It is hardly news that the growth of the online economy has upended a wide array of business models once considered well established. Less noticed, however, has been its effect on the study of economics. Since the early 2000s, when the groundbreaking work of French scholars Jean-Charles Rochet and Jean Tirole drew attention to the topic, economists have been examining the peculiar arrangements of multisided markets—economic platforms with two distinct user groups that provide benefits to one another.
Platform economics are complicated by their very nature. Their proper study requires asking the right questions and avoiding the temptation for facile answers. For example, Rochet and Tirole, when considering why Facebook does not charge its main user base, eschew the fashionable answer of “If you’re not paying for the product, you’re the product.” Instead, they posit, both sides of the market are both customer and product. YouTube, for instance, serves video creators, video viewers, and advertisers, and its pricing decisions depend on the interrelation between those actors.
As those examples show, this is a rapidly emerging field ripe for exciting new research. To aid those seeking to explore this intriguing aspect of the economics of modern life, we have compiled a bibliography of the best and most accessible books, reports, and articles on multisided markets, platforms, and associated issues like the sharing economy. We hope readers will find it useful.
Notably, Jean Tirole won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2014. In his Nobel Prize lecture, he warned: “A regulator failing to understand the nature of two-sided markets might misleadingly complain about predation. … Regulators should refrain from mechanically applying standard antitrust ideas where they do not belong.”
Books and Book Chapters
Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers, What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, (New York: Harper Business, 2010).
Michael A. Cusumano, “Platforms Versus Products: Observations from the Literature and History” in Steven J. Kahl, Brian S. Silverman, and Michael A. Cusumano, eds., History and Strategy (Advances in Strategic Management, Volume 29) (Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2012), pp. 35-67.
David S. Evans and Richard Schmalensee, “The Antitrust Analysis of Multi-Sided Platform Businesses,” Chapter XVIII in Roger D. Blair and D. Daniel Sokol, eds., The Oxford Handbook of International Antitrust Economics, Volume 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 376-448.
David S. Evans and Richard Schmalensee, Matchmakers: The New Economics of Multisided Platforms (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Review Press, 2016).
Annabelle Gawer, Platform, Markets, and Innovation, (Northampton, Massachusetts: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2011).
Michael C. Munger, “Coase and the Sharing Economy,” Chapter IX in Cento Veljanovski, ed., Forever Contemporary: The Economics of Ronald Coase (London: Institute of Economic Affairs, 2015), pp. 187-208,
Michael C. Munger, Tomorrow 3.0: Transaction Costs and the Sharing Economy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018).
Brad Stone, The Upstarts: How Uber, AirBnB, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2017).
Arun Sundararajan, The Sharing Economy: The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2016).
Academic Journal Articles and Papers
Mark Armstrong and Julian Wright, “Two-Sided Markets, Competitive Bottlenecks, and Exclusive Contracts,” Economic Theory, Vol. 32, Issue 2 (August 2007), pp. 353-380, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00199-006-0114-6.
Thor Berger, Chinchih Chen, and Carl Benedikt Frey, “Drivers of Disruption? Estimating the Uber Effect”, Oxford Martin School, January 23, 2017, https://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/academic/Uber_Drivers_of_Disruption.pdf.
Andrei Hagiu and Julian Wright, “Marketplace or Reseller?” Management Science, Vol. 61, Issue 1 (January 2015), pp.184-203, https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/14358172/hagiu,wright_marketplace-or-reseller.pdf?sequence=1.
Andrei Hagiu and Julian Wright, “Multi-Sided Platforms,” International Journal of Industrial Organization, Vol. 43 (Spring 2015), pp. 162-174, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2794582.
Anders Henten and Iwona Windekilde, “Transaction Costs and the Sharing Economy,” paper presented at 26th European Regional Conference of the International Telecommunications Society, June 2015, https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/127145/1/Henten-Winderkilde.pdf.
Pontus Huitari, Kati Järvi, Samuli Kortelainen, and Jukka Huhtamäki, “Winner Does Not Take All: Selective Attention and Local Bias in Platform-based Markets,” Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Vol. 114 (January 2017), pp. 313-326 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0040162516302475.
Martin Campbell-Kelly, Daniel Garcia-Swartz, Richard Lam, and Yilei Yang, “Economic and Business Perspectives on Smartphones as Multi-Sided Platforms,” Telecommunications Policy, Vol. 39, Issue 8 (September 2015), pp. 717-734, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0308596114001591.
Orly Lobel, “The Law of the Platform,” Minnesota Law Review, 2016, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2742380##.
Jean-Charles Rochet and Jean Tirole, “Platform Competition in Two-Sided Markets”, Journal of the European Economic Association, Vol. 1, No. 4 (June 2003), pp. 990-1029, http://www.rchss.sinica.edu.tw/cibs/pdf/RochetTirole3.pdf.
Jean-Charles Rochet and Jean Tirole, “Two-Sided Markets: A Progress Report,” RAND Journal of Economics, Vol. 37, No. 3 (Autumn 2006), pp. 645-667, https://www.jstor.org/stable/25046265?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents.
Marc Rysman, “The Economics of Two-Sided Markets,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Summer 2009), pp. 125-143, https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jep.23.3.125.
Julian Wright, “One-sided Logic in Two-Sided Markets,” Review of Network Economics, Vol.3, Issue 1 (March 2004), http://ap4.fas.nus.edu.sg/fass/ecsjkdw/wright_mar04.pdf.
Ben Gitis, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, and Will Rinehart, “The Gig Economy: Research and Policy Implications of Regional, Economic, and Demographic Trends,” American Action Forum, January 10, 2017, https://www.americanactionforum.org/research/gig-economy-research-policy-implications-regional-economic-demographic-trends/#_ftn2.
Eli Lehrer, The Future of Work, National Affairs, No. 26 (Summer 2016), https://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-future-of-work.
Iain Murray, “Punching the Clock on a Smartphone App? The Changing Nature of Work in America and Regulatory Barriers to Success,” Issue Analysis 2016 No. 6, Competitive Enterprise Institute, September 2016, https://cei.org/changingnatureofwork.
Will Rinehart and Ben Gitis, “Independent Contractors and the Emerging Gig Economy,” American Action Forum, July 29, 2015, https://www.americanactionforum.org/research/independent-contractors-and-the-emerging-gig-economy/.
Scott Wallsten, “The Competitive Effects of the Sharing Economy: How is Uber Changing Taxis?” Technology Policy Institute, June 1, 2015, https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/public_comments/2015/06/01912-96334.pdf.
Diego Zuluaga, “Platform for Debate: Antitrust and the Challenge of Regulation for Online Platforms,” European Policy Information Center, June 2017, http://www.epicenternetwork.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Platform-for-Debate.pdf.
Chris Berg, Sinclair Davidson, and Jason Potts, “Byzantine Political Economy,” Medium, October 24, 2017,
Irving Wladawsky-Berger, “The Rise of the Platform Economy,” Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2016,
Giana Eckhardt and Fleura Bardhi, “The Sharing Economy Isn’t About Sharing at All,” Harvard Business Review, January 28, 2015,
Benjamin Edelman and Damien Geradin, “Spontaneous Deregulation,” Harvard Business Review, April 2016, https://hbr.org/2016/04/spontaneous-deregulation.
David S. Evans and Richard Schmalensee, “Why Winner-Takes-All Thinking Doesn’t Apply to the Platform Economy,” Harvard Business Review, May 4, 2016,
Matthew Feeney, Dean Baker, Avi Asher-Schapiro, and Christopher Koopman, “Public Policy for the Sharing Economy,” Cato Unbound, February 2015,
Ray Fishman and Tim Sullivan, “Everything We Know about Platforms We Learned from Medieval France,” Harvard Business Review, March 24, 2016, https://hbr.org/2016/03/everything-we-know-about-platforms-we-learned-from-medieval-france.
Eli Lehrer and Andrew Moylan, “Embracing the Peer-Production Economy,” National Affairs, No. 25 (Fall 2014), https://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/embracing-the-peer-production-economy.
Philip Minardi, Kellyn Blossom, April Mims, Matt Kiessling, Michelle Peacock, and Steve DelBianco, “How the Peer-to-Peer Economy Can Help Put America Back to Work,” panel presentation, NetChoice, 2017, https://netchoice.org/library/peer-to-peer/.
Iain Murray, “How Ridesharing Platforms Help the Economy,” Competitive Enterprise Institute Blog, December 14, 2016, https://cei.org/blog/how-ridesharing-platforms-help-economy.
Jean Tirole, “Market Failures and Public Policy,” Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences Lecture, 2014, https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economic-sciences/laureates/2014/tirole-lecture.pdf.
[*] Iain Murray is Vice President for Strategy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Ryan Khurana is a Research Associate at CEI.