At least 3 of the authors of CC Blog are readingFree: The Future of a Radical Price,by Chris Anderson. We've had some great conversations, discussions relevant to how we think about our models or technology to catalyze active learning.
Just today we hear about Microsoft's plan to introduce a free online Office service to compete with Google Docs. If nothing else, Free is certainly topical. (Actually...it is a great read).
The reason we are all reading the book at once is that we all took advantage of Audible's and Anderson's offer to download Free for free. The price eliminated the barrier to download the book, and jumped reading Free for all of us to the head of our cue.
Academic libraries seem to want to distinguish between "scholarly" and "popular" books....choosing to purchase the former and marginalize the latter. Since audiobooks, or any digital books, are seen as "recreational" reading then academic libraries choose not to invest in making this format available to their community.
In reading Free, and then debating the authors arguments, my colleagues and I are engaging work that is crucial to our jobs. The book is a springboard to think about different models of sharing and communicating our services.
The fact that Free was free allowed us to all co-read and therefore catalyze these conversations tells us something about what we are missing in not having the digital audio format (the format that many of us prefer) available for loan from our library. Digital books should make the marginal cost of providing simultaneous reading a value added service that libraries could provide, an idea that remains rooted firmly a fantasy.
When the price of an audiobook is normally paid by us individually, rather then spread across the institution, then this price becomes a barrier to conversation.
In an age of information abundance the scarcity that libraries could overcome for their constituents would be to facilitate services like groups having the opportunity to concurrently read and discuss books from the collection. Free is a price that would allow and encourage this behavior.
We can all learn some things Anderson's experiment with free.