This is a very very interesting article about the power of free from Mashable. I was reading it with an eye toward an open source twist – but as I finished reading I found that it can easily teach libraries and librarians a thing or two. We always ask why people pay for books or other items found at libraries versus getting them for free in the library – maybe it has to do with the steps required to get those free items from the library.
[T]he real analogy would be this: if you offer donuts for free, but anyone who wants it has to run three circles around the nearby building to get one, many people will simply pay, for example, $1 for the donut if it means they can just take it immediately.
An example that defies the notion that all digital content is going to be valued at zero dollars is Steam. You know why? You pay once, subscribe once, and then you just download games. For a lot of people, that fact that it actually costs money is overshadowed by the simplicity of the experience. Many gamers have told me: look, I used to pirate games and spend days looking for cracks and serials, but now I just use Steam. It’s so much better.
It makes me think of Jessamyn’s posts about her father trying to get a library card – and about my own experiences in libraries – or on library websites. I’m a librarian and promote libraries left and right, but I do not use my local public library. I use one that is 25 minutes away because it’s worth paying for the gas to get there because their services are just better.
I could go on and on – but won’t Read the article and think about what you can do to improve services in your library to make them more appealing – more than just ‘free.’