Saturday, November 04, 2006

Institute for the Future of the Book

I got to thinking about the Institute for the Future of the Book last nite. It came up (again) in an editorial I read in the Library Journal, an interview with Ben Vershbow in which he talked about the Social Life of Books. (I wanted to explore further was the idea that ebooks today tend to be solitary, confined, separated entities that don't allow even your own thoughts to penetrate their boundaries, let alone the thoughts of others, ie, hyperlinks, for example. Copyright. It is another example of how the state-granted monopoly supposed to increase creativity and knowledge is being used aggressively to suppress it. Most, maybe just about all publishers are not inclined to exploit innovative technologies like open books, networked books. They like things like they are. Christensen would say that they have their values, their business models, their processes, and their corporate structure and finances can't work with a silly little down-scale publication that maybe appeals to a dozen people (exagerating, as usual) (short review of Innovator's Dilemma). But their copyrights allow them to prevent anyone else from experimenting with the disruptive technologies that the Internet affords. Ironically, they've been handed the power to stop creative destruction, or at least slow it down, but only with respect to their own works! Anyone, anyone who writes, who photographs, who films, who paints, who sculpts, who crafts something has it within her power to innovate, to take advantage of the incredible capabilities that the Internet makes possible. And millions of people are doing just that. Making a living from the sale of copies of something is not just an old business model; it's a broken business model that incapacitates those who rely on it. So let those who can't imagine a different future have their way with their own things. But the rest of the creative world is having fun and showing the way towards a new economy of ideas, one where the value of the idea is in sharing it much more broadly than its possible to share in the world of sales of copies. Time will tell what holds more promise for the future.
So, to join this trend, one need only participate. Lessig published Free Culture both in hardback and on the Web for free with edit enabled (derivative works license through Creative Commons); I just read in a CS Monitor article that McKinsie Wark plans to allow the same kind of remixing of his next book, and invites commentary all along the way as he is writing it. I have read that other authors are doing the same thing, even "scholars." I am doing this too. Right here, though I suffer from the "what if I wrote a book and nobody came" problem mentioned in the article referred to above. Still, you have to start somewhere.
The paper I'm working on for KMS is a good start. It's far enough along to go up for comment. I need to break it into parts, however. A typical blog post can't be too long, I've noticed. Brave new world...

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