Matt's Reviews > Free: The Future of a Radical Price

Free by Chris Anderson
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M 50x66
's review
Feb 02, 2010

liked it

I liked this, and as little as I'm qualified to judge books that talk about economics, I thought it was a really smart.

The basic thesis, as I understand it, is to examine the different kinds of free in economic terms, and also to look at the way the introduction of free changes the marketplace. Both ideas are pretty interesting, as it turns out-- as a reader, I'm more drawn to the wonky stuff about how markets respond to free, but I think the other stuff is key to understanding just which free you're talking about.

The book itself was a little different than my usual reading: there are a fair number of charts and sidebars here, and as a reader, I'm not super-comfortable with that. I never know when in my reading I should be trying to ingest the info presented as a sidebar. But really, that's me.

Also, the tone of breathlessness that I take to be the hallmark of the Wired style is in full effect here. I want to call it hype, but that would suggest it's uncritical, which it's not, at least not entirely. But it is a weird glossing, running momentum that I remember from the magazine that feels a bit like technological darwinism, the sense that you don't need to get with the program, but this train is leaving for the future so you'd better get on board (to mix metaphors). There is, in this book, then, a kind of subject-less force that is almost a dialectic driving things, which I think is maybe obscuring some of what is happening here.... it's interesting because it might be a perfect match, to talk about markets and tech innovation, because both lend themselves to these ideas of invisible causes and etc. In both cases, I find myself a little suspicious and want to know who is doing these things.

It does offer an interesting rationale for a lot of things, maybe most notably what is happening with file sharing and piracy, and offers what I think is maybe the most thought out projection I've seen of where things are likely to go from here, in a economy that fully integrates "free bits."

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