What’s better than free?

In 2008, Kevin Kelly wrote about how the internet is one giant copying machine and content will be super abundant,and therefore worthless. After all, what is better than free?

Kelly says “when copies are super abundant, stuff which cannot be copied becomes scarce and valuable”.It is this secret ingredient-the un-copy-able stuff, that makes content better than free.

bookbhook is a tl;dr economy service that helps time starved knowledge workers know more without reading more, using handcrafted non fiction book summaries. As of now, all content on bookbhook is free,and I keep brooding over whether the free content, painstakingly created, is valued by the bookbhook reader.

Is there anything better than free, that will make people pay for the service or the content?

Kevin Kelly’s 2008 write-up helped clear some cobwebs in mind. He says content is better than free when eight generatives are added to the content. These eight generatives are Authenticity,Patronage,Personalisation,Accessibility,Interpretation,Findability,Embodiment & Immediacy.

Services like blinkist and bookbhook make free content (pirated pdf copies of books) less appealing by adding these generatives:

  1. Findability: There is an ocean of information out there. As an example, there are so many books on strategy. Assuming you have the time to read one book every week, how do you pick up the right book from millions. Findability (or curation) is a service that makes content far better than free-so much so that you are willing to pay for it.
  2. Interpretation: Sure, Merchant of Venice is legally free for you to read. But what if someone interprets the play for you, and actually helps you answer the kind of questions that can be asked in a university English exam, wouldn’t you pay for it? Suddenly there is something that is better than free.
  3. Immediacy: Yes, nothing beats the experience of reading a book over a few hours or days. But what if you are short on time and, for the time being, need to grab key nuggets from non-fiction books? Can someone help you with the right book (findability) and give you a quick gist (Immediacy)? Will you pay now?
  4. Accessibility: In a world where you travel in a car that you do not own(uber), listen to music that you do not own on your computer (spotify), is it necessary to own every book that you intend to read?Will you pay if someone owns the books on your behalf and you get to read the key takeaways from the book, before you decide to actually own the book?

If you create and publish content, you need to revisit Kevin Kelly’s 2008 column here