Jul 28 2009

Book Short: Worth Buying Free

Book Short:  Worth Buying Free

The cynic in me wanted to start this book review of  Free: The Future of a Radical Price, by Chris Anderson, by complaining that I had to pay for the book.  But it ended up being good enough that I won’t do that (plus, the author said there are free digital versions available — though the Kindle edition still costs money).  At any rate, a bunch of reviews I read about the book panned it when compared to Anderson’s prior book, The Long Tail (post, link to book).

I won’t get into the details of the book, though you’ll get an idea from the paragraph below, but Anderson has a few gems worth quoting:

  • Any topic that can divide critics into two opposite camps — “totally wrong” and “so obvious” — has got to be a good one
  • Free makes Paid more profitable
  • Younger players have more time than money…older players have more money than time
  • Doing things we like without pay often makes us happier than the work we do for a salary
  • It’s true that each generation takes for granted some things their parents valued, but that doesn’t mean that generation values everything less

While Free is s probably not quite as good as The Long Tail, it does a good job of organizing and classifying and explaining the power of different economic models that involve a free component, and I found it very thought provoking about our own business at Return Path.

We already do a couple forms of Free — we practice the “third party” model, by giving things away to ISPs but selling them to mailers; and we practice Freemium by providing Senderscore.org and Feedback Loops for free in order to attract paying customers to our testing and monitoring application and whitelist.  But could we do others?  Maybe.  They may not be revolutionary, but they’re smart marketing.

As some of the reviewers write, the book isn’t the be-all-end-all of marketing, it overreaches at times, and it is more applicable to some businesses than others, but Free was definitely worth paying for.