The Long Tail


Note: This review uses “The Long(er) Tail” the paperback edition from 2008 that included an extra chapter.

Short story:
Long Tail is Looooooooooooong.

Long story:
First off I should say that I have always been a fan of Chris Anderson’s writing and have been a subscriber to Wired Magazine for nearly three years now.

The “long tail” that is the primary focus of the book has to do with a power law distribution that looks like this:


As you can see, the “head” – the part on the left is high, while the “tail” – the right side, is low and long. This represents, in the book, sales online for a given product, or a series of products. The main example is how on iTunes all the “hits” form the head and all the non-hits are the tail. The further the tail goes less and less items are sold, but it’s never 0.

Chris Anderson speaks about how we went from a limited shelf space culture to an unlimited shelf space culture. We’ve all seen this taking place over the last twenty years, we just never really noticed it.

One thing that has been “fixed” since this book’s publication is iTunes’ fixed pricing model of 99 cent per song. ITunes recently altered this to a variable pricing structure between 69 cent and $1.29 per song file. I recently purchased Weird Al Yankovic’s new song, CNR, for the $1.29 price on Amazon.

In the end, I loved this book and look forward to reading his newest book, Free.

Hyperion Books webpage for The Long Tail.


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