Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Re: Opening Up Linux Journal and O'Reilly

Author:Jacob Levy
Posted:8/25/1999; 9:21:55 AM
Topic:Opening Up Linux Journal and O'Reilly
Msg #:9848 (In response to 9840)
Prev/Next:9847 / 9849

If open source is so good for software, why isn't it equally good for books and magazines?

This one is very hard to defend:

* You could claim that software is unlike books because the purpose is different and so it involves different physical manifestations: for software, you would not want to read the source code (most of the time), you just want to run it, whereas for books you always want to read it. The source code for a book is still, with today's technology, much easier to read on dead trees, although that could change with the hopeful success of e-paper.

* I asked my wife about this (she's a very good ludite-in-residence :) and she said that she would never buy a book if she could not put it in a library to pick up later, sniff it and smell the paper, touch it and feel the texture etc. If that's true for a lot of today's books' buyers, then opening up the source code for books doesn't really pose that much of a financial risk for publishers.

* However, you must make a distinction between publishers in general and O'Reilly because O'Reilly specializes in technical books. Technical books *are* convenient to read on the computer, so O'Reilly would stand to lose everything if they gave them away freely. Who'd pay the author and editor? What business model could they switch to that would include giving the source code away and still allow them to make a buck, and where is the financial incentive for them to do so?

* If a web site offered the source code for a book in a convenient format, would it be profitable as a web destination? I think that advertizers would love the targetted self-selecting audience and the ability to reach e.g. a large crowd of P.D. James' fans. Cross marketing opportunities also abound. Same with VA Research being able to sell directly to users of Linux, or with Red Hat being able to find out which sections in the Gnome book are most popular and why, which could lead them to improve their software.

* Even giving away the source code for a book, they still retain the copyrights so they should not be more concerned about pirating and copying than with the dead trees format. Both are prosecutable.

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