Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
July 1, 2009 9:35 PM

The Idea Of Free Is Radical - So People Are Going To Freak Out

There are those who write books that explain where the world is at. There are those who write books about where the world is going. If you do the latter, you have to be prepared for the disbelievers and haters.

Chris Anderson is the editor of Wired Magazine who also had a stellar best-selling business book called, The Long Tail. As you'll note in this excellent interview with Anderson (Managing The Gray - Chris Anderson Interview), he is quick to admit that his books take ideas that are already "out there" and packages the content together with data, stories and more (to be honest, he is being more than a little humble. Being able to coin a term or point out a new way of doing things is never so easy or obvious). His latest book is called, Free - The Future of a Radical Price, in which Anderson discusses an interesting new business model where giving something away for free is actually good (and smart) for business. It's not entirely radical if you check out the many common examples we have been seeing in the past few years that validate his thesis (think about Suze Orman, who gave her entire book away as a free download in conjunction with an appearance on Oprah and still had a #1 best-selling book). He even pre-tested the concept with this cover story in Wired Magazine back in February 2008: Free! Why $0.00 Is The Future Of Business.

The idea of giving your stuff away for free will shock and dismay many business people and popular thinkers.

In the latest issue of The New Yorker, best-selling business book author and journalist, Malcolm Gladwell (he of Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers fame) takes exception to some of the concepts that Anderson published. You can read the full book review here: Priced To Sell - Is Free The Future? Anderson responds to Gladwell's criticism on his own Blog here: Dear Malcolm: Why so threatened?

This is what makes the Internet (and, more specifically, Blogs) so amazing. Almost instantaneous back and forth with additional comments from the community as well. It becomes one big and thoroughly engaging discussion, conversation and debate.

Even Seth Godin (another best-selling business book author - Purple Cow, Tribes, etc...) added his perspective here: Malcolm is wrong. Like all great debates, it's clear that there are (at least) three sides to this story, but Godin makes some very salient points: "Like all dying industries, the old perfect businesses will whine, criticize, demonize and most of all, lobby for relief. It won't work. The big reason is simple: In a world of free, everyone can play. This is huge. When there are thousands of people writing about something, many will be willing to do it for free (like poets) and some of them might even be really good (like some poets). There is no poetry shortage."

If Anderson, Gladwell and Godin are in the midst of this very fascinating debate, the least you can do is take a read-through of the links above, learn about the topic and - if you're interested - join the conversation.

Seth Godin even set-up a Squidoo lens to debate the topic right here: The FREE Debate.

By Mitch Joel