"Free is More Complicated Than You Think"

Cite this Article
Joshua D. Wright, "Free is More Complicated Than You Think", Truth on the Market (November 01, 2007), https://truthonthemarket.com/2007/11/01/free-is-more-complicated-than-you-think/

So says Scott Adams, creater of Dilbert and now author, in today’s WSJ.  The context might interest TOTM readers who’ve been following the Radiohead/ voluntary pricing discussions here and elsewhere:

A few years ago I tried an experiment where I put the entire text of my book, “God’s Debris,” on the Internet for free, after sales of the hard copy and its sequel, “The Religion War” slowed. My hope was that the people who liked the free e-book would buy the sequel. According to my fan mail, people loved the free book. I know they loved it because they emailed to ask when the sequel would also be available for free. For readers of my non-Dilbert books, I inadvertently set the market value for my work at zero. Oops.

So I’ve been watching with great interest as the band “Radiohead” pursues its experiment with pay-what-you-want downloads on the Internet. In the near term, the goodwill has inspired lots of people to pay. But I suspect many of them are placing a bet that paying a few bucks now will inspire all of their favorite bands to offer similar deals. That’s when the market value of music will approach zero.  That’s my guess. Free is more complicated than you’d think.