This summer, we have been working on a site redesign in an effort to increase the usability of our site for both instructors and students. Our most significant change has been the inclusion of additional categories and subcategories to create a more intuitive hierarchy within the site.
There is no charge for creating a Second Life account or for making use of the world for any period of time. Linden Lab reserves the right to charge for the creation of large numbers of multiple accounts for a single person (5 per household, 2 per 24 hours)  but at present does not do so. A Premium membership (US$ monthly, US$ quarterly, or US$72 annually) extends access to an increased level of technical support, and also pays an automatic stipend of L$300/week into the member's avatar account, and after 45 days that resident will receive a L$700 bonus, making it L$1,000 for that week. This amount has decreased since the original stipend of L$500, which is still paid to older accounts. Certain accounts created during an earlier period may receive L$400. This stipend, if changed into USD, means that the actual cost for the benefit of extended tech support for an annual payment of US$72 is only about US$14, depending on the currency exchange rates. However, the vast majority of casual users of Second Life do not upgrade beyond the free "basic" account.
A prime example of this use is Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins. He captures the crash of an American dream and the economic wavering of the early 90s: