Some people are worried what will happen for publishing industry if schoolbooks and other educational resources will be delivered online under free/open license. I am not worried – and not only because I am not in a schoolbook business – but because I see that in the value chain there is job for publishers, too. However, it looks that many people in the publishing industry and in ICT industry are not that willing to change the status quo.
To see that there are a lot options for different kind of actors, I am proposing that we should actually look how the transportations systems are organized in the most progressive countries (like in Sweden). Based on this we should consider if the global ecology and economy of open education resources could be somehow similar to the good transportation systems.
We all know that video didn’t kill the radio star. Same way Internet will not kill printed materials, such as books, newspapers or magazines – at least not in the next two hundred years. Still, just like the “radio starts” were “forced” to make their videos for the MTV publishing industry must rethink their business and adjust it to the era of digital media.
I personally think different kind of free/libre/open and proprietary software and content may all find their market niches in future, too. The problem is that the media/ICT industry is naturally much more willing to sell one for all, than giving consumers right to choose from several options.
Here are two examples of choosing and using both (1) proprietary and FLOS software and (2) proprietary content and open/free content side by side.
I am happy to pay for my proprietary operating system (based on open source OS). I am a happy customer because my OS is offering me user experience that is better than the FLOSS options or some other proprietary OSs. In my OS I run many open source software and some proprietary. I want to choose for the tasks I have the best tools that fit to my budget. I also know that having the change to choose I am very privileged. However, the basic tasks should be possible to carry out without any financial investment. These are e.g. browsing the web, writing emails, writing text documents, doing spreadsheets and basic image processing.
Similar kind of example from content. I like reading, but I prefer reading printed real books with proper layout design. I am happy to pay about the add-value the real book gives me compared to miscellaneous pills of papers printed by myself from web or reading something from the screen. I also do this when there is no printed book easily available. What I do a lot is borrowing books, from the libraries and from my friends. Again I, as a consumer highly appreciate my right to choose. I also appreciate the fact that even with less consuming power I could still read (online or in library). The open educational resources may make this possible in a global scale. Even without a lot of consumer power you can still study.
I actually hope that the global ecology and economy of education resources could be in future something like transportation systems (in many developed countries and regions: many parts of Europe but also in some mega-cities in developing countries). In a good transportation system basic infrastructure, streets and roads are “public domain”: you are free to walk and cycle on them. Also basic transportation services (buses, metros, trains) are provided for all with reasonable contributions from the “end-users”. Finally, if you anyway prefer your private car you are free to spend your time in the traffic jams.
In the case of developing transportation systems we may ask: how do you get the best return of investment if you consider the return to be the people’s increased possibility to move around? No you do not build more highways for private cars. You should invest your money on the basic infrastructure and the public transportation (metros, trains, buses).
Similar way when we are developing the ecology and economy of educational resources we probably should not at first ask from the publishers what do they think about the idea? We should focus and invest on the basic infrastructure and public “transportation”. The publishers will always find their markets.
“Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.” – Jimmy Wales 2005, Founder of Wikipedia