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Publisher's Summary

In The Zero Marginal Cost Society, New York Times bestselling author Jeremy Rifkin argues that the capitalist era is passing—not quickly, but inevitably. The emerging Internet of Things is giving rise to a new economic system that will transform our way of life.

In this provocative new book, Rifkin argues that the coming together of the Communication Internet with the fledgling Energy Internet and Logistics Internet in a seamless twenty-first-century intelligent infrastructure—the Internet of Things—is boosting productivity to the point where the marginal cost of producing many goods and services is nearly zero, making them essentially free. The result is that corporate profits are beginning to dry up, property rights are weakening, and the conventional mind-set of scarcity is slowly giving way to the possibility of abundance. The zero marginal cost phenomenon is spawning a hybrid economy—part capitalist market and part “collaborative commons”—with far-reaching implications for society.

Rifkin describes how hundreds of millions of people are already transferring parts of their economic lives from capitalist markets to what he calls the global Collaborative Commons. “Prosumers” are making and sharing their own information, entertainment, green energy, and 3-D printed products at near zero marginal cost. They are also sharing cars, homes, clothes, and other items via social media sites, redistribution clubs, and cooperatives at low or near zero marginal cost. Students are even enrolling in free MOOCs, massive open online courses that operate at near zero marginal cost. And young social entrepreneurs are establishing ecologically sensitive businesses using crowd funding as well as creating alternative currencies in the new sharing economy. In this new world, social capital is as important as financial capital, access trumps ownership, cooperation supersedes competition, and “exchange value” in the capitalist marketplace is increasingly replaced by “sharable value” on the Collaborative Commons.

Rifkin concludes that while capitalism will be with us for the foreseeable future, albeit in an increasingly diminished role, it will not be the dominant economic paradigm by the second half of the twenty-first century. We are, Rifkin says, entering a world beyond markets, where we are learning how to live together in an increasingly interdependent global Collaborative Commons.

©2014 Jeremy Rifkin (P)2014 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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pleasant and inspiring..

.. but is it realistic? I kept wondering. It somehow appears too neat to be true and leaves aside so ongoing threat that the technological shift is just taken over and used by financial interests.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Hunter
  • heber, UT, United States
  • 05-16-17

Very interesting viewpoint

I was a bit skeptical about this book based on some of the criticisms about the authors political leanings. I was pleased to find that these were exaggerated. On the contrary, what I heard was the author putting forth a prediction about where our economy is headed, and backing it up with plenty of examples from daily life.

Regardless of whether you agree with him or not, there are many indisputably valid points. This book is well worth the read.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Not a convincing argument-just stories & ideology

Would you try another book from Jeremy Rifkin and/or David Cochran Heath?

Probably not. <br/><br/>I was expecting an analysis of the impact that lower, close to zero marginal costs would have on businesses since the subtitle of the book included 'the eclipse of capitalism', but what I got was stories about how certain segments were seeing a rise of the collaborative commons. I don't disagree that these changes are occurring, but if anyone has paid attention to technology in society than they would already be aware of most of these stories. <br/><br/>What was lacking was a substantive analysis of how these changes would proceed. Instead there were general statements that the collaborative commons would push capitalism aside into a minor role in society. Mr. Rikfin never explains why that will happen. He doesn't provide any evidence that people will move from a profit seeking system to a 'good for all' system other than stories where this has happened in limited spaces. <br/><br/>There was also one major flaw in his economics and it was made right at the beginning and is key to his argument that capitalism is doomed. He states that price should equal marginal cost and thus as marginal cost gets close to zero then price will also get close to free. However economic theory states that marginal revenue equals marginal cost. As the president of a high-tech company I can state that this is also the principal that drives ours and our competitors' practices. This means that price will probably NOT go to zero even when marginal costs do. One just has to look at ebooks to find a mature industry that is already at near zero costs and prices are not zero (excluding promotions). If zero prices and the end of capitalism hasn't occurred in this industry why will it happen elsewhere. <br/><br/>Mr. Rifkin never tries to make a convincing case that it will. Instead he makes comments on why capitalism is bad, even though he grudgingly (it seems to me) admits that it has done more good than any other economic system. He seems to have a blind faith that the collaborative commons is a better system because it puts people and sharing first. <br/><br/>I'd be willing to place a bet that capitalism will be around longer than Mr. Rifkin believes, even if it is in a modified form. After all many of the positive stories that Mr. Rifkin talks about were initiated by capitalist companies, such as ride-sharing.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

I had to play the book at 1.5 speed to maintain my interest. Part of this was the lack for substantive content, some was the narration.

Any additional comments?

In the end this was a very disappointing book especially written by someone who is supposed to be an adviser to government leaders. It was a struggle to listen to the entire book, but I did hoping there would be more 'meat' at the end. Unfortunately there wasn't so this will be the first Audible book I return for a refund.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Tracy
  • Morgan Hill, CA United States
  • 04-22-17

The most important book I've read...

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

This is the most important book I’ve read predicting the future of our economy, new tech and energy businesses, and social enterprises that will drive the 3rd economic revolution. Sure there are holes as some readers mentioned – you can’t cover every eventuality in a single book – but at it’s core this is the future. One reviewer called it sci-fi, but we see it happening everywhere we look and are already participating ourselves in many of these new sharing economy technologies and approaches to recycle, reuse, and share.<br/><br/>In the US our capitalist way of life is very ingrained, but in other parts of the world, the zero marginal cost economy, technologies, and ways of living may very well leapfrog many of the economic standards we take for granted today. I saw this happen with technology leapfrogging in China. I lived there during college when relatively few people were connected even by phones. Because of the timing of new technology and China’s ability and willingness to embrace it, much of the country went straight to wireless and as an added benefit China isn’t crisscrossed by thousands of miles of eyesore above ground phone lines. Countries that need to take advantage of the sharing economy Rifkin describes will very likely do so a lot faster than those of us who cling to our ingrained capitalist methods and they will benefit greatly from doing so. In time, we too will follow.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Love the book but weak narration

The book was an eye opener; a thoroughly researched summary of the state of the world and where things are going. But the narration was average at best.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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provocative ideas about the TIR

TIR (third industrial revolution) is how Rifkin refers to the emerging collaborative economy. In this economy, thanks to 3D printing, solar and wind power, and the internet , he anticipates and unbundling of capitalist structures towards more collaborative regimes .

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Hugh
  • New Orleans, LA, United States
  • 05-10-14

Totally Provocative

Where does The Zero Marginal Cost Society rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

In the top ten percent

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

The fact that it laid out a scenario, the existence of which I had never been aware of.

Which scene was your favorite?

No scenes. It's futurist economics.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I never listen to a book in one setting. I listen when I'm in my car, and that has to be multiple sittings.

Any additional comments?

A book well worth reading. As provocative as Kurzweil.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Breathtakingly far-reaching and illuminating!

Rifkin weaves together myriad strands of history into an integral vision and pathway toward a wonderful future!

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Andy
  • Westport, CT, United States
  • 05-02-14

reasonable survey of an important trend

I enjoyed listening to this book. Rifkin lays out a key trend that is evolving. He does however, push this "zero marginal" cost a little too much. By this I mean he infrequently reminds the reader of the high fixed costs required to operate at close to zero marginal cost.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Lance
  • Beverly, MA, United States
  • 11-14-17

Promising Future Buuuuuuttttt

I'm a fan of Rifkin's work but in listening to this a few years after publication and it already feels dated. It feels like many other books on technology, promising much but not really able to show us the way or accurately foretell how it will play out. For instance, his schtick on the future of education and the promise of MOOCs seems to have fallen flat (or at best serving those with already educational experiences). Heath's narration is solid and easy to pay attention to. He keeps the text interesting with good pacing and tone. AUDIBLE 20 REVIEW SWEEPSTAKES ENTRY.