Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business

Article in Wired.com by Chris Anderson called "Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business". I was initially skeptical about the article but after reading it I found several ideas that librarians should think about. For example Stewart Brand is quoted in the article: "Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive ... That tension will not go away."

How can libraries use the ideas presented by this article? What impact will the ideas in this article have on libraries?

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Doooom And Gloom

"The rise of "freeconomics" is being driven by the underlying technologies that power the Web."

I still don't see a place for libraries in the future. Not because I don't think they have a place, but because when I try and guess what others see, I think they don't see a place. While I guess we're on the right side of the "information wants to be free" thing (that is, we tend to try and give away information for free) I don't see a growing group of people that see value in what we do when more and more of them think "it's all free on the web".

Google is our competition and they have everything going for them.

What Could Kill Us

You know what I fear? A really good e-book reader.

All of the e-book readers up to now have been crap. They're either hard to read, hard to use, too heavy, too big, not big enough, encumbered by DRM, or several of the above. The Kindle came close, but they screwed up the implementation and DRM yet again. People want to lend stuff to their friends and, despite what companies want their consumers to think, people still don't want to buy a license to use something. They want to buy the item and be able to lend it, mark it up, etc.

But imagine this, and the Kindle does some of this right now. Imagine sitting at home, you see a book mentioned on TV, or read about it online. You want that book. You don't have to go to the bookstore. You don't have to go to the library. You simply get up, grab your e-book reader, connect to Amazon or wherever, pay your money, get your book.

That very business model is killing Blockbuster. I can sit at home and rent movies and get a better selection than anything found at a real movie rental shop. Not only can I rent movies, I can get them from my cable provider, NetFlix, or iTunes. I don't have to go out and buy music for the same reasons. I don't have to go out and rent video games because I can buy and rent them online.

So how long will it be before I don't have to leave my house to get a book? With an e-book, storage is easy and I can have far more e-books than real books.

Libraries typically carry books, DVDs, CDs, and video games (sometimes). I can get all of those pretty easily and pretty quickly right now, and never set foot on the street. When it comes time for books to do that... we are SOL and JWF unless we can add something that people want.

And folks, "outstanding reference services" really aren't what people want. They can do that themselves too thanks to Google. (Or, at least they think they can.)

Arguments from authority are unacceptable. ~Carl Sagan

And the list of things that

And the list of things that will kill s continues to grow...

"googlebrary" (or Gbrary)

google has so much money now, they might feel that they need a physical presence in order to sell more services (to sell ads); so why not open libraries or take over existing libraries with POD books, Google collaboration stations, downloads, ipod audio/video stations? there's still 20-30 percent of people not on the web or not fully utilizing the web for entertainment and infotainment. why wouldn't you want to create a space where people can be on the web more? I think there will always be a place for librarians, but we might need to be dumbed-down to fit into the new regime.

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