I just finished free by Chris Anderson, and I thought I’d talk about it. Because I both liked and kind of hated it. Or rather hated myself for enjoying reading it.
Really ? The guy gives lecture, and makes money out of it ? He’s good. Writing on 2009 on something that has been happening for decades, making it like he’s the one who discovered it (and not the wonderful entrepreneurs he’s actually mentioning in his book), he’s really good.
He can write, I’ll give you that. He can so write he made me enjoy the book. Reading it in the evening, as I usually do when I’m not at liberty to lie on a sunbed alongside a pool under 35 degrees sun (I do like the sun), I really enjoyed it. Couldn’t bear for the sleep to come and grab me and make me put it down. But then in the light of day realizing I’d been had. Bummer.
I got free on my Kindle because I wanted to read Makers, recommended by a colleague. And I did what I usually do on Amazon. I browse and get many more books than what I came for (I’ve been a sucker for that algorithm for so long). And it works. It rarely recommended something I didn’t enjoy or at least was interested in (the algorithm can’t be held responsible for just bad writing. The algorithm is beautiful. I love the algorithm). So I got free and The Long Tail also. And started with free, as I am in the middle of a work-related conundrum where free might be the answer. Or not. I’m not sure yet – and still am not after the book, in which I feel I learnt virtually nothing. But enjoyed myself reading it.
And I realize it is often like that when I read a « business » book. I’ll learn practically nothing new, maybe see links in things I hadn’t before if it’s a « good » book, and enjoy the reading regardless of what I’ve learnt or not. And with free, I was reminded of a couple of things at the back of my mind, like Microsoft’s non-answer to Linux for a while, or how free-to-air broadcast got started some decades ago, granted. But I didn’t feel enlightened or waow-ed.
It is an enjoyable book. Chris Anderson can definetely write. And I guess, from what he says about his lecture gigs, that he can talk too. But did he invent a concept ? Discover a new theory ? Prove a theorem ? No. He merely put 2 and 2 together on a subject not many people had written about before and he does it really really well. Because really, telling me one of the economics of free is giving away something so you’ll sell something else, or more of something else ? Or giving you content subsidized by advertising ? And the Kindle version wasn’t even free as he claims in the book. I paid for the Kindle version (it must be one of those localized content things ; from France, lots of free things from the US are not fre anymore, from Kindle books to US day after reruns of TV shows).
So I’m on to the Long Tail now. And let me tell you, it doesn’t look better in terms of concept. For starters, one of my marketing professors in 1995 talked to us about the long tail. Way before the Internet era. So Chris Anderson didn’t invent the concept, even though he claims he did name it.
But guess what ? I’m enjoying it as well. Damn.