confession that free "has to be matched with paid", he disappoints of sorts. Nonetheless, the book is worth a read, provided it's for free!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A must have for online business owners, 26 April 2014
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Chris breaks down the concept of free in economics like never before. If you are interested in freeconomics, you'll love this book.
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