It's Time To Reconsider "Free" Services

Cliff Ennico on

Yesterday I did something very retro.

While responding to a (paper) flyer in my mailbox, I visited a local library's annual book sale. You know the one where you can pick up yesterday's best sellers for $1 or $2 each (half-price on the second day).

I have amassed quite a lot of books over the years. I probably have three or four thousand of them in my basement.

As I lugged my three full shopping bags of new arrivals down to the basement to join their brethren, an interesting thought occurred to me: Virtually all of the books in my basement were acquired at library book sales such as the one I attended yesterday. Hardly a single one was bought at a bookstore, on Amazon or anywhere else where I would have to pay anything close to the cover price.

Don't get me wrong. I buy plenty of books from Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other booksellers. It's just that I read those shortly after I buy them, so they don't have a chance to accumulate in my basement. I'm not reading the ones I bought at library book sales, for which I spent a lot less money.

Maybe I feel buyer's remorse for paying 80% of the cover price for a book I know I will find at a library book sale the next year for two bucks. Maybe I feel guilty about buying a book at a "real" bookseller and then never reading the thing.


Or maybe ... just maybe ... it's a perception of value on my part: a book I paid $30 for is actually worth more than a book I paid $2 for, so it deserves to be read immediately, illogical as that sounds.

This brings me to the subject of online software applications and apps.

I'm currently working with several clients who are developing software as a service and mobile applications. The applications are all over the place (one client offered to develop a Cliff Ennico "app" in lieu of paying a fee, but I turned them down), but all of these clients have one thing in common: Their business plans do not require the customer to pay a fee for downloading the app.

The idea is a simple one: By giving the product away for free, they will attract lots of customers. By attracting lots of customers, they will attract advertisers who will pay to reach those customers. They will also attract market research firms who will pay tons of money to access data about those customers.


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