Giving information to customers for free

While researching some technical information online last night that ultimately resided in a text book, I discovered a pleasant surprise when visiting the book's homepage. A good portion of the book's critical information was available directly on the site.

After leaving the site --having learned what I needed-- I contemplated the business implications of taking portions or all of a resource and making it available freely on the web.

Old thinking:
Giving away critical information for free will make customers less likely to purchase. Freely available information creates less demand for information that otherwise must be purchased.

1980's - The home stereo double cassette deck will destroy the music industry!
1990's – The CD burner and peer to peer programs will destroy the music and film industries!

New thinking:
People expect a certain amount of resources to be free in our age. Forget right and wrong when it comes to piracy and millions of internet users for a moment; it is time to trust that the market will balance itself.

Did double cassette decks slow music sales considerably? If sales were not affected negatively they were unchanged or even increased. Previewing is a great way to entice interest. Many people still wanted original quality cassette tapes rather than a dubbed copy. Yesterday people still wanted to own an official DVD (which includes a non-violated FBI warning.) Today I believe the same is true for books and printed materials – there is a considerable body of consumers that still want to hold the product.

Think about your business model and if sharing information is an applicable idea. Let down your guard and look at your own usage experience when you exercise demand for information.

Truthfully, I do still plan on purchasing the book that the author gracefully let me preview.

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