mostly nonfiction listener
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.
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.
Adapt will be an influential book. I read lots of terrific books, and Harford's latest is certainly terrific, but very few books make a long-term difference in how we think. Thaler and Sunstein's Nudge, Ariely's Predictably Irrational, Taleb's The Black Swan, and Wu's Master Switch are all influential books. They all creep into conversations, inform policy choices, underlie institutional strategies, and shape careers.
One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from John Maynard Keynes:
“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”
(Note: when Keynes was around, the ed tech profession did not yet exist, but if it did I think we would have been included amongst "economists and political philosophers").
Ideas rule the world. And books are the way that ideas take shape and spread. Therefore, books rule the world.
Adapt may get you thinking about your ability to adapt. Accept that you will fail, that your institution, your company, your department and your division will fail. What matters is how we learn from failure. Harford builds his theory of adaptation and failure by telling stories.
How did the U.S. Army turn the Iraq war around? (Short story … by Colonels on the ground risking careers by defying their civilian and military bosses, and engaging in counter-insurgent tactics). How have successful companies, from Google to Whole Foods, to W.L. Gore drive innovation and profits? (Answer: by creating non-hierarchical cultures that push authority and accountability to the edges).
All this may seem like familiar ground, and some of it has been well covered in Schulz's marvelous Being Wrong and Watt's Everything is Obvious (among others), but Harford brings these threads together into a clear set of ideas that are actionable in our professional lives and organizations.