The Curve, by Nicholas Lovell

Wandering around the Whitechapel library last week I was attracted to the vibrant red cover of this book, along with the fact it had a blurb by David Rowan, the editor of Wired UK.  The slightly less vibrant content of the book is a hubristically contrived framework for thinking about how to successfully market goods and services in a world where so much is increasingly available for free.  The “curve” in question is the demand curve, that helpful tool from first year undergrad economics courses which illustrates how the quantity of a good that is demanded changes as the price changes.  For most people, if the price of something falls they are more likely to buy it.

Mr. Lovell’s point is that most firms face a demand curve where there is a small volume of people who are willing to pay a lot of money for their stuff, and a large volume who are not willing to pay very much.  The globalisation of competition means that in many cases the price of things has fallen to the cost of production.  Firms therefore have to use new methods in order to either a) identify those people who are willing to pay more b) move people up the curve or c) use the sale of zero-profit goods to drive sales of higher margin goods.

He comments on various business models that have either emerged in response to technological disruption, or have seen new or more widespread use, for example, freemium in the case of music distribution and different use of platforms/two-sided markets by Apple with its App Store and Amazon with its Kindle.

However, it’s really just a number of extended magazine articles which don’t hang together.  There isn’t a cohesive story, other than that technology is disruptive.  I don’t need to read any book to teach me that lesson, hence why I’ve only skimmed through about 20% of this one! (For a lesson in how to write a compelling book on changes in global trade and marketing, read Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat.)

If you’ve been living in a cave for the past 15 years and haven’t read anything in the business, technology or popular press about how “times they are a changing”, then this is definitely worth your time. Otherwise, give it a miss.

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