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

Re: Opening Up... Dave, here's your reason.

Author:Jeff A. Campbell
Posted:8/25/1999; 9:02:33 PM
Topic:Opening Up Linux Journal and O'Reilly
Msg #:9906 (In response to 9840)
Prev/Next:9905 / 9907

Dave -

There is one main reason why the open-source phenomenon doesn't really work for books in the same way it does for software.

No added value.

First of all, with fiction it should be a no-brainer. Most people want to read a well written, cohesive story out on one person's mind. Whereas it's almost impossible for thousands to write in the same voice as a single author, it's not nearly as big an issue for thousands to code well - there are lots of good coders out there, and a generally accepted benchmark to code to (if it doesn't crash, that's a start). Where people generally don't care how software is written as long as it is stable and works, the average person doesn't like someone crossing out words in their favorite books and replacing them with material written into the margins.

Sheer reference books could certainly use the open-source model, however, except for one other hitch - they're books. Paper and binding require a manufacturing and distribution process much unlike that of software. It takes a sizable investment to make a bunch of books, but very little to distribute software via FTP. The barriers are far lower for software than they are for print. This applies to all books in their traditional form.

Last but not least, let us look at the most popular book out there - the Bible. Despite that fact (in my opinion) that it is fiction, it has done very well. If I recall, it's the top selling book out there. People are giving it away, it was developed by a multitude of authors, you can find it in almost any given motel room, etc. It is also a very old book that has survived. Admittedly it does contain (once again, in my opinion) a number of discrepencies, but given the time span it and many cultures from which it was written in, it's most likely that was quite intentional. The most popular book is effectively open sourced, and like all well run open-source projects, the most popular variations thrive while the others are deemed cults. :>

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