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March 10, 2006

Social Good versus Economic Value?

Those of us who argue for liberal digitization and distribution rights of older books, particularly those that may be orphaned, seem to be walking an increasingly fine line in our arguments. One of our most power arguments is that these works have a considerable social and cultural value despite their age and thus should be a common good. But if we are too successful in this argument we will also convince those publishers who do or may have distribution rights that this correlates to economic value. Thet then have incentive to be even more conservative in keeping their content close and closed. What aspects of this new digital economy can help us reconcile the social need for broad public access with the economic needs of publishers?

Posted by mbonn at March 10, 2006 11:47 AM


Paul Courant talked about the troubling state of the millions and millions of volumes which no one is making a dime from that could and should be easier to find and use. I think that's absolutely true, but am still fretting over this use/value tension. If publishers discovered a way to exploit their use value is that a way in which these books would become more visible?

Posted by: mbonn at March 11, 2006 10:06 AM

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