Gladwell on Free


Freddie deBoer used to blog at, and may again someday. Now he blogs here.

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5 Responses

  1. Mark says:

    “Anderson’s argument begins with a technological trend. The cost of the building blocks of all electronic activity—storage, processing, and bandwidth—has fallen so far that it is now approaching zero. In 1961, Anderson says, a single transistor was ten dollars. In 1963, it was five dollars. By 1968, it was one dollar. Today, Intel will sell you two billion transistors for eleven hundred dollars—meaning that the cost of a single transistor is now about .000055 cents.”

    Gladwell deconstructs this argument very well by pointing out that the costs of other things don’t move quite so quickly. The price of an Intel processor may asymptotically approach zero, but not everything connected to it moves that quickly. The cost of hard drive storage dropped by a factor of about 10 million in 25 years, but displays went down something like just 10x at the most. At some point, some part of the system that used to be cheap will become the most expensive, and then nothing’s free…Report

  2. Consumatopia says:

    To talk about whether Free contentis an iron law of the future without any mention of piracy is an elaborate exercise in missing the point.Report

  3. EngineerScotty says:

    There’s an interesting question that is brought up by the lead section, but not considered further by the article. If I’m a author or publisher, and amazon is informing me that it’s share of Kindle book revenue is 70%–for what appears to be little more than the service of formatting it into Kindle format and listing it on their website–I’m certainly upset.
    And I smell an anti-trust lawsuit coming against Amazon if they keep up this behavior. Similar litigation and charges have been levelled at Apple concerning the iPod; but with the iPod you always have the choice of using MP3s; and many tracks from iTunes are available in MP3 format as well, and capable of being played on any player. With the Kindle, Amazon manages to prevent the resultant files from being used on any competing device, AND prevents a competitive market in Kindle format publishing.
    Discussion of the marginal cost of physical things like transistors strikes me as irrelevant–physical goods will have a marginal cost to produce; so making them available for free requires a subsidy. Information, on the other hand, does have a marginal cost of zero, ignoring the bandwidth or storage media needed to transmit/store it; but even that cost is frequently negligble. And while electricty isn’t “too cheap to meter” (which doesn’t necessarily mean “free”), things like Internet bandwidth and local telephone service are frequently available on a flat-fee basis, with no marginal cost to the user for increased usage.Report