Oct 182012

Book Short: the Garage Workbench of the Future

Book Short:  the Garage Workbench of the Future

Makers:  The New Industrial Revolution, by Wired Magazine’s Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail (review, buy) and Free (review, buy) is just as mind expanding as his prior two books were at the time they were published. I had the pleasure of talking with Chris for a few minutes after he finished his keynote address at DMA2012 in Las Vegas this week, and I was inspired to read the book, which I did on the flight home.

 The short of it is that Anderson paints a very vivid picture of the future world where the Long Tail not only applies to digital goods but to physical goods as well. The seeds of this future world are well planted already in 3D printing, which I have been increasingly hearing about and will most likely be experimenting with come the holiday season (family – please take note!).

As someone who, like Anderson, tinkered with various forms of building as a kid in Shop at school and in the garage with my dad, it’s fascinating to think about a world where you can dream a physical product up, or download a design of it, or 3D scan it and modify it, and press a “make” button like you press a “print” button today on your computer, and have the product show up in your living room within minutes for almost nothing. This will change the world when the technology matures and gets cheaper and more ubiquitous. And this book is the blueprint for that change.

While we may look back on this book in 5 or 10 years, and say “DUH,” which is what many people would say now about The Long Tail or Free, for right now, this gets a WOW.

Jul 282009

Book Short: Worth Buying Free

Book Short:  Worth Buying Free

The cynic in me wanted to start this book review of  Free: The Future of a Radical Price, by Chris Anderson, by complaining that I had to pay for the book.  But it ended up being good enough that I won’t do that (plus, the author said there are free digital versions available — though the Kindle edition still costs money).  At any rate, a bunch of reviews I read about the book panned it when compared to Anderson’s prior book, The Long Tail (post, link to book).

I won’t get into the details of the book, though you’ll get an idea from the paragraph below, but Anderson has a few gems worth quoting:

  • Any topic that can divide critics into two opposite camps — “totally wrong” and “so obvious” — has got to be a good one
  • Free makes Paid more profitable
  • Younger players have more time than money…older players have more money than time
  • Doing things we like without pay often makes us happier than the work we do for a salary
  • It’s true that each generation takes for granted some things their parents valued, but that doesn’t mean that generation values everything less

While Free is s probably not quite as good as The Long Tail, it does a good job of organizing and classifying and explaining the power of different economic models that involve a free component, and I found it very thought provoking about our own business at Return Path.

We already do a couple forms of Free — we practice the “third party” model, by giving things away to ISPs but selling them to mailers; and we practice Freemium by providing Senderscore.org and Feedback Loops for free in order to attract paying customers to our testing and monitoring application and whitelist.  But could we do others?  Maybe.  They may not be revolutionary, but they’re smart marketing.

As some of the reviewers write, the book isn’t the be-all-end-all of marketing, it overreaches at times, and it is more applicable to some businesses than others, but Free was definitely worth paying for.

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Aug 142006

Book Short: It Sounds Like it Should be About Monkeys, Doesn’t It?

Book Short:  It Sounds Like it Should be About Monkeys, Doesn’t It?

The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson, is a must-read for anyone in the Internet publishing or marketing business.  There’s been so much written about it in the blogosphere already that I feel a little lame and “me too” for adding my $0.02, but I finally had a chance to get to it last week, and it was fantastic.

The premise is that the collapsing production, distribution, and marketing costs of the Internet for certain types of products — mostly media at this point — have extended the traditional curve of available products and purchased products almost indefinitely so that it has, in statistical terms, a really long tail.

So, for example, where Wal-Mart might only be able to carry (I’m making these numbers up, don’t have the book in front of me) 1,000 different CDs at any given moment in time on the shelf, iTunes or Rhapsody can carry 1,000,000 different CDs online.  And even though the numbers of units purchased are still greatest for the most popular items (the hits, the ones Wal-Mart stocks on shelf), the number of units purchased way down “in the tail of the curve,” say at the 750,000th most popular unit, are still meaningful — and when you add up all of the units purchased beyond the top 1,000 that Wal-Mart can carry, the revenue growth and diversity of consumer choice become *really* meaningful.

The book is chock full o’ interesting examples and stats and is reasonably short and easy to read, as Anderson is a journalist and writes in a very accessible style.  You may or may not think it’s revolutionary based on how deep you are in Internet media, but it will at a minimum help you crystallize your thinking about it.

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