Book Notes: Free by Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson is the editor in chief of Wired magazine. He is also the author or The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More, one of the most talked about books in the publishing industry. He is also the author of the new book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price. In a moment, I will tell you how to get a copy FREE—which seems especially appropriate for this book!

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If you have been reading my blog for more than a few weeks, you know I like to give away free books. So far, I have given away hundreds of copies of eleven different titles. In fact, this is now a regular Monday feature on my blog. I am committed to reviewing a new book each week and giving away as many copies as the publisher will provide.

I’d like to claim that I do this because I am just an altruistic person. And while I do believe in the power of generosity, I am also an unabashed capitalist. I provide free books because I am hoping to get a financial return on my investment.

All this talk about free is interesting, but it is only sustainable if you can monetize it in some way. This is why Anderson’s book is so valuable: it provides the rationale for why—and when—free makes sense as a business strategy.

He discusses the history of free (it’s really not a new idea), the psychology behind it, and provides scores of examples of how free works in the real world. He devotes a lot of space to the digital and online world, where the cost of reproducing bits and providing bandwidth are trending toward zero. He also provides numerous examples of companies who have used free successfully.

He points out, however that

Free is not a magic bullet. Giving away what you do will not make you rich by itself. You have to think creatively about how to convert the reputation and attention you can get from Free into cash.”

I doubt that you will agree with all of Anderson’s conclusions. I didn’t. I am still processing some of them. Frankly, the book has been critiqued on a number of levels, perhaps most notably by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker.

However, Free has really stimulated my thinking and provided a plethora of marketing ideas. I think we live in a time when we must experiment in order to find the future. Anderson’s book provides much fodder for your own experiments. If you are an author, an agent, or a publisher, you simply must read this book.

Thanks to the good people at Hyperion Books, I have 100 copies of Free to give away. To get a chance at snagging one, you must take the following three actions:

  1. Leave a comment below. Tell me why you want this book. Be creative. I really do read these comments and base my decisions on them.
  2. Fill out the special form. I have set up a separate contact form to make it convenient for you to provide your mailing address. Please do not put your shipping address in your comment. This will automatically disqualify you.
  3. Twitter a link to this post. You can do so automatically by clicking here. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can use Facebook. Yes, I know if more people read this, it will hurt your chances of getting a copy yourself. But the only incentive the publisher has to provide these books to giveaway is the free publicity that you and I collectively provide.

On Thursday, October 1, I will select 100 people, based solely on my arbitrary and subjective evaluation of their comments. If you are one of those selected, Lindsey Nobles on my team will notify you via email. If you don’t hear from her, you can assume you didn’t make the cut.

Question: Why do you want a copy of this book?
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  • Thomas Duffbert Duff

    So many of us who "live" on the 'net expect to find content for free. Yet if we are the ones producing content, we want to convert it into monetary value. Where do you draw the line and exist successfully in that world? It sounds as if Chris Anderson has some unique insights to that, and I'd like to learn them (in addition to writing a review for my blog, Amazon, and Twitter).

  • Randy_Bosch

    In keeping with the concept, I will read Chris Anderson's new book for free (no charge to him) if I receive a copy at no charge. Additionally, I will take it viral, Internationally, by reading it while traveling to Europe if I receive it prior to October 14! No extra charge!

  • Jill Konrath

    I'd love to read this book because I'm already actively implementing several free websites where I give away high value content to those in need. You can see them at:

    Get Back to Work Faster: my site for out of work professionals
    I'm giving away my book as a free download. Plus, I'm running a series of webinars featuring top notch experts

    Great Sales Give: my site for salespeople & entrepreneurs
    I'm giving away my best sales content & products each month, as well as fun prizes and drawings.

    I'd like to learn more about creating strong business models by giving things away for free.

  • @MikeEllsworth

    I'd like to read the book and find out if he makes reference to my favorite Steward Brand quote, often only partially quoted: "Information wants to be free, and information wants to be expensive."

  • Greg Linnemanstons

    I would love a copy of Free! As the owner of a small agency I'm just starting to accept the idea of free as a powerful marketing concept, (it has been a painful learning process) and I want to learn more. And I can't think of a better way to learn Free than to get Free. Set me Free with a free copy!

  • Grace

    I love the phrase The Gift economy – but wonder how does it work with ordinary living needs? As a senio with limited resources any free book is gatefully received – discussed and promoted to those who can benefit from it.

  • Tim Adeney

    I am entranced by the writing of Malcolm Gladwell and need Chris Anderson to Free me from this snare by proving that Gladwell is wrong about something.

  • @aliciascott

    Hey there! Follow you on Twitter, read your blog – big fan. I volunteer at a small (but effective) 13/14 year old nonprofit which has just officially launched its literary arm just this year ( Our goal has been to creatively market our first book, and subsequent books by combining the needed element of fundraising (we are a nonprofit) AND figuring out ways to comp some books to be a BLESSING while growing a readership. We believe books can reach many, many more with a message of HOPE and GRACE. This FREE concept is amazing. Love it. Would LOVE to learn more and read the book, of course. I also have an incredible day job @ a retained exec search firm – – and think it would be intriguing to see if there might be application there as well. Pick me for a FREE book! And keep up your awesome work! Thanks a bunch!

  • Chris Whitehead

    Michael, I would love to receive a copy of Free: The Future of a Radical Price because I am a pastor and we are always looking for ways to conenct with first time visitors that will wow them. Most people come in to a church with the expectation that we will be asking for something from them – money. I love to suprise them with a gift that is of value to them that is free. I think this book would be able to help us to think even more creatively about ways to do it that are relevant and hopefully fun. Thanks for the consideration and your generosity.

  • doc_scott

    "What's the catch? What's the fine print hook? There are no free lunches!" We've all heard these before, and we've all thought that way at various times! The thought of something being FREE is almost scandalous. For over twenty years, I have poured my life into communicating to people the offer of a free gift from God.

    I'd love to see how Anderson's outlook relates to ministry, values, and communication… and I'd love to see if there's a truly "free" offer on this blogsite (not withstanding a few small hoops to jump through like filling out forms :-)

  • davethecfre

    Chris Anderson's long tail theory is so true in nonprofit organizations (where II work). I believe his Free book will lend insights to nonprofits as well. As someone who has to do a great deal with less than for profits, this book should be able to help position my agency better in the products and services we offer.

  • Stephen

    May I please have a copy of Free? Here are the top 5 reasons:
    1. Out of 215 comments so far, I'm only the second person to say "please" that I noticed.
    2. Since your purpose is to get a financial return, I promise to review the book on my blog, post the review to Twitter and Facebook, and encourage everyone to buy a copy.
    3. You said, "If you are an author, an agent, or a publisher, you simply must read this book." So I'm taking a step of faith and trusting you. I'm sure you will want to reaffirm that.
    4. I want to help you grow in your spiritual life by becoming more altruistic.
    5. As an aspiring writer, I appreciate your advice and want to encourage you to continue blogging.

  • Martin Richardson

    I am a Christian blogger and the best things I use to reach my readers are free; open-source software(OpenOffice, Ubuntu Linux), a variety of Google products, and the blood of Jesus! I'd really like to understand better how what I'm giving away for free could be profitable, but more importantly sustaining to keep being able to send the message of Christ to new readers. Thank you for all your wonderful posts and this opportunity to get a free book, you and your company are a real blessing!

  • N.A. Winter

    In a day where we say "everyone (and everything) has a price" the concept of free is not only controversial, as Michael mentions above, but is antithetical to what we've been taught. How do we value that which has no price tag assigned to it? What do we exchange when we are given something free? As a writer and as a businessperson, I am constantly struggling with how I make a free contribution and yet still receive a return on the investment I am making. This is why I want a copy of this book. To figure out how something can be free, yet invaluable.***

    **On a complete side note, this last line reminded me of God's grace. Perhaps this is something that while free, is extremely costly, and to which no value can be assigned.****

  • Bill Masella (thegeocacher)

    Free… Is anything really ever? I think I need something to stimulate the numbing of my brain.

  • Jimmy

    Thanks for giving away so many books! Hopefully, I will be one of the lucky random pics!

  • Patrick MacNamara

    The concept of "FREE" on the Internet has been around for sometime. One example is how marketers use it to exchange prospect email addresses via simple email opt-ins for a free PDF ebook or White Paper.

    However, I'm curious to see how far Chris takes this concept because I don't believe people are innately looking online for more free information. Matter of fact, I don't believe they're even looking for information to increase their knowledge. What they're looking for is information that provides them the benefits of knowledge because it's the benefits of knowledge that ultimately meets their wants and desires.

    As you can tell, I'm of the mindset that content is extremely valuable. Whether it be text-based, audio or video, if it provides value, people will pay for it. Nevertheless, I'm curious to read about Chris's epiphany — even if I go against my own mindset and receive it FREE. ;)

    Thanks for your consideration!

  • Florin

    I am almost through the audiobook. I MUST have the printed version so I can circle, underline, highlight the so many nuggets of deep insight Chris brings to the table.

  • David Frisbie

    Margins are diminishing already; thank the internet, POD and a variety of market forces. So Anderson is ahead of the curve — let's just take our margins to — ZERO — and thrive in business? Great hook — now, can he deliver on this promise? Does it make sound business sense, or has he failed to do his homework? I'd love to find out!

  • brad ricklefs

    i'm a small business owner that loves to show irresistible care to his family, friends and neighbors. i know my wife, who serves on a benevolence board at our church, would make great use of some of the ideas presented in FREE. thanks for considering me/us.

  • Jessica Turner

    I would like to read this blog because I am fascinated by the concept of free. As a mommy blogger, I receive AND give a lot of free product. I believe that this strategy makes sense for companies and would love to learn what the author has to say about the concept. I am also a marketing professional by day and think I could glean some useful insight. Thanks so much for the opportunity.

  • Deborah

    I would very much appreciate a copy of this book. Knowing it will not be a disappointment, if I am chosen to receive a free copy, I will commit to purchasing a copy to give away to someone else for free.

  • Deborah

    Knowing this author doesn't disappoint, if I am chosen to receive a free copy (which I would very much appreciate), I will commit to purchase a copy and pass it along to another person for free.

    From reading the Amazon Search-Inside feature, this concept seems to challenge marketers and business owners/entrepreneurs to think and create without limits or barriers to delivery…something it seems like Thomas Nelson has been attempting to do (and doing increasingly well) for years. (I regularly read this blog, Lindsey's blog, and a couple of other TN insider blogs.)

  • @jmarkarnold

    I have a story to tell–the story of Think Huge (How to Elevate Your Life & Your Business). My passions of writing, speaking and reading are consistently improved by following Michael Hyatt's suggestions. The book Free: The Future of a Radical Price will obviously help me communicate the Think Huge message in new and creative ways.

  • Tommy

    I would be interested in a copy of this book. As a minister, I would love to see how we can do more things for free to make it easier for people to participate, whether that means free weeknight classes, free mission trips, etc. As you mentioned you give away because you want more business, I'd love to give away more to expose people to the message of Christ.

  • Ian Paul Marshall

    Freemium enables you to join in the conversation. It lets you move out of obscurity. We are moving more and more into an idea-economy. If your ideas aren't out there and spreading you might as well just sit back and snuggle up close to death. If this book will let me be of better service to my community then the world is going to be a better place…why…bc I've become better. The process of change has to start somewhere and that change starts with me and you. Books have always been and will always be the spark that ignites the dry kindling of our dreams. It is my hope that I can receive a copy of this book, learn from it, understand it and apply the principles…if they are worthy…to my life…and in turn my life may then inspire others to do the same.

  • TonyChung

    Hi Michael: I'd like a free copy of FREE because, over the summer, I downloaded the audiobook for free from Chris Anderson's site, and agree with him that "21st century 'free' is different from 20th century free…you can get a free lunch".

    I love getting free lunches. Also, I got lost trying to highlight portions of the audiobook I thought sounded interesting, so I developed a need for a printed copy.

    Thanks for your consideration.

  • Bill Bean

    Guessing I'm a bit late to this game. However, (with a nod to malcom g), I'll take this post as the tipping point for my decision to look at Anderson's book.

  • Faith quotes

    The loss, alas, is all his. On the other hand, all he needs to cultivate faith is to simply be thankful