Book-a-week FAIL! (sorta)

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Books by shutterhacks used under Creative Commons

At the beginning of the year, I set a resolution of reading a book a week (or 52 total).  If you have been following along with my list it will come as no surprise to you that I am not going to get to 52 books before the end of the year; I am currently at 20 books, including the one I finished last night, with a month to go.  I could give a lot of excuses and even a few valid reasons for not making this aggressive goal, but I can sum them all up with “I have been really busy”.  I do want to “finish strong” and get a few more books read.  It would be nice to get to 24 (two per month) or even better to get to 26 (one every two weeks).  But I will take it one book at a time.

I was going to call this a total failure, until I looked over the list of books that I have read.  I had a good balance with fiction (5 titles) and non-fiction (15 titles).  Read a great biography of Lou Gehrig, read a couple of books on Google (I enjoyed “I am feeling lucky” much better than “In the Plex”) and finally got my hands on a book I have been wanting to read for years “Showstopper!”.  I think reading 20+ books is more than most people do in a year, so I think that is a positive.  The only real FAIL! is that I did not get around to blogging enough about the books as I read them.  

Book Review: Free: The Future of a Radical Price

For week 1 of my Book-a-week resolution I read Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson.  Below is a review of that book.

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Quick Review

If you have not read Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail I would read that book instead of Free.  If you have read The Long Tail, then Free is a decent investment of your time.  While Free is not technically a sequel or a continuation of The Long Tail, it is a deeper dive into how shift from physical media (such as CDs, DVDs, etc.) to digital media and distribution is effecting our economy and society.

What I liked about the book

Before I started reading the book and even into the first 20 pages or so I was a little concerned that Free was going to be focused on the mantra of “give everything away” or “figure out the business model later”.  What I quickly found was that Chris Anderson’s study of the “radical price” was clearly about using Free as part of an overall strategy of having a solid business plan.  He actually starts with some historical (going back more than 100 years) examples of how people have used Free in order to gain traction in a market or used it to sell complimentary goods.  He ends the book with many ideas and examples for using Free.

One of the other things that I really enjoyed was the sidebars that Chris Anderson presents on real world examples of companies that use Free as part of their business strategy.  They sidebars, despite being generally a page or less in length, are rich in analysis and often have an interesting graph to illustrate the example.  The Long Tail and the sidebars both made great use of the graphics to add richness to the text.

What I did not like about the book

I alluded to the how much I liked the real world examples and graphics in the sidebars in the last section.  I found that the main text of the book lacked some of the hard data that I am used to in Chris Anderson’s writing style.  In Free he provides lots of examples to support his ideas, but they often seem anecdotal examples.  Contrast this with the rich data-backed examples that he presented in The Long Tail.  I think this is more of a criticism of the research and writing style of the book, rather than me thinking that the ideas he presents are flawed.  I think the ideas that Chris presents are sound and everyone running a business should consider the ideas presented if for no other reason than your competitors might be considering Free at this moment.

An example of Free

This blog is a good example of Free (Chris Anderson identities it as such in the book).  I post my thoughts here to share them with the world and in hopes to raise my reputation as a Software Architect.  I take it a step further a put a Creative Commons License on the work, so that other can take it and do interesting things with it and owe me nothing other than an attribution.

Book-a-week resolution

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book shelf by hobvias sudoneighm used under Creative Commons

This is the time of the year when people make their resolutions for the New Year.  I have a number of the things that I would like to accomplish in 2011, but I will not bore you with the full list.  Like many people I want to do more of some things and less of others.  One of the things I do want to do more of in 2011 is reading, which as a happy coincidence should lead to watching less television.  I really like reading, but in the last year or two I seem to be reading much less.

I am a big believer in setting measurable goals, so I have decided to set the goal of reading a book a week in 2011.  I have currently have 20 books on my bookshelf that I have not read along with a rather long list of books that I don’t own that I would like to read.  Whenever I hear about a good book I put it up on a list and when I am out at a used book store I see if any of them available.  I am happy (as always) to get suggestions for other books. 

I have a couple of other “rules” for this resolution:

  • The book a week is an “average” if I spend 10 days reading a long book and 4 days reading a short book, that is okay
  • I have a couple books that I have partially read, finishing those will count
  • I want to read a good mix of books for “work” and for “fun”
  • I will post up book reviews when they are “on topic” for this site, but generally not for the “fun” books
  • I reserve the right to fail miserably in getting 52 books read this year

Update – My blogging has been a little slow, so I created a list of the books that I have read so far.