Free by Chris Anderson is one of the most thought provoking book, I have read in the last few years. Anderson argues convincingly, why most digital products will end up being priced at zero – free. And he show the reader how this could be turned from the author or musician, that created the content, to an advantage instead of a threat to his profits.

The book gives ample examples. You may have already heard of the electric cars that Better Place wants to roll out. But how can Better Place offer a free car? And still allow the user to benefit from lower operating costs than with a conventional car?
One sector that still has to embrace ‘Free’ seems to be the financial service industry – there is only one mention of Zecco, no other financial service let alone banks is among the examples.

Anderson takes wide strives into history, philosophy and science fiction literature. The topic being pricing models and pricing strategies it will still appeal to a readership beyond economists, since it is interesting and entertaining to read.

Above all I found it inspiring to consider the outcome of further sectors embracing ‘Free’ instead of  viewing ‘Free’ as the enemy.

I recommend the book.

Instead of buying the paper version you can read it for free online (limited July 2009 EDIT: this link works only from US, see below (next page) to read outside US) or download the audio book version free.

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How Bad Customer Service can Backfire

In the age of the internet bad customer service can not only scare away the harmed customer – he can retaliate by appealing to the masses and unleashing a viral protest song.

This video was viewed 2.4 million times. I bet United Airlines badly regrets the events by now and wish the could turn back the clock.

While this is completly unrelated to p2p lending similar things could happen, if a lender or a borrower feels he did not receive appropriate service. With Twitter, Youtube and blogs word can be spread fast.

Need a loan at 2334 percent APR?

No, that is not a typo in the headline. British Wonga.com offers small, short term loans online (short term= from 5 to 30 days).  The main advantage they advertise is, that the loan amount is transferred to the bank account of the borrower within minutes of the application, if approved. For that quick service Wonga charges 1% interest per day (!) plus 5.50 GBP transfer fee. According to the website that translates to an typical APR of 2334 percent.

British laws must be very liberal to allow this. In many other European countries interest rates like this would be illegal under consumer protection laws against usury. But Wonga does have a consumer credit licence from the Office of Fair Trading.

And naturally Wonga does not see itself as a loan shark. Read here, why they think their rates are appropriate. I do pity the borrowers that borrow at that interest rate.

EDIT: Interview in the Guardian with Wonga founder Errol Damelin states that Wonga had 50.000 customers during the testing phase.

EDIT Feb. 11th: See the comments for a discussion with John from Wonga.

(Photo credit: Demi-Brooke)