IBD Free!

Okay, IBD is free here every Monday and Thursday, as well as Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That includes weekends and holidays. Really, who would pay for this? I can think of several people who might pay for us to stop this attempt at making the world a better place one typeface at a time, but because of them I am more encouraged than ever. I will not name names, but my wife uses reverse psychology on me all of the time and it always works. Just because it is free, does that decrease the value of what we are offering? That was a rhetorical question. Please don’t answer it in the comment section. Paul is way too sensitive to receive actual constructive criticism and I just want people to like me.

Several months back I finished reading Free: the Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson. Ever since I finished it, I’ve been turning elements of Anderson’s thoughts over in my brain, relating them to interpretation. This is similar to the way my wife has been thinking about shirtless werewolves and sparkly vampires after reading the Twilight books—minus me, the geek factor, and the interpretation part.

In one of the most powerful statements in Free, Anderson states that “Memorable experiences are the ultimate scarcity.” When scarcity is created people or visitors become willing to pay for a part of having something that is scarce. This is evident by what people are paying for tickets and associated fees on Stubhub.com. I’m guilty.

Interpretive sites and programs provide memorable experiences, which is good news for interpretation. Much of what we offer is free, making this the ultimate combination, free and memorable. We should work harder at letting visitors know the true value of our free, authentic, memorable programs and media. I’ve seen scarcity at work when demand exceeds supply for positions in day camps, specialty tours, and at various events where visitors are afraid that they are going to miss something. Even if our programs are free, we can add a sense of scarcity by using sign-up sheets, limiting participants, and offering tickets to the intended audience.

Anderson is successful at drawing conclusions between trends, successes, failures, and generational differences around the concept of free. Where younger generations have grown expect to pay nothing for digital media, it is up to interpretive managers to find ways of meeting that demand. Anderson uses YouTube and Facebook as examples. Both are free and valuable to users, but neither has been very successful at making money, which is ultimately their goal. At this point in the lives of these two websites, users/consumers would accept nothing less than free. Both websites are trying to find a balance between meeting the expectations of users and staying afloat. If not for ad sales (not to mention the backing of Google for YouTube), both would have folded at the cost of storage and bandwidth.

Interpretive sites face some of the same challenges of these web giants. Sites finding a delicate balance between meeting mission without selling out important interpretive themes while still meeting the needs of the site can be difficult. It is up to us to know what our end goal is for the site and then discover how interpretation is going to help generate revenue, build donors, find volunteers, or even help visitors get to self-actualization stage of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Anderson writes, “Free is not a magic bullet. Giving away what you do will not make you rich by itself. You have to think creatively about how to convert the reputation and attention you can get from Free into cash.” If what we offer is primarily free we have to focus on the creativity and reputation portions of that quote.

In honor of the book Free, I am giving away copies of Interpretation By Design (the book not the blog) to the first two readers who follow through with the challenges outlined below. This will also serve as a reward for the only two people who actually read the entire post.

Here are the two challenge opportunities.

1. The first reader to contact 5 friends, have them comment on this post and mention your name in that comment, will receive a free book. The caveat is that they cannot have ever commented before on IBD before.

2. The first reader to have 5 friends become fans of the IBD Facebook page, and then have those 5 new fans place a comment on the IBD Facebook wall that mentions your name will receive a free book.

Due to the rare nature of actual book sales and unconfirmed rumors that IBD (the book not the blog) is successful at leveling wobbly tables. We have implemented the following qualifier for this contest.

Qualifier: This book give away will require the winners to provide Paul and me with your home address and pending an Internet review of your background could require an overnight home visit to ensure the book is going to a good home. This is especially true if you live in a city where the Yankees and/or Phillies will be playing this summer or the Yankees will be playing this October. We will also be checking to make sure that the new home is a Papyrus- and Comic Sans-free environment. We care about the health and home life of our books.

If you want to avoid a pajama party with yours truly, you can always just pay for the book.  Which leads me to the next question: Does giving away a book decrease the value? Again, that was rhetorical.

35 thoughts on “IBD Free!

  1. Let’s reason this out with a version of the Drake equation (which estimates the odds of other intelligent life in the galaxy)

    Number of people that read IBD * fraction of people that read a post to the end * fraction that do not already have the book * fraction that have five friends * fraction that think the book is worth bothering five friends * fraction that think the book is worth risking a home invasion

    About the only number there that is not vanishingly small is the fraction that already own the book! I figure you should have to give away about half a page!



  2. Considering that I:

    1. Own the book,
    2. Do not have five friends, and
    3. Am pretty sure that my dogs would kill two strangers that show up in baseball fan gear (large foam hands… YUM!),

    I am going to take pity on a friend named Lyn Elliott that is sulking somewhere in a tiny house conveniently located next to a bottle depot that I am pretty sure is near some posters written in Comic Sans. Please send her a free book!

    Oh, and by the way, it was an excellent post today. In reminds me of how I offered my services for free during my university days, yet no one seemed to see the value…

  3. As I think about it, if you want to give away copies of the book, shouldn’t they go to people that really need your “wisdom”? Don’t exclude those who use Comic Sans and Papyrus, embrace them!

  4. I may have grossly underestimated the effort to reward ratio while writing this post.

  5. I’m not sulking.
    I comfort myself every night by reading one of my many copies of IBD before suffering through nightmares about designers. Nightmares of such epic horror that only Comic Sans could truly capture their evil and disturbing nature.

    But, I will agree with Cal. Excellent post, as always. New IBD posts are one of the highlights of coming into work on Monday, and a signal that Friday is almost here.

    For a free and shortened version of the book, see the WIRED magazine article: http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/16-03/ff_free?currentPage=1

  6. Steve, Cal, and Lyn: Your comments may very well be the three funniest comments on IBD ever…y’all are cracking me up this morning. We may have to take this challenge a different direction.

  7. As I read this post I am balancing my thoughts of “Wow, home invasions are scary,” with my lingering college mindset of “everything free is good.” Although there was a bull bison very near my yard this morning, so maybe you wouldn’t want to investigate too closely…;-)

  8. Great post, today, and relevant topic. I think all the time about the value of interpretive programs, since they are ‘expected’ (like blog posts) to be free. So, I’m looking for ways to ‘add value’ to existing programs to make them more appealing, after venture capitalist Fred Wilson’s “freemium” business model (people expect basic services to be free, but are willing to pay for additional, or ‘convenience’ services).

    So far, though, no one will let me buy wine and cheese on the government card to serve at my evening programs, so it’s back to the drawing board.

    I would never pay to read a blog post (no offense, guys), or a newspaper article online, for that matter. But, the ‘value of interp’ is a subject you two could go into in more depth in IBD’s next edition (book, not the blog). If then, after reading a teaser post on the blog, some people were compelled to buy the book, or download it onto their iPad… Cha-ching!

  9. Shea, and Paul too- I just want you to know that at least one copy of IBD is in a good home. One that you are both welcome to visit anytime. It sits on the shelf (when not being used)neatly stacked beside Sam Ham’s Environmental Interpretation and Alan Leftridge’s Interpretive Writing. This office is almost free of Papyrus and is a Comic Sans free environment. 🙂
    I do agree that most folks who are regular readers probably already have their own copy of IBD and look forward to these posts of yours. Keep them coming.

    Amy, that is an excellent idea. I second it.

  10. Brandy, give it a shot and I’m 99.9% (and by 99.9% I mean 110%) sure you will win a copy.

  11. 5 friends of mine who would comment already comment! guess i’m not eligible. 🙁
    but a pajama party sounds fun anyway!

  12. So, before I go out and make five friends (which is really hard unless you’re five years-old and have a sweet bike that your dad has just taken the training wheels off … actually making friends is always easy if you have a really sweet bike), are you prepared to send a copy of the book to a long-time reader, first time poster in New Zealand?

  13. I checked. The bottle depot. For posters. I checked.

    It was cold, dark, and drizzly when I got home, and my wool sweater smelled like a wet dog. The security lamp shone down on some Helvetica.

    “Don’t abandon goods – it hurts people and pets,” said the wall.

    “Open 10:00am,” said the garage doors.

    Then, I saw it.

    An elaborate “Hours of Operation” sign filled the window.

    In Comic Sans.

    Folks are still welcome to send a free book and visit, but I warn you: it’s hard to sleep with Comic Sans lurking next door.

  14. Jamie, international shipping is no problem…thank you for your first time comment.

  15. Lyn, I knew it! I just knew there would be Comic Sans at the bottle depot!

    On another note, after reading this post I was inspired to purchase the book “Free.” Some would say that I just want to be as hip (or as nerdy) as Shea. To them, I raise my fist in defiance and shout, ” So what?”

    So, anyway, I went to amazon to make my purchase. But then I thought, “Is this what the authors would want?” So, I checked out the local library, and, low and behold, there it was – for free! Oh, snap!

  16. First off Cal lets clarify ,for those folks who don’t have the priviledge to work with you ,that you raised your cast and yelled “So what?” only then to hear Brian come around the corner answering “So what, what?”

    A little funny for Lyn this morning. 🙂

    Can’t wait to see the book when you return June 1st!

  17. Cal, I love that you raised a fist in defiance and shouted SO WHAT in the office. We in Arkansas State Parks are slowly but surely building a culture where that is not only acceptable, but expected. We even have t-shirts. (In a fun-but-not-inappropriate font).

  18. Thanks Paul, I’m not sure which pic of me is more embarrassing in that series…oh, yeah it is the one with us on a horse.

    Cal, Free, free is awesome. Mine was too. Being hip is groovy…okay, lost the hipness.

    Entire world, support your local library!

    But seriously, who wants a copy of IBD?

    Lyn, do you have a copy? You are in the running if you don’t.

    Jamie, you are too just for being from New Zealand, a first time commenter and making the LOL comment about your bike that is so true.

  19. I’m posting a comment as a friend to Lyn and Jamie and whoever else might need a commenting friend. Living with Shea will be just too difficult if he feels like he can’t even give his book away.

  20. My sister Brandy Oliver held me down and tortured me so I would post on here so she could get a free booooook! 🙂

  21. My friend Brandy told me I had to post this or she would hold me down and tickle me until I pee on myself! 🙂 LOL!

  22. I am commenting for Brandy Oliver. She deserves this! Lol! I’m being forced to say this as we speak!

  23. I’m commenting for Brandy Oliver even though my comment doesn’t count because if there’s a bandwagon going by, I want to be on it! That and the fact that if I had five friends, I would probably be doing something else right now. Go, Brandy!

  24. You all know, that the real winner here is Shea, because he now has the most hits on his blog post…and all these comments and is probably holding it over Paul at this moment.

  25. Wooohooo! Brandy is the 1st and only winner!

    Brandy, send me an email at shealewis@yahoo.com with your address and I’ll get the book out fast. I will have to post what town you are from/near so that Paul and I can speculate about an impossible baseball/book delivery/home inspection scenario.

    Friends and family of Brandy thanks for helping Brandy and playing along.

    Congratulations Brandy!

  26. Well played, Brandy!

    Amy, Shea knows that I am responsible for most of the hits on this site. He knows this because 8 out of every 10 hits we get are people looking to download the Phillies font Scriptwurst.

  27. Just for the sake of the comment count let me also add my appreciation for the winning efforts. You have made one BT/SV wearing geek very happy. And if Shoo Shoo is happy everyone is happy.

  28. For the record, I am (mostly) innocent of the extortion tactics I am being accused of in the above posts.
    As for the “surprise home invasion”, I think Paris, AR has a Little League team. When they remember which direction to run for first, they aren’t too bad…

  29. Thanks for playing Brandy…the book will be sent out tomorrow. The next time I come up to visit Don I’ll check on IBD and make sure she’s doing okay in Paris.

  30. I guess I only have three friends. And one of them, I don’t even know.

    Thank goodness I already have a copy of IBD to keep me company.

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