On the Power of FREE
by Paul Rice
I priced the third eBook of the Pimp ur Blog series, Pimp ur Blog Episode Three: Working with Amazon and Google, as FREE! for the month of July 2012. Many authors price the first book of a series as free to coincide with the release of subsequent books. I wanted to get as wide of a distribution as I could at the initial release of Episode Three in order to attract other co-authors to share their experiences on these two wide-open topics.
I was influenced primarily by the research done by Dan Ariely in The Cost of Zero Cost chapter of his Predictably Irrational book. His evidence pointed to FREE! as a price point all by itself.
He set up experiment after experiment to show how much people desire something that is FREE! No matter what it was – chocolate, or some other food; beer, or some other drink; health care, or some other service – the majority of people prefer FREE!
I coincidentally was influenced in my decision by the findings in Dr. Arthur Janov’s Primal Healing book. He states many times how a person’s unmet needs never go away. The context of these unmet needs is most often in infancy and early childhood, when we have to have the unconditional love and attention of our parents.
The juxtaposition of these two influences resulted in my realization that the reason people are so attracted to the FREE! price point is probably due to our histories. An infant or child who does not receive the freely given love and attention he or she needs will be driven by those needs to acquire substitutes throughout the rest of their life.
I was not persuaded by Dan Ariely’s explanation of our emotional involvement with FREE! in the context of our fear of a loss. While his explanation did acknowledge the power of emotions, it did not, in my view, correctly identify what really goes on with our emotions. Because the situation was not correctly identified, the solution – be rational to “prevent us from falling under the spell of FREE!” – cannot and will not work.
Yes, we fear losing what we have. Dan Ariely describes experiments later on in his Predictably Irrational book to show that fact.
But are the majority of FREE! eBooks downloaded by people who fear the possibility of a loss from buying the same eBooks at prices such as $.99 or $2.99? I don’t think so. By the numbers, most FREE! eBooks go to people who will never read them. There will not be sufficient time during their lives for them to read everything that they have collected.
In two chapters of Predictably Irrational about honesty, Dan Ariely also misses that the underlying feelings for dishonest actions are probably the same as they are for FREE! When we take something that we are objectively not entitled to take, we do so because, in my opinion, we have an underlying feeling such as entitlement, an underlying need.
And like his solution in The Cost of Zero Cost chapter, his solution to dishonesty, to immediately bring forth into consciousness a moral standard, does not adequately acknowledge the underlying emotions. His solution is not intended to be permanent, and as such, in my opinion, cannot be effective.
Both of Dan Ariely’s solutions involve people referencing some externalities instead of their internal states. The better explanations come from Dr. Janov, in my view, and refer to our internal states. These are in excerpts such as here: “No one is stronger or brighter than her need because need is inextricably intermeshed with survival, and survival reigns.”
Does our preference for products and services to be FREE! derive from a lack of what should have been freely given? If our early needs were not satisfied, they are still with us in our adult lives. They drive us toward FREE!, although what we get now cannot really substitute for what we needed in our early lives.
I hope this post provides some perspectives into the power of FREE! Let me know what you think through this blog’s comments, my blog’s contact page, Paul Rice's links, PRice@PimpUrBlog.com, your review of my eBooks, or any other way you want.
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