Today Sony announced that its public domain offerings from Google in its eBook store has reached 1 million volumes. That's a lot of eBooks. For context, the Library of Congress has 32 million books and is the world's largest library; Harvard's collection is 5th largest at 15 million books. (Thanks, Wikipedia.) So we're merrily trucking along at digitizing the world's collection of books.
A reporter asked me yesterday whether I thought Chris Anderson was right, or whether I thought he was too glib. I don't think an either/or question.
What I've come to realize while researching and writing reports like our paid content forecast is that yes, free can be a business model--but only for much, much smaller businesses than most media companies as they exist today, with their Manhattan skyscrapers or sprawling Hollywood studios, thousands of employees, unions, factories, warehouses, and debt obligations.
So Anderson is right, but not right enough to be much comfort to the media companies on which we depend.
Amazon dropped the price of the Kindle 2 today from $359 to $299. Are we surprised? No. It's predictable that prices decrease for consumer electronics as manufacturing volume scales up (just ask those poor saps who paid $499 for a 4GB iPhone in 2007). But there's also some pricing pressure specific to the eReader category that Amazon is responding to. In particular: