To start my series of book reviews, I chose a book that really ignited my interest in the internet & online business in general. It also helped me break free of the outdated view of the world impressed upon my by many of my peers, instructors, and elders.
Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson
(Chris was Wired magazine’s Editor-in-Chief for almost 12 years).
I first came across this book shortly after it was published in 2009, but immediately dismissed it as absurd. Free? More specifically, making a profit by pricing your product at $0? Nonsense.
It was a good year or two later when it landed on the recommended reading list of a blogger I followed at the time, and at that point I decided to give it a second look..
The history of free
The book starts off by taking us back over a hundred years ago and explaining how the concept of ‘free’ in sales & marketing came about, and how over time it began to be seen (rightly so) as a bit of a scam.
Physical goods have an actual cost, so it isn’t entirely possible for something to actually be ‘free’. There always seemed to be a bait-and-switch or high pressure up-sell right around the corner.
The shift to digital
Before the digital age, ‘free’ was simply a Loss Leader. There always had to be a sale at some point down the line. Not so in the digital age. In fact, there are entire industries run on the ‘free’ business model.
Think of the Freemium model, where the majority of customers pay nothing, EVER, and without any hard up-sell. This is made possible by the few (often 5% or fewer) who subsidize them.
They either want or need the additional features of the premium version, or perhaps simply wish to support the product/content creators.
Setting the price to “FREE” can actually be quite profitable.
Now Chris doesn’t simply talk about the history & psychology of free, he also takes it into practical applications and where we are headed in the future.
He covers far more ground in the book, but this is about as far as I want to take the actual review portion of this post..
The Impact of This Book
This book has had quite an impact on how I approach business online, and that impact has even extended to other areas as well.
It really turns the old ‘scarcity model’ of information on its head. It is no longer viable to hide information behind a “pay wall”. You first must offer something for free.
This is actually quite good for several reasons.
Why this is a good thing
First of all, it forces you to give potential customers a preview of your content. This lets customers get to know you a little before making a purchase, and likely lead to fewer returns, bad reviews, dissatisfaction, etc.
Next, you get to use all of your free content as a way to experiment. With a blog, for instance, you’ll soon discover which type of content receives more comments, shares, and the like. This will help you find areas where you can profit.
Another reason that free content is good is that you needn’t worry too much about pleasing others. This content is also a way for personal growth, self discovery, and telling your story.
You may feel the need to self-censor your work a bit if you are charging others to access it.
About this series
That wraps up this book review, but I’ll be reviewing more books in the future covering a variety of topics. I typically read 2-3 books each month, often listen to an audio book or two, and usually complete some type of online video course.
Everything that I review will be one that has had a positive impact on my life and/or business in some way.