Chris Anderson introduces 'Free' book

'Wired' editor promotes latest title

NEW YORK -- Not all content will be free in the digital age, but free offers can make for a good business in the end, "Wired" editor Chris Anderson said Tuesday night at the New York launch party for his new book "Free: The Future of a Radical Price."

Anderson, also the author of the bestseller "The Long Tail," discussed why and how industries are profiting from giving away products completely free and not receiving anything in return.

"We've been told you can't make money from free, and yet we've built country-wide economies based on that price," he told the audience in a brief presentation. "Free, perhaps, is the most misunderstood word in the English language ... It is changing in meaning ... and all of our ideas from the 20th century are being challenged."

He argued that the word has transformed over the years from a way to trick consumers around the world into purchasing products to a real model of success.

His best example of how free has turned into the foundation of an industry was Google's YouTube. He did, however, acknowledge that one major problem with the site is that it still hasn't found an advertising model or other ways to monetize it.

The distribution and promotion of "Free" is in itself an experiment with the new market realities in the digital age. Anderson said he used a tactic at the event Tuesday night that he also discusses in the book: he gave away copies for free. The book can also be viewed online for free, which has Anderson wondering if anyone will bother buying the physical book. "How many will buy the physical book, how will this make money, we don't know," he said. "We believe in the book in this digital age, but this is a real test."

His strategy is to introduce the book to as many people as possible, hoping some will decide the book is worth the purchase. "Once you've introduced your product to the most people, who will pay the most for it?" he asked. "It's going to be a world where free will be one of the prices out there ... not one where everything is free."