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The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More Paperback – July 8, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 267 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books; Revised edition (July 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401309666
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401309664
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (360 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Wired editor Anderson declares the death of "common culture"—and insists that it's for the best. Why don't we all watch the same TV shows, like we used to? Because not long ago, "we had fewer alternatives to compete for our screen attention," he writes. Smash hits have existed largely because of scarcity: with a finite number of bookstore shelves and theaters and Wal-Mart CD racks, "it's only sensible to fill them with the titles that will sell best." Today, Web sites and online retailers offer seemingly infinite inventory, and the result is the "shattering of the mainstream into a zillion different cultural shards." These "countless niches" are market opportunities for those who cast a wide net and de-emphasize the search for blockbusters. It's a provocative analysis and almost certainly on target—though Anderson's assurances that these principles are equally applicable outside the media and entertainment industries are not entirely convincing. The book overuses its examples from Google, Rhapsody, iTunes, Amazon, Netflix and eBay, and it doesn't help that most of the charts of "Long Tail" curves look the same. But Anderson manages to explain a murky trend in clear language, giving entrepreneurs and the rest of us plenty to think about. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

In The Long Tail, Chris Anderson offers a visionary look at the future of business and common culture. The long-tail phenomenon, he argues, will "re-shape our understanding of what people actually want to watch" (or read, etc.). While Anderson presents a fascinating idea backed by thoughtful (if repetitive) analysis, many critics questioned just how greatly the niche market will rework our common popular culture. Anderson convinced most reviewers in his discussion of Internet media sales, but his KitchenAid and Lego examples fell flat. A few pointed out that online markets constitute just 10 percent of U.S. retail, and brick-and-mortar stores will never disappear. Anderson's thesis came under a separate attack by Lee Gomes in his Wall Street Journal column. Anderson had defined the "98 Percent Rule" in his book to mean that no matter how much inventory is made available online, 98 percent of the items will sell at least once. Yet Gomes cited statistics that could indicate that, as the Web and Web services become more mainstream, the 98 Percent Rule may no longer apply: "Ecast [a music-streaming company] told me that now, with a much bigger inventory than when Mr. Anderson spoke to them two years ago, the quarterly no-play rate has risen from 2% to 12%. March data for the 1.1 million songs of Rhapsody, another streamer, shows a 22% no-play rate; another 19% got just one or two plays." If Anderson overreaches in his thesis, he has nonetheless written "one of those business books that, ironically, deserves more than a niche readership" (Houston Chronicle).

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


More About the Author

I'm the editor of Wired Magazine and the author of "The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More", "FREE: The Future of a Radical Price" and "Makers: The New Industrial Revolution".

I live in Berkeley, CA, with my wife and five children.

In my spare time, I have a hobby-gone-wrong in the form of an aerial robotics community at DIY Drones and 3D Robotics, a company I co-founded that makes aerial robotic technolgy. We develop open source autopilots and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which some people find thrilling and others find worrying. You can make up your own mind: diydrones.com

Customer Reviews

The book is very well written, and an easy read.
Steven M. Foote
In his book "The Long Tail", Chris Anderson explains how the internet has created a unique culture of endless choice, and unlimited demand.
Leigh Burke - Author of Niche Internet Marketing
In summary, although this book is a bit repetitive at times, it makes some good points.
calvinnme

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
Note: The review that follows is of the revised and updated edition of a book that was first published in 2006. It offers essentially the same information and insights except that Anderson has added a new chapter on marketing, one in which he explains "how to sell where `selling' doesn't work." More about this chapter later.

In the October 2004 issue of Wired magazine, Chris Anderson published an article in which he shared these observations: "(1) the tail of available variety is far longer than we realize; (2) it's now within reach economically; (3) all those niches, when aggregated, can make up a significant market - seemed indisputable, especially backed up with heretofore unseen data." That is even truer today than it was when The Long Tail was first published years ago. The era that Anderson characterizes as "a market of multitudes" continues to grow in terms of both its nature and extent. In this book, Anderson takes his reader on a guided tour of this market as he explains what the probable impact the new market will have and what will be required to prosper in it.

According to Anderson, those who read the article saw the Long Tail everywhere, from politics to public relations, and from sheet music to college sports. "What people intuitively grasped was that new efficiencies in distribution, manufacturing, and marketing were changing the definition of what was commercially viable across the board. The best way to describe these forces is that they are turning unprofitable customers, products, and markets into profitable ones." Therefore, the story of the Long Tail is really about the economics of abundance: "what happens when the bottlenecks that stand between supply and demand in our culture start to disappear and everything becomes available to everyone.
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195 of 213 people found the following review helpful By Michele Miller on August 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Well, timing is everything... and isn't always fair. Had I not just completed reading Jeffrey & Bryan Eisenberg's "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?" before picking up "The Long Tail," I would probably have given this book 4 stars.

Chris Anderson has done a very good job of showing us the new "economics of abundance," or the connection of supply and demand thru technology and the Internet.

Question: What happens when everything in the world becomes available to everyone?

Answer: A market that never dies... markets for every niche, and vice-versa.

The Long Tail.

Using corporate examples like Google, eBay, iTunes and Netflix, Anderson lends an interesting perspective on how these companies have grabbed the Long Tail theory (consciously or unconsciously) and used it as the foundation for their staggering success. For customers of these companies, being online means unlimited "shelf space" - access to hundreds of thousands of bits of information, products and services they'd never been exposed to otherwise.

But how does the ordinary businessperson experience the success of the eBays of the world? Here, Anderson falls short. He states his "secret" to The Long Tail:

1. Make everything available

2. Help me find it

It's the "help me find it" part that Anderson ignores. In fact, it's the end of the book... you're left hanging, thinking, "So how in hell am I supposed to help people find me?"

Taken for what it is - a good presentation of a present-day theory (and one that was adequately covered in the original article in Wired magazine), the book is fine. But to really understand what it takes to make the Long Tail theory work for you, you must get a copy of "Waiting for Your Cat to Bark.
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Format: Hardcover
The long tail is the colloquial name for a long-known feature of statistical distributions that is also known as "heavy tails", "power-law tails" or "Pareto tails". In these distributions a high-frequency or high-amplitude population is followed by a low-frequency or low-amplitude population which gradually "tails off". In many cases the infrequent or low-amplitude events--the long tail--can cumulatively outnumber or outweigh the initial portion of the graph, such that in aggregate they comprise the majority. In this book the author explains how due to changing technology it is now not only feasible but desirable in business to cater to the "long tail" of this curve.

The author explains how in traditional retail, you have the 80/20 rule, with 20 percent of the products accounting for 80 percent of the revenue. Online, instead, he sees the "98 percent rule." Where 98 percent of all the possible choices get chosen by someone, and where the 90 percent that is only available online accounts for half the revenue and two-thirds of the profits. He also explains how filters and recommender systems that help people find what they are really looking for are crucial ingredients. Thus, in a nutshell, Anderson's theory is that mass culture is fading, and being replaced by a series of niches. Thus the subtitle of his book, "Why The Future of Business Is Selling Less of More."

The author explains that the three forces of the long tail are:
1. Democratization of the tools of production such as GarageBand for musicians.
2. Minimization of the costs of distribution which in turn minimize the cost of consumption such as wideband internet connections.
3. The connection of consumers to one another to minimize the noise down the tail, such as this Amazon review system.
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