Customer Review

23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing--Strong start and finish, mediocre middle., August 15, 2009
This review is from: Free: The Future of a Radical Price (Hardcover)
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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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 18, 2012 9:30:58 AM PST
I wholeheartedly agree. Especially regarding your remarks on ethics. Often, fremium is discussed in a rather superficial way, focusing blindly on the marketing benefits.

Freemium should be viewed as a marketing model. No more, no less.
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