The Value — and Virus — of Free

With all this talk about Free recently, my favorite contemporary author has put online one of his novels for free. Neil Gaiman’s book American Gods has won several Best Novel awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker award. It is one of my favorite novels and everyone should go check it out while it is free.

Over in his blog, which just celebrated a tenth anniversary, Neil Gaiman talked about how free books are nothing new. Libraries have existed for a long time. And that giving away books encourages people to be come readers, who will buy books in the future. So giving things away is good business.

The viral nature of free stuff is hard ignore. I just downloaded the first 9 tracks of the new Nine Inch Nails album, Ghosts I-IV. Trent Reznor is giving away 25% of the instrumental album, in hopes people will be willing to shell out $5 for mp3s of all 36 tracks. One can’t argue that $5 for over two-hours of music is a great value — but I am curious to see how viral the free bits will be and how many digital albums are sold.

What other viral uses of free have you seen lately?KO