Publishers' Worst Nightmare : Information for Free.
August 19, 2000 7:48 PM   Subscribe

Publishers' Worst Nightmare : Information for Free. There are people working night and day on putting a meter on the information we either want or need. While they're well within their right to do so, it's refreshing to come across an alternative approach.
posted by leo (2 comments total)

I don't know why you need to be disparaging. Information, content, movies, dissertations, or whatever cannot be published for free. There is a cost, however small. What is happening is that the costs are dropping dramatically to the point where they can be shifted to other parties.

Previously, there was a punctuated kind of economics for publishing. Things that could meet neither the popularity test (will sell at $20 hardcover, or $5 paper), nor the necessity test (will sell at $200 a book or subscription to people who have no other choice) generally didn't get published. Publication also generally came in large discrete bundles (e.g. albums). Now digital distribution allows a different economics, where individual portions of content can be selected (e.g. songs), and just-as-needed retrieval is becoming the norm, all the old publisher models are being undermined.

The real question is whether, given these economics, the same number of people can viably (profitably) create the same amount of content. That remains to be seen. Certainly "free" content must either be underwritten by someone, or quality will suffer. With amateurish quality, who will be interested in "free" content?

Certainly a large portion of my reading today is personal, free content (e.g. weblogs), where it didn't nearly used to be. A century ago we were much more willing to accept amateurish musical and dramatic performances. Mass markets allowed a certain concentration of quality. Things like 405 show that the old Hollywood economics may not continue much longer either.

[crap, I hate it when "go back" returns me to a blank screen, but "forward" retrieves the existing post just fine. wtf?]
posted by dhartung at 9:03 PM on August 19, 2000

Free doesn't translate into "amateurish". In fact, the material Arms is talking about is some of the best around--good enough to base college courses and even research on. This model is producing top notch material at no cost (i.e. free) to the end-user without the added mouth of a publisher to feed. That this scares publishers to death is not "disparaging", it's simply a fact of life.
posted by leo at 11:08 PM on August 19, 2000

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