My favorite presentation today at CATS was the one by Fred Beshears of the University of California. According to Beshears college and university students spend an average of over $800 a year on text books. This places a horrible burden on them and the higher education system has done little to address this problem. He proposes that colleges and universities form a co-op like body to create ebooks that can be made available under Creative Commons licensing for high enrollment courses to help address this problem. This is a proposal that is not likely to be greeted enthusiastically by book publishers. They have benefited from an unnatural market for a long period of time.
I really enjoyed Beshears' talk today and our brief discussions. I really think this is a subject that deserves careful consideration. It reminds me of what Dan Gillmor is doing with the grassroots journalism project.
By putting powerful information systems capable of global communications in the hands of the common people, and enabling folks to share content in a creative commons, emerging technologies have created a whole new information estate. There is now a body of high quality content to draw from, and thanks to the Creative Commons this well of visual information is getting more full all the time.
I think that emerging technology, not to mention an increasing scarcity of resources, may create a fundamental change in the way we do business. In my opinion we can't see that yet because we are stuck in the old paradigm. But, it is going to be interesting to see the impact of open source business models as they spread of other sectors, like publishing, and threaten industries that have enjoyed unnatural insulation from competitive pressure. The creative commons licensing systems have a strong enabling influence for emerging business models, such as he is suggesting, to gain traction.
By publishing books using creative commons licensed information, artwork and images, while at the same time adding to the creative commons even more information that can be remixed and reused, exciting possibilities start to happen! This is a natural anti-thesis to the DRM and DMCA movement and may be the only hope we have of breaking that trend. Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Lawrence Lessig speak. He is a great speaker. This is from his blog:
Late last night, Yahoo! launched a Creative Commons search engine, permitting you to search the web, filtering results on the basis of Creative Commons licenses. So, as I feel like I've said 10,000 times when explaining CC on the road, "Show me pictures of the Empire State Building that I can use for noncommercial use," and this is the first of about 13,000 on the list. This is exciting news for us. It confirms great news about Yahoo!. I met their senior management last October. They had, imho, precisely the right vision of a future net. Not a platform for delivering whatever, but instead a platform for communities to develop. With the acquisition of Flickr, the step into blogging and now this tool to locate the welcome mats spread across the net, that vision begins to turn real.