The Future of Free

No less than Malcolm Gladwell thinks that Wired-editor Chris Anderson’s new book “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” (Hyperion; $26.99) is wrong.

Free is just another price, and prices are set by individual actors, in accordance with the aggregated particulars of marketplace power. “Information wants to be free,” Anderson tells us, “in the same way that life wants to spread and water wants to run downhill.” But information can’t actually want anything, can it? Amazon wants the information in the Dallas paper to be free, because that way Amazon makes more money. Why are the self-interested motives of powerful companies being elevated to a philosophical principle? But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

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