The Free Bestseller

August 3, 2009

The bestseller in question is Free: The Future of a Radical Price. It’s by Chris Anderson, whose earlier book, The Long Tail, I posted about a couple of years ago.

Chris recently posted that Free made the New York Times bestseller list (number 12 on the nonfiction charts, to be specific). That of course means that there have been rather a lot of copies of the book exchanged for money. People seem willing to pay money in order to read about things being available at a price of zero.

There are ways of obtaining Free itself for free, within limitations of time and space.

The ebook and web book will be free for a limited time and limited to certain geographic regions as determined by each national publisher; the unabridged audiobook will be available free forever, available in all regions.

Whereas the unabridged audiobook is free, the abridged audiobook isn’t. Audible.com presents a “time is money” argument for the abridged audiobook being worth $7.49: it gives you the good stuff in half the time (3 hours rather than 6).

This may arouse the suspicion that the full Free is padded. My experience has been that business books often are. On the other hand, I found The Long Tail to be a book with a book’s worth of book.

So I’m going to read Free. The questions are: when? in what form? at what price? In a sense, I started reading Free over a year ago. I also started writing about it: one of the more successful posts on this blog applies Chris’ framework about free to WordPress.com.

I expect that Free will come out in paperback some time next year, with a new chapter or afterword. At that point, I’ll probably buy the paperback, just as I bought The Long Tail paperback.

Hardback publication is seen as perhaps the major event in a book’s lifecycle. In terms of my reading of Free, it’s the halfway point in a process that spans more than two years. No, that’s not because I’m a slow reader. It’s because the two most interesting publication dates are that of the Wired article (in 2008) and of the paperback book (in 2010?).

In case it isn’t already obvious, I find the Free project interesting in many ways, including its subject matter and publication process. And I like those old-fashioned things that tend to cost money: books.

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