Business is boring

 Via RethinkingMedia I came upon this lecture (in Dutch, sorry) by Martijn Aslander from in which he talks about bookhacking. Although his lecture is filled with hip marketing one-liners, he does give a clear overview of how an online business model based on the giving away of free content could work. As he shows, it is all about creating networks in the online environment, based around the value you create. This value is again based on your previous actions and doings (focusing on integrity and trust) and the selections you make and present to your networks, which again creates more value.

 Aslander states he is fascinated by value. We should focus more on value and not on profit. Aslander has not asked any money for his services for years, as he believes people can only decide what he is worth after he has delivered his services. As he states, he does not work for people he works with people.


Vodpod videos no longer available.
 Martijn Aslander on bookhacking op InCTformatie 2009 from henkjan on Vimeo.
Filmed by Henk-Jan Winkeldermaat, via


At he started with disseminating books free online. These books generated a lot more print sales than expected, based on the idea that if people like a book, people buy the book, they don’t print it. The added value also lies in the fact that this model gives you the opportunity to connect on a closer level with your customer base. Unlike bookshops, in the online environment you know who your customers are. simply asked for an email address before any download and 70% of the people actually filled in an email address. This of course created a huge marketing potential. You can for instance send an email to your customer base, Aslander states, when you have a new free book to download. In this way the free book does not have to be a threat to the print sales. You can even make more money by giving the book away for free.


The trick is creating some noise around your free content. People start blogging about it and its fame is spread. This of course in combination with the power of selection: you create a trusted base, a network around the content you provide. As Aslander states, this is the basis of the network and information society; you create a network which again creates network effects. Through your network you are able to move (other) networks of people. This means, according to Aslander, that we should no longer look from the old business paradigms to profit and value. The new online paradigm is about engagement, it is about listening to the people. Communicate with your network, ask them for suggestions, engage them. Aslander has created, as he calls it (referring to his great example Seth Godin) a tribe around himself. Things start spreading from there: you create value and movement and you create a relationship with your customers, within your network. You build profiles around the people in your network. Thus an ecosystem rises up not based on money and profit but on value and network effects. Aslander remarks that Web 2.0 is about a radical change, it is about new ways of working together and engaging with your customers: it is (again) about creating value and listening to your customers. As he says: ‘I deliver value and then I just see what happens.’ In the online environment an IOU is worth more than money. Aslander thus thinks and works foremost from an idea of access and not from an idea of possession.


These ideas are maybe not new and not even as innovative as Aslander might present them, I like the way he is trying to promote them to make people enthusiastic about thinking ‘out of the box’ and thinking from the idea of free as a basis and a reality in today’s online networked culture. And then see what you can do from that position and where it can bring you. That I find inspiring. You can find more passionate thoughts from Aslander on his website.

You can find an older interview with Martijn Aslander in which he also summarises his views on book publishing below.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


One comment on “Business is boring

  1. Pingback: Remix online for free « OPEN REFLECTIONS

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