mostly nonfiction listener
Apparently influential in the Obama administration. Good to see the basics of behavioral economics being applied to a macro-economic book. Helped me get a better sense of why I paid too much for my house, why some folks are still poor, why jobs seem harder to come by, and why the folks making economic policy often seem like dumb apes. Well written and informative. Makes a good argument for the benefits and limits of capitalism and the necessity of regulation to protect our investments and jobs.
I loved "Free" for 3 reasons:
Reason 1: Anderson is a terrific storyteller. Free is one of those books where you learn some, think some, and have fun during the ride. The main argument for Free is that the economics of digital goods pushes the price of these goods to their marginal cost of production, which in the case of digital copies is close enough to zero to set that price at free. Further, the price of free enables all sorts of businesses and opportunities, providing opportunities for new business models, profits and services.
Reason 2: The growth of free has all sorts of implications for higher education. Nowadays a lifelong learner can receive a wonderful education from Web content ranging from TED talks to lectues on iTunesU and YouTube/EDU. Educational content is now free. This forces us in higher education to rethink our own value propositions and where we exist in a digital economy built around abundance of quality curricular and lecture content as opposed the scarcity model that traditional lecturing/courses is built upon.
Reason 3: Anderson made the unabridged audio edition of Free available for free on Audible and some other outlets. This price encouraged a bunch of us at Dartmouth to read the book together, generated some great discussions and debate. Having the book freely available to our community proved to be an excellent argument for the library overcoming the scarcity of digital books to have them available to our community. I admire Anderson to no end for putting his money where his mouth is and offering the digital copy at the price of production. I'd gladly pay more in Educause conference fees to listen Anderson keynote one of our conferences.
We are all self-appointed experts when it comes to money (or at least real estate), but none of us really knows much history. For if we knew the history of booms and busts, bonds and equities, risk and insurance then we may all be a little less likely to jump into the latest bubble, and a little more likely to question our own "expertise". I admire Ferguson for taking on a big topic, and for his willingness to provide a grand sweep of history that reflects and helps us understand our current recession.
The book was apparently written to accompany a documentary series, and it certainly reads that way. This is good and bad...and the narrative moves along quickly and big lessons are drawn - while at times leaving the reader wanting more analysis. One question that the author poses keeps coming back to me - have we been living through a "super bubble" from the 1950s to today, which will see a slow deflation in our lifetimes as property values stagnate and China is no longer willing to fund our consumption through their savings?
I read this piece — which was written before 9/11, before Google and Facebook, before the iPad, before the cloud, and before the browser wars ended — as a historic document. And in general I was surprised on two levels. First, that most big companies, all having embraced the internet as the game-changing paradigm that it is, still haven't gotten a clue about how to treat or talk to their customers. And two, how much of what the authors suggest and envision has been proven correct. The bits they got wrong — like the importance of "zines" and the pervasiveness of "extranets" — are mildly risible. Perhaps its time to update this manifesto. I'd say it's a worthwhile endeavor.