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103 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas and even better when implemented
I read the original WIRED magazine article written by Mr. Anderson that this book is based on back in February 2008; I've been anxiously awaiting this book... and I've just finished it.

First off, I've implemented a few "freebies" in the past year that I give away in my line of work; the question was whether it would pay off. It did. I offered something of...
Published on July 24, 2009 by J. Kelly

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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing--Strong start and finish, mediocre middle.
I was eager to read "Free," since as an author with an online presence myself, I have used free strategies and would like to know how to implement them more effectively.

The book really hooked me in the beginning, but wandered thoughout the middle as a hodgepodge of poorly-chosen or explained examples, and then finished more strongly with summaries of...
Published on August 15, 2009 by Amy Tiemann


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103 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas and even better when implemented, July 24, 2009
I read the original WIRED magazine article written by Mr. Anderson that this book is based on back in February 2008; I've been anxiously awaiting this book... and I've just finished it.

First off, I've implemented a few "freebies" in the past year that I give away in my line of work; the question was whether it would pay off. It did. I offered something of value (to me, and I believe to my customer) and waited to see if interest in the free item would increase sales of a companion item. Sales were there.

So many people are attacking the book for various reasons, but for me the key question for rating this book was "Is the author's information accurate and can it hold up to real-world results?" The answer is Yes.

A lot of things in the book aren't relevant to me, but I've taken what I can from it (in addition to the original article) and made some changes in how I do business. (I'm a small business owner, not a corporate giant.)

You can agree or disagree with the book's overall theme, but my findings are that the book has a solid grasp on how any business that has any Internet-related sales or support must adapt. The author's argument about how costs are moving to zero for the "bits" world is dead-on.

I find it humorous that so many negative reviews of the book are simply about the price of the book (or the lack of price for some of the free versions). The book is about the concept of Free. Some people are seeing "Free" on the cover and whining that it has a price???

The book isn't light reading - it's got some complicated concepts that the reader must grasp, especially business owners. For that reason, I could never listen to an audio version - I've highlighted my text at various points that I want to come back to and consider how I might use the info with my work.

I give the book 5 stars - I enjoyed it, it gave me much to think about, and I didn't feel (when done) that I'd been ripped off... the value of the information contained in the book is worth much more to me than the $20 I paid.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Freeconomics, August 19, 2009
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Because of the ongoing drop in the cost of bandwith, storage and computer processing power, which brings the cost of each of these digital age services to almost zero, "free" is becoming a more prevalent price with real power. For the business person and others wishing to profit from "free", the trick is to figure out how to sell services or products related to the free one. Author Chris Anderson, who also wrote Long Tail, The, Revised and Updated Edition: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More uses Google as one of his primary examples of how free functions in this new economy. Google provides free internet searches and makes money off the targeted ads and premium products. Music groups have gotten on board, and have let go of the idea that they muist rely on copyright protection, and have benefited handsomely by giving away their music and more than making up for it in concerts, premium versions of their music and band-related paraphernelia. Not all "free" providers have managed to "monetize" their offerings. Facebook and Twitter are two examples, although the latter is on the verge of attempting to do so.

The above successes have occured in what Anderson labels the "bits" world that relies on the electronic generation of information, but free can also work in what Anderson calls the "atoms" world, where products are things you can hold or services that you can experience. Telecommunications companies, for example, give you a free cell phone but make their money on usage and ring tones. Anderson provides a good number of examples in table form of both bits and atoms free.

For me, the most intriguing discussion centered on what Anderson calls "finding the scarcity among the abundance", which is where the money is to be made from free or to where the value migrates. I wish there had been more concrete examples because my impression is that those of us who are not necessarily gifted in the geek data and computer world might find this opportunity the best one to exploit. I also wonder if there are opportunities for free to occur in government, or is this phenomenon limited to the private sector?

In any case, the book is an interesting read and will open the reader's eyes to the reality of this new economic force.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing--Strong start and finish, mediocre middle., August 15, 2009
I was eager to read "Free," since as an author with an online presence myself, I have used free strategies and would like to know how to implement them more effectively.

The book really hooked me in the beginning, but wandered thoughout the middle as a hodgepodge of poorly-chosen or explained examples, and then finished more strongly with summaries of free-style strategies.

My biggest disappointment was that in the 274-page guide, Anderson devoted barely two pages to the strategy of free books in particular. I thought this was an important case study that deserved more coverage, as it can tie together an older model of book publishing with new media and free electronic outreach.

I really objected to some of the overlooked opportunities to discuss the ethics of some free models, such as the "free" electronic health record and practice management software that is given to doctors in return for their patients' anonymized medical chart information. The patients' health history data is resold for $50 to $500 per chart. I am extremely uncomfortable with that kind of commercialization of the doctor-patient relationship, which I assume goes on without the patients' knowledge or consent. Yet Anderson does not discuss this as a problem.

He brings up the Corn Economy and the impact of cheap, ubiquitous corn, invoking Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, while largely missing the point that industrial corn-dominated agriculture with its economies of scale is in the process of ruining our diet and environment. Free in the short term can have disastrous, displaced costs in the long term.

Also, his discussion of Open Source software is quite bizarre, being described from the point of view of how the juggernaut Microsoft learned how to compete with Linux. Not only does this give short shrift to the Open Source story (full disclosure: my husband is an Open Source guy), but explained from Anderson's Wired-centric point of view, the Open Source example comes across as a geek-insider story whose point will be lost on a lot of non-techie readers, whom Anderson should be trying to reach.

"Free" has some interesting ideas, but needed more incisive analysis and editing. The book is trying to be many things--an argument, a history, and a strategic business guide, and for this reader, it fell short of the target.
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134 of 185 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars So glad I got it, well, free., July 20, 2009
At the "radical price" of $0.00, which was offered for a limited time, it was worth flipping through the ebook, but $26.99 for the hardcover, with no discounting? I don't think so. The book reads like an energetic but not very trustworthy blog--breathless, careless, and shoddily researched and argued.

It's been widely discussed that Chris Anderson lifted passages straight out of Wikipedia without attribution; now that the credits have been added to the electronic text, it looks pretty silly to see the notoriously uneven online reference cited again and again. I guess it was too slow/too old-school (too expensive?) to bother to do the primary research we have come to expect in a book--or even in a decent high school paper. Again and again the text feels dashed off and sloppy. Just a few examples from Chapter 7, which starts off, "On February 3, 1975, Bill Gates, then 'General Partner, MicroSoft' wrote an 'Open Letter to Hobbyists...'" and says on the following page that "Microsoft, now without a hyphen, grew rich." What hyphen? Does he mean a capital s? There's a subhead, "The Penguin Attacks," that's incomprehensible to people who don't already know the history of free software he's supposed to be explaining; then another subhead, "Case Two," without a "Case One."

What is "free," anyway? A lot of it sounds like a variation on bait-and-switch: e.g., give away a free cell phone but charge activation and monthly fees; offer a free basic version of a product but charge for the "premium" edition people really want; give doctors free software for electronic health records in return for access to data on those doctors' patients (yikes). Chris Anderson applies a version of the model to himself: "So you can read a copy of this book online (abundant, commodity information) for free, but if you want me to fly to your city and prepare a custom talk on free as it is applies to your business, I'll be happy to, but you're going to have to pay me for my (scarce) time. I've got a lot of kids and college isn't getting any cheaper."

Sadly, based on the quality of the thinking in this (free) book, I can't recommend paying for any premium version. Let the buyer beware.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fine, but says too little about the dark side of free, November 7, 2009
By 
Paula L. Craig (Falls Church, VA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I found Anderson's book to be a good introduction to the various strategies for making money from giving away a free product. Excellent if you're trying to start a business and need some ideas.

The book says far too little about the many downsides of pricing things at zero. Anderson briefly mentions that free is a problem when it comes to pollution and other negative externalities. In the next paragraph he says that we are increasingly starting to measure and account for these negative externalities, so it's not a problem. I agree that's what should be happening, but there hasn't been a lot of progress on this so far. In some respects things have even been going backwards in recent years. There are plenty of people out there who believe that regulation of any sort is wrong, and that the government should get off people's backs. So much for trying to correct for negative externalities.

I was glad to see that Anderson mentions the downsides of free parking. However, in my opinion one short quote on this subject is far from an adequate treatment. The ideas that parking should be free and that congestion-free roads and highways should be provided as a public service by government have been central in creating the mess that is the current U.S. transportation system, as well as in the declining quality of life in the U.S. For more on this, see The High Cost of Free Parking, as well as The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape.

Anderson believes in the cornucopia economic theory, that stuff will always get cheaper because technology marches on. Please don't take this as gospel without reading some contrary views. Some things have indeed gotten better and cheaper due to technological progress. Other things have gotten better and cheaper because fossil fuels have been plentiful and cheap. Cheap oil, coal, and natural gas are by no means guaranteed to be available in the future. Fossil fuels also have plenty of negative externalities which are not adequately accounted for in modern economies. As a start on this subject, see Eating Fossil Fuels: Oil, Food and the Coming Crisis in Agriculture and Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines (New Society Publishers).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Examples of "Free" are spurious, September 2, 2009
Chris Anderson cites Ryanair, the low-cost European airline, as an example of how airfare can be "free". Ryanair is more an example of "Gotcha Capitalism" than free. I have no problem with the extras that Ryanair charges but there are hidden unavoidable fees - such as fee for booking with a debit or credit card and the cost of getting from some far-flung airport into the city you supposedly paid to be flown to. This is in addition to the "avoidable" charges for on-line check-in, priority boarding fee, checked baggage fee, name change fee etc. Ryanair is reported to be seriously considering charging passengers to use the toilet on their flights.

This is not free in the same sense that information is free on the web. Ryanair is no Google. It is no Youtube. It is no Skype. It is no cnn.com. Anyone who had paid three times the listed fare for a Ryanair flight will understand.

Chris Anderson seems to be confusing nickel and diming with free.

I recommend reading "Gotcha Capitalism" as an alternative: Gotcha Capitalism: How Hidden Fees Rip You Off Every Day-and What You Can Do About It
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doubts about accuracy of research, September 3, 2009
By 
BTrain (Pioneer Square) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I have serious doubts about the strength of Anderson's research since I knew that parts of his previous book "The Long Tail" was really a lot of conjecture rather than being based in fact and there has been a decent amount of controversy about his not citing his references for this book and a lot of what he used is Wikipedia. Wikipedia is helpful, but at the same time can be edited by just about anyone and sometime be totally wrong.

The most valuable thing to take away from this book is that things are always being driven to a price of 0. In most businesses floors are usually (incorrectly in my opinion) drawn at marginal cost or some other price floor to prevent prices from going too low. When you remove the impact of a marginal cost the price will inevitably drive down towards 0. The main examples that are given in this book are things like MP3's or DVD's since digital mediums like those are reproducible at basically no additional cost and no loss in quality. Anderson goes on to explain how these models upset traditional pricing models for these markets and new methods of making a profit must be thought up and implemented.

Overall, this was an interesting idea, but since the vast majority of our commerce is not for digital products it tends to disconnect from those markets and their pricing models.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Freedom isn't free, June 2, 2011
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FREE is a psychology and NOT a FREE Lunch, August 17, 2012
By 
I read the book and found it not only a study in economics but also that this book is a complete study on the human psychology that is built around the concept of FREE. This also falls under the Behavior Economics study. There cannot be any argument, according to me, about this concept. Mainly because Chris has actually studied what has been available around him and has brought forward in this book with his own analysis.

Getting into an argument would not be initiating a time waste discussion. We know very well how the brain functions and what all actions get triggered when we see something FREE. We all have some or the other items that we pick up just because it was free, if not now then we have all done it at some point in our lives. You can not ignore the facts the way businesses were build around this, including Microsoft and many others.

Talking about the Brand Value when you are entering the Internet Business, well, I have experienced this in my online businesses that its just a click away. All that matters is the Value that you bring to the customer, if they don't see it, you are out of the game. If they see value in your proposition well then you have an edge. Be it an experience or a product but this is very important that you bundle some great value around it which can be Labelled as FREE.

The case studies mentioned in the book are to the point and also makes it clear that even though there are many things going around for free but there is nothing that really is Free.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, August 14, 2012
I listened to the FREE audiobook on Audible. Great Great Great ideas. Well supported points. Makes me want to start an e-business. It is almost like he is selling the older generations on the economic benefits of free things particularly in the technology realm.
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Free: The Future of a Radical Price
Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson (Hardcover - July 7, 2009)
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