From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In the digital marketplace, the most effective price is no price at all, argues Anderson (The Long Tail
). He illustrates how savvy businesses are raking it in with indirect routes from product to revenue with such models as cross-subsidies (giving away a DVR to sell cable service) and freemiums (offering Flickr for free while selling the superior FlickrPro to serious users). New media models have allowed successes like Obama's campaign billboards on Xbox Live, Webkinz dolls and Radiohead's name-your-own-price experiment with its latest album. A generational and global shift is at play—those below 30 won't pay for information, knowing it will be available somewhere for free, and in China, piracy accounts for about 95% of music consumption—to the delight of artists and labels, who profit off free publicity through concerts and merchandising. Anderson provides a thorough overview of the history of pricing and commerce, the mental transaction costs that differentiate zero and any other price into two entirely different markets, the psychology of digital piracy and the open-source war between Microsoft and Linux. As in Anderson's previous book, the thought-provoking material is matched by a delivery that is nothing short of scintillating. (July)
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Although Chris Anderson puts forward an intriguing argument in this cheerful, optimistic book, many critics remained unconvinced. They praised his engaging writing style, his amusing examples and anecdotes, and his clear explanations of complicated concepts and technologies, but they still questioned his conclusions. In addition to Anderson's own admission that YouTube -- one of his chief examples -- has been a financial black hole for Google, reviewers cited their own examples of industries that seem to run counter to Free
's generalizations, such as broadcast television's fiscal struggles in the face of premium cable's expansion. Though some trends seem to point in the direction of Free
, the jury remains out for the present.