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OLPC and CC Free Content Drive

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the free-as-in-books dept.

Education 92

gnujoshua writes "In his blog, SJ Klein, director of community content for OLPC, notes a collaboration among Creative Commons, One Laptop per Child, and TextbookRevolution.org. They are compiling together free and CC-licensed works — and they are asking for people to help them by submitting links to free books, movies, and music. Creative Commons will be burning a LiveDVD to be distributed at South by Southwest; OLPC will be making bundles of books to send all over the world; and Textbook Revolution will be compiling a list of good and free college-level textbooks for the relaunch of their site."

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92 comments

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Good (4, Interesting)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434232)

We can see who's who in academics- whether publishers will be willing to release work to third-world countries that could never possibly afford to buy it and desperately need it for their education. In America at least they can hoard journals and information and demand payment because that's how the industry works- but I'll be very impressed (and surprised) if they admit that that doesn't apply at all to donating to OLPC..

Re:Good (4, Informative)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434436)

"the transformation to digital methods of production and distribution therefore poses to the twenty-first century a fundamental moral problem. If I can provide to everyone all goods of intellectual value or beauty, for the same price that I can provide the first copy of those works to anyone, why is it ever moral to exclude anyone from anything?"

Moglen

Re:Good (0)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434494)

Because the person who created the work didn't give you permission to release it to everyone. If a friend lets you borrow his car, do you loan it out to everyone you see too? I find your view of morality quite skewed towards your own beliefs on copyright.

Re:Good (4, Insightful)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434586)

If I could make a perfect copy of his car and loan out the copies, then yes.

Re:Good (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22434606)

It's more like you making copies of said car and giving those away for free and I guess giving back the car to your friend which, I'm sure, he would very much like.

Re:Good (2, Informative)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434608)

Because the person who created the work didn't give you permission to release it to everyone. If a friend lets you borrow his car, do you loan it out to everyone you see too? I find your view of morality quite skewed towards your own beliefs on copyright.
This is fundamentally different, in that there is a single car in your example, but an unlimited number of identical copies of any information. Car analogies do not always work...

Re:Good (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435798)

This is fundamentally different, in that there is a single car in your example, but an unlimited number of identical copies of any information.


Well, its certainly different than Moglen's false premise; its not different than the reality of digital distribution, though; there is still a nonzero cost to making and distributing copies of information. "Digital methods", like the printing press, reduce the marginal cost, they don't, any more than did the printing press, change the fact that it exists.

Re:Good (1)

mhall119 (1035984) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436442)

there is still a nonzero cost to making and distributing copies of information.
Which is?

Re:Good (1)

yada21 (1042762) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437996)

Well I don't know about your's, but my computer uses electricity...

Re:Good (1)

mhall119 (1035984) | more than 6 years ago | (#22438868)

Yes, but I pay that cost when I distribute information, it doesn't cost the original author anything for me to distribute it.

Re:Good (2, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436660)

there is still a nonzero cost to making and distributing copies of information
The majority of which is a sunk cost once you have the infrastructure set up to transmit a single piece of information.

The marginal cost is so low it's essentially zero. Not exactly zero, but really, really small.

Anyway, this is sort of a silly argument; it's not that anyone is unwilling to pay for the actual transportation of the bits across the network. What the whole copyright/IP argument revolves around is the ability for an author or creator to sell identical copies of the same work over and over again. It's the work that's at issue, not the cost of delivering it.

To further torture the car analogy, if you could magically turn one car into two cars, the value of the car itself would quickly tend towards zero. However, someone wishing to acquire a car would still have to pay for their free copy-of-a-car to be moved from wherever it was copied to their driveway. The transportation cost and value of the good itself are separate issues.

Re:Good (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22439908)

The majority of which is a sunk cost once you have the infrastructure set up to transmit a single piece of information.


Whether its a majority or not depends on the quantity, but it doesn't matter anyway, since the ratio of the fixed costs to the variable costs doesn't fundamentally change anything.

(Though the fact that the fixed costs dwarf the marginal costs is one important reason why Moglen's statement, which, as well as misrepresenting the state of the marginal costs, ignores the fixed costs entirely, is completely off-base.)

The marginal cost is so low it's essentially zero.


No, its just very low, and in many cases difficult to allocate directly to the people making the decisions incurring it effectively.

What the whole copyright/IP argument revolves around is the ability for an author or creator to sell identical copies of the same work over and over again.


Well, no, its not. It isn't restricted to identical copies, and it isn't restricted to the author's ability to sell copies.

It's the work that's at issue, not the cost of delivering it.


The reason the ability of the creator to control the work for some period of time is at issue is precisely related to the ability of the creator to recover the costs associated with delivering the work (though, true, this is mostly about the fixed costs, and has been since long before "digital methods of production" were an issue, which is, again, one of the main reason's why Moglen's argument misses the whole point.)

Re:Good (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434922)

hm. I would be willing to bet that you have exhaled some carbon dioxide recently. Do you have any particular right to control what happens to it from now on?

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22442798)

That statement is very juvenile and dances around real world scenarios.

Re:Good (1)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434958)

I think it would be more like taking the engineering plans for a particular car and then reproducing that car endlessly and giving it away for free. In that way, you're depriving the creator of the original work the opportunity to make money from it if everyone just gets your cars for free rather than paying him for his.

Nope (2, Insightful)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435276)

'cause guess what the effort you can muster to build each reproduction is limited; you will do something else if it doesn't pay off, or give you a warm fuzzy feeling.

With knowledge, and anything digitizable, the situation is radically different. This is moglen's point, and this is why people who use industrial-economy analogies to address free culture discussions only embarrass themselves. The situations are *radically different.

It's more like this: if Ernie tells you that 2+3 is 5, and you etch that knowledge into a granite chunk called "the internet" and reproduce it endlessly, even after your death.

As to what you're "depriving the creator" of, how many levels do you go up? Who told Ernie? Do you owe himher a few bucks?

After you die, when people look at the stone you carved and tell others, what are you being deprived of? k, you're dead, how about your children?

It's all a bunch of nonsense, and it proceeds from ignorance about the fundamentals

Re:Nope (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435906)

'cause guess what the effort you can muster to build each reproduction is limited; you will do something else if it doesn't pay off, or give you a warm fuzzy feeling.

With knowledge, and anything digitizable, the situation is radically different.


Except that its not. Neither digital media or digital bandwidth is free of marginal cost. The marginal cost may be extremely small, but that doesn't change the fact that it exists. "Digital methods of production" are fundamentally no different than the printing press: they reduce, but do not eliminate, the marginal costs of reproducing information.

This is moglen's point, and this is why people who use industrial-economy analogies to address free culture discussions only embarrass themselves. The situations are *radically different.


The basic realities of economics are unchanged when fixed and marginal costs remain positive and non-zero, even when either or both may become very small. "Digital methods of production" do a lot to reduce (but not eliminate) the marginal costs involved in producing certain kinds of information-related goods, and do nothing to the fixed costs. They don't invalidate any general principles of economics. The situations are not nearly as "radically different" an Moglen or you would like to believe.

How Radical? (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436248)

"The movement from analog to digital is more important for the structure of social and legal relations than the more famous if less certain movement from status to contract"
Moglen again

It is true that the marginal cost is not actually zero, but I find the difference to be radical. For many of these goods -- let's say an electonic textbook, to get back on topic -- the cost of implementing a system of exclusion, by which non-payers could be reliably prevented from getting access, would astronomically increase the fixed costs.

In fact, the cost of such a system seems to be infinite. Is this not what the DRM whack-a-mole keeps proving?

When the marginal costs get so low that the cost-of-sale (i mean the bare-bones, cost-to-collect) exceeds it, the fundamental economics haven't changed but the practical ones have, namely the concept of selling as selling-individual copies of X. The individual copies are no longer the products, but the aggregate. And you don't sell to the recipients, you sell to someone who's interested in funding the aggregate.

Re:How Radical? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22440124)

It is true that the marginal cost is not actually zero, but I find the difference to be radical.


Oh, sure. As was, e.g., the difference wrought by the printing press, notwithstanding teh fact that no one would even try to argue that the printing press brought the marginal cost of information products down to zero.

For many of these goods -- let's say an electonic textbook, to get back on topic -- the cost of implementing a system of exclusion, by which non-payers could be reliably prevented from getting access, would astronomically increase the fixed costs.

As it would be for printed books: systematic barriers to copying of that kind have never been particularly effective. The difference with digital means of production is that the fixed costs of production are mostly related to the creation of the content,not the infrastructure to reproduce it; the fixed cost of cheaply (in terms of marginal cost) producing copies of an existing work, with quality indistinguishable from authorized copies, is very low. This makes legal controls of copying less practical, because one of the big factors making legal controls modestly effective at dealing with mass unauthorized distribution of printed works is that you had to make a big investment to produce unauthorized copies as cheaply as big legitimate producers, and that big investment would be at risk if you were caught. Digital means of production change all that.

When the marginal costs get so low that the cost-of-sale (i mean the bare-bones, cost-to-collect) exceeds it, the fundamental economics haven't changed but the practical ones have, namely the concept of selling as selling-individual copies of X. The individual copies are no longer the products, but the aggregate. And you don't sell to the recipients, you sell to someone who's interested in funding the aggregate.


This I agree with entirely (and have, in fact, argued in several posts). This may have a downside of course; work that has a broad but shallow appeal becomes even harder to justify producing, while work that has a strong appeal to a narrow moneyed interest becomes even more the focus of economically viable content development than it already is. Unless, of course, you find away to aggregate those diffuse interests into an up-front payment, since if you can't make the fixed costs of development back on the first copy, you may never make them back at all.

(And, of course, producing content in a form to which access is intrinsically linked to some product or service which isn't made more readily reproducible by the availablility of digital means is, of course, still viable.)

You are looking for your cut, your money,... (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437532)

...you payment, for the extremely small "marginal costs of production" for making digital copies? Swell, this is how the (revolutionary and evolutionary)digital open source knowledge industry works for the most part, although a lot of places are attempting to combine the old methods with the new in a wide variety of success levels....

You create knowledge that is extremely cheap to copy and can be shared cheaply as well, so cheap that it is a trivial amount. This knowledge-this product- is digitally shared, it is a commodity that is tradeable, in classical historical sense, it is yet another form of portable wealth or "money". You in turn get access to other peoples "money" that they share with you, you get "paid" that way, same as with other transactions, just the style of "money" is different.

This is called in economic terms "payment in kind" [wikipedia.org] , and people who recognize that and participate within this new digital "payment in kind" economy are already quite collectively "rich" and are getting "richer" daily as they completely bypass the traditional middle man skimming and "interest" and "inflation" and "taxes" that goes on when created wealth has to be represented by the established bankers of the realms and kings closed source "money". And they then take all these riches they accrue and apply them to other sorts of business, which in turn, makes them even more "money", either in kind, or else-wise, back to the kings and bankers representations of actual wealth.

If you are looking for other sorts of payment with other sorts of recognizable and transferable portable wealth loosely defined as money for your particular digital work, if you aren't content with the mass "payment in kind model", the methods are there and are also in common usage, you need to create in the "closed source" manner, DRM hell out of it, hire lawyers, get patents, garner ever increasing and more restrictive laws of the anti free trade "protectionist" kind, apply holograms and watermarks and "activation" so called "keys" and so on and so forth, and be prepared always 24/7 to repel "pirate boarders" and so on.

HTH Good luck!

Re:Good (2, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436794)

I think it would be more like taking the engineering plans for a particular car and then reproducing that car endlessly and giving it away for free. In that way, you're depriving the creator of the original work the opportunity to make money from it if everyone just gets your cars for free rather than paying him for his.
There's an easy solution to this, if you're the engineer: don't give anybody the plans for less than the cost of your time spent producing it.

In other words, don't depend on a derivative-based business model, because there's no way to make it work when anybody can just make copies for free, down the road.

Instead, just work like any other kind of skilled tradesman or professional. (Or, perhaps a more germane example, like a consultant.) If somebody wants you to design an automobile, bill them for the cost of designing an automobile. Whatever they want to do with the plans once they have them, is their business. They can make copies of them, eat them, use them for expensive designer toilet paper. Doesn't matter -- you've gotten your paycheck and have moved on to the next project.

The whole 'fight' about IP is mostly because people are used to, and have built corporate empires on, the idea of derivatives and annuitized incomes rather than simple payment-for-labor. This annuitization/derivatives model is fairly new (within the last few hundred years), and is certainly not a requirement for civilization, or for that matter the continued production of art, science, or technology.

Re:Good (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437102)

The more people could benefit from having the results of your work, the less well that model works.

Re:Good (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 6 years ago | (#22440422)

"The more people could benefit from having the results of your work, the less well that model works."

Sorry, I don't follow... If I can design a stable cold fusion reactor in a month, everyone gets free electricity forever, whether the population of the earth is 500 or 500 trillion.

If my next-most-desirable means of employment is delivering underwear to tanning salons for $1,200/mo. then the cost of designing the reactor is $1,201.

The number of people who could benefit doesn't matter.

Re:Good (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#22440692)

And if I value getting free electricity forever at $3, and so does everyone else, then what? $3 isn't enough for me to hunt down everyone else who would benefit and convince everyone to pitch in to pay you, so even though the total value of the reactor would be $trillions, where does the $1,201 come from?

Re:Good (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 6 years ago | (#22443094)

The $1201 is $1 more than the next-most-profitable thing the engineer could do with his time as an alternative. That's the only cost that really matters.

If you're talking about a society, all compensation above and beyond that point is waste -- it's not serving any purpose because the task would have gotten done for less anyway. So allowing the engineer to charge everyone $3/yr from now until the end of time is a poor option. It's creating a huge misallocation of resources.

There are two prices in every market: the minimum that the seller is willing to part with the good (in this case, their time/labor) for, and the maximum that the buyer is willing to pay. For reasons that I'm not entirely certain of, somehow the idea has crept into the public consciousness that every seller deserves to receive the latter price, for whatever they're selling. This is crap. In a competitive, ideal market, the prices tend down towards the minimum price, not upwards towards the maximum.

When you start to see prices tending up, and sticking at the maximum that consumers are willing to pay for a good, that's a sign of some sort of market failure (e.g. monopoly). It's not, in general, a desirable thing.

Re:Good (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 6 years ago | (#22444800)

"And if I value getting free electricity forever at $3, and so does everyone else, then what? $3 isn't enough for me to hunt down everyone else who would benefit.. "

Thanks for asking; here's what happens in that case (please note, I'm assuming something resembling a free market here).

Some crafty entrepreneur realizes the potential market value of the generator's output is ($3 X num/ppl), let's say $3K. Heshe spends a month hunting down everyone, signing contracts, hooking them up to the service, then pays the engineer $1,201.

All that's left to calculate is whether the remaining $1,799 is more than the payment for the next-most-profitable thing the entrepreneur might.

If the thing costs another $3K to build, the entrepreneur just has to find 2000 customers instead of 1000.

I'm old enough to recall a time when *most business models were built on this sort of calculation, rather than the nouvelle vague:
1. get angel investors
2. get some "intellectual property"
3. make it clear that you're ready to harrass and sue anyone who even contemplates entering the same general market that you're "intellectual property" pertains to
4. ...
5. Profit. (us. == sell your "intellectual property" to some firm that has done this more times than you)

Re:Good (2, Insightful)

c0p0n (770852) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435964)

Someone please ring 0-800-ANALOGY-POLICE [voxpopdesign.com] .

Re:Good (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#22442830)

It's funny that this is the most insightful response to my post...

Re:Good (2, Interesting)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434656)

"the transformation to digital methods of production and distribution therefore poses to the twenty-first century a fundamental moral problem. If I can provide to everyone all goods of intellectual value or beauty, for the same price that I can provide the first copy of those works to anyone, why is it ever moral to exclude anyone from anything?"

Moglen

At the same time, how is it possible to produce those works if you need to spend your time producing something salable so that you can eat? Somebody needs to pay you for something, and the most effective way we've figured out to do that seems to be to restrict availability of what you produce to only those who can pay you for it.

I think this model is horribly broken, but what would be a good, general, replacement for it? Not everyone can get sponsorships...

Re:Good (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434992)

"Somebody needs to pay you for something" This is actually not true. You may *want very much to get money for something you've done, such as compose a melody or arranged your toenail clippings into a heart shape. But in a free society decisions about who *actually gets paid are made in a distributed way. Namely, they are made based on the marginal utility of what you've created, and the availability and price of the next-best substitute.

Re:Good (2, Insightful)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435312)

"Somebody needs to pay you for something" This is actually not true.
Or rather, you need to do something that someone will pay you for. And if that something ends up being digging ditches instead of writing software, then that software just doesn't get made.

Correct (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435566)

Correct. That software doesn't get made. Some other software gets made.

In the same vein, some other ditches don't get dug because the people who potentially would have dug 'em are writing the software that got made.

Re:Good (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435948)

Yep. And, conversely, that software didn't need to get made either, because if it did then somebody would have been willing to pay for it! In other words, there was no loss.

Re:Good (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436664)

Yep. And, conversely, that software didn't need to get made either, because if it did then somebody would have been willing to pay for it! In other words, there was no loss.

Maybe. Or maybe it would have been a little bit useful to a lot of people, useful enough to pay a dollar or two but not useful enough to spend the time to find eachother and collectively hire someone. Cases like this are not well served by the current system, and it's an interesting question to see if there could be a better system.

Re:Good (1)

AoT (107216) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437726)

Yep. And, conversely, that software didn't need to get made either, because if it did then somebody would have been willing to pay for it!
Unless the people who needed it didn't have any money. But poor people don't *really* count.

Re:Good (3, Interesting)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435038)

it'd be interesting to see what would happen if the only reason people produced reproducible artistic works was for the love of it or the urge to express oneself, and if the only reason people produced reproducible reference texts was because they needed to use them themselves. of course this situation would be augmented by the odd occasion when people would pay someone to produce one of these works because they wanted one for themselves. i've just re-read that and realised that is exactly how free software works, so i suppose such a system would work just as well as free software has. which is very very well indeed.

Re:Good (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436196)

It works fairly well, the question is can it be made to work better. Right now, there are a number of disconnects between making useful things and getting paid. It would be nice if those disconnects could be removed, without adding overhead that lessens the usefulness like our current copyright system seems to do.

Re:Good (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436382)

i've just re-read that and realised that is exactly how free software works, so i suppose such a system would work just as well as free software has.

Unfortunately, you are mistaken. Open source software has several factors going for it, that would not be true if applied to art.

For one, numerous open source projects are funded by companies who stand to financially benefit from the fruits of the project... eg. If you sell a web server, you might benefit from a good web browser being available to the public. If you sell ARM hardware, you might benefit from high quality open source software that will run on, and be optimized for ARM. etc., etc. This influx of cash is a big reason these "hard" software problems are tackled by open source projects.

With art, however, companies don't stand to financially benefit from it, except in very small ways. So, you can't expect to get the big funding for "open art" that open software has.

Secondly, open source software benefits greatly from a well developed commercial software market. Without it, barely a fraction as many individuals would be highly skilled programmers. Wit it, many individuals might feel a desire to work on open source software, as a point on their resume, and a way to gain the skills they need to get a high-paying job. If you propose removing copyright on art, or on software, you'll see a lot of the effort behind both slowly fade away, until it's about as big and dedicated of a community as potato chip collectors.

well... (3, Interesting)

N3wsByt3 (758224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435136)

"At the same time, how is it possible to produce those works if you need to spend your time producing something salable so that you can eat? Somebody needs to pay you for something, and the most effective way we've figured out to do that seems to be to restrict availability of what you produce to only those who can pay you for it."

Though I do not doubt that for some (high-cost) things it would cause problems, as a general statement, there are a few answers to your question.

First of, let's not make a false dillemma; it's not a matter of all the time devoted to produce those works, or all the time devoted towards something that earns money - at least, not necessarily. One can, for instance, have another job that earns you money, and create 'art' works (or whatever) as an aside. While time is limited, it's seldom limited to the point where one has absolutely NO time left to do something else than 'work for a living'.

Secondly, while it's not always possible to have one major mecenas (as was the case in the middle ages, often), the internet also provides the possibility (at least, potentially) to have micro-payments. So, instead of one big sponsor, one can have several minor ones. As long as your product is popular, I think there is a definite chance of that. (As an example; see Freenet; it's paying a full time devl for several years now, just by what people donate to the project.)

Secondly; your assertation at the end is false. There have been examples enough where people did not need to pay for something (well, unless one goes into semantics and conclude that only the sun rises for free). It's not an absolute necessity; though of course, in our capitalistic society (which I agree works much better than a communistic one ;-)) as a whole, the market rules, and people pay for products they want. But it must be said that the cost for a product consist of the material, and the time/work one put in it. In this respect, digital 'products' are something outside the normal. (And, in extension, all 'IP' is.) The cost of material there is...well, none. One DOES put time/work in it - in the ORIGINAL, but that is often not in comparison to the number of digital copies that can be made. After the original, the time/work that one puts in it, is virtually nothing.

Re:well... (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436562)

First of, let's not make a false dillemma; it's not a matter of all the time devoted to produce those works, or all the time devoted towards something that earns money - at least, not necessarily. One can, for instance, have another job that earns you money, and create 'art' works (or whatever) as an aside. While time is limited, it's seldom limited to the point where one has absolutely NO time left to do something else than 'work for a living'.
Oh, sure, I do that myself actually. But I don't know how useful the stuff I make in my spare time is, and since my bank account doesn't know either there's a limit on how much time I can spend on it -- regardless of how useful it actually is.

So, instead of one big sponsor, one can have several minor ones. As long as your product is popular, I think there is a definite chance of that. (As an example; see Freenet; it's paying a full time devl for several years now, just by what people donate to the project.)
Cool, I didn't know they did that. Maybe that is the best option, and we just need to reduce the overhead of actually making donations (need to specifically set up a account with a micropayment service, after finding a service that you actually trust and that the project uses, etc...). I mean, I don't have a paypal account (and I'm not sure I really trust them enough to want one anyway), most projects probably can't take credit cards, that one online payment service (e-gold or something?) got shut down for working too well...

Secondly; your assertation at the end is false. There have been examples enough where people did not need to pay for something (well, unless one goes into semantics and conclude that only the sun rises for free). It's not an absolute necessity; though of course, in our capitalistic society (which I agree works much better than a communistic one ;-)) as a whole, the market rules, and people pay for products they want.
I'm not saying they have to pay to get things, I'm saying that I have to have a source of income from somewhere.

But it must be said that the cost for a product consist of the material, and the time/work one put in it. In this respect, digital 'products' are something outside the normal. (And, in extension, all 'IP' is.) The cost of material there is...well, none. One DOES put time/work in it - in the ORIGINAL, but that is often not in comparison to the number of digital copies that can be made. After the original, the time/work that one puts in it, is virtually nothing.
Yeah. So how does one connect the usefulness of the result with funding to support the effort needed to produce it, without blocking some people from benefiting? I suppose an alternative would be to set up a utopia where people don't actually need to work for a living, but that would probably be even harder to get right...

Re:well... (1)

N3wsByt3 (758224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463034)

"Oh, sure, I do that myself actually. But I don't know how useful the stuff I make in my spare time is, and since my bank account doesn't know either there's a limit on how much time I can spend on it -- regardless of how useful it actually is."

Well, I don't know how useful the stuff you make is neither. ;-)

That said, an OS/project like Linux already demonstrated it's usefulnes. Just as with the 'many minor sponsors', you also have the 'many minor time-spendings to make something', I guess. Even pretty large and complex things (such as Linux) can be made by a relative limited timespending each day/week, if enough people are working on it. In that respect, the limited time you, as an individual, spend on it does not lead to a limiation of the product in question, as long as enough other individuals spend their limited time on it.

It is my belief that, if a product is popular enough - say, it from the moment it has 5 developers and 10000 users or something like that, it can sustain itself indifinately by the mere 'fractions of time' those people invest in it.

"Cool, I didn't know they did that. Maybe that is the best option, and we just need to reduce the overhead of actually making donations (need to specifically set up a account with a micropayment service, after finding a service that you actually trust and that the project uses, etc...). I mean, I don't have a paypal account (and I'm not sure I really trust them enough to want one anyway), most projects probably can't take credit cards, that one online payment service (e-gold or something?) got shut down for working too well..."

I think there is a need on a world-wide (or at least continent-wide) easy way for all people (including students!) to be able to pay small amounts. Something like a pre-paid card for a cell-phone - but then for the internet. It's beyond me why nobody came up with a succesful product like that.

Re:Good (1)

mhall119 (1035984) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436804)

Somebody needs to pay you for something
True enough, but information is not a "thing" in any natural sense. Physical goods are finite, if I make a wooden table I consume wood that I can't then use to make a chair. Physical services are finite, if I do something for one person I consume time and energy that I cannot give to someone else. The "cost" of production is measured by what existed for use before the production but not after.

Information on the other hand, does not consume any material or service in it's production. The medium of transport may consume material (disks) or services (bandwidth), but that is not required by the duplication of the information. Giving my information to one person and making him keep it secret would cost me a set amount, lets call it "x". Giving my information to one person and letting him give it again to whomever he wants, still costs me "x", and no more. Writing a book and posting it online with DRM costs me "x". Writing that same book and posting it online under a CreativeCommons license, still costs me "x". So long as I am compensated by "x", then I am being paid for what I produced.

The issue is that in our current economy, you don't charge "x", you charge "y" for every copy "n" of your information that somebody gets, such that hopefully "y*n >= x". This only works if you can make sure that you get you "y" for every "n" out there. To that end we create copyrights, saying that every "n" has to come from you, so that you can collect your "y".

If we simply paid you "x" in the first place, then you wouldn't need to care about the size of "n", because it wouldn't change what you got paid. That is how most goods are made and sold. If I build a car, I get paid "x" for my time and materials that I lost in building it, and I don't care about who uses the car, or how many people use it, or where and how it gets used. Even with the creation of information, if I design a brochure layout for my employer, write a tech doc, or produce a training video, my employer pays me "x". I don't care how many copies of the brochure they make, who reads the tech doc, or how many people watch the training video, I have been compensated for my costs regardless.

How to get paid for things that are free (2, Informative)

Murrquan (1161441) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437872)

Truth Happens [redhatmagazine.com] recently posted a link to an article [kk.org] that proposed ways that artists could be paid for their work in a world in which everything's free. In brief, they are

1. Immediacy -- You want something now, and you're willing to pay the artist to speed production of a work.

2. Personalization -- You want something tailored to your needs specifically, like an art request, or a piece of Free / Open-Source Software that does what you need it to do.

3. Interpretation -- Or consultation. Like what Red Hat does, in providing paid support for free software.

4. Authenticity -- Like an artist's seal of approval, it lets you know that your recording is of the actual artist's work (and is certified virus-free).

5. Accessibility -- You could pay clearinghouses of data to keep track of all your songs and such for you. At its lowest level it's paid storage, but it could be more than that.

6. Embodiment -- Anyone can download the .pdf for free, but if you really like it and have the money, who wouldn't want the deluxe collector's edition with gold-engraved cover and bookmark? Or an actual DVD box to go on your shelves.

7. Patronage -- You know you could download that .pdf for free, but you've been following this guy's career for so long that you don't mind paying a few bucks to download the file from his server. Besides, your cash fills up his donation meter and ensures next month's update, or wins the "donation war" for what feature to implement next.

8. Findability -- Not everyone knows how to use P2P networks, or even wants to learn how.

Some of us get everything from the P2P networks. But others, who may not object to borrowing CDs or books from their friends, may still find getting copies of people's work anonymously to be somewhat disquieting. Moreover, they may not know how. These are often the people who buy songs from iTunes and Amazon, because $1 seems like a reasonable price to them for the service they receive.

If you think about it, part of the reason that iTunes is so successful in this age of free downloads is because it combines just about everything on the list. You get authentic recordings immediately, which are automatically sorted on your PC or Mac complete with cover art. You can find songs easily on their store, and you get personalized recommendations as to what other songs you might like. Yes, I know iTunes has DRM, but I also know a lot of people don't even think about it. It's true that we need to educate them about it, but I'm just saying it doesn't factor into their decisions.

I found the article extremely relevant, because I hope to make a living as a content creator selling e-books and physical copies thereof. Maybe what we need is more widespread awareness of how to make money? At any rate, the world I see this evolving into is one in which large, "gateway" institutions like TV stations and book publishers are fewer and farther between, but one in which large numbers of individual content creators can make a living off of their work, and have thriving microcommunities built up around each of them.

Re:Good (2, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434932)

If I can provide to everyone all goods of intellectual value or beauty, for the same price that I can provide the first copy of those works to anyone, why is it ever moral to exclude anyone from anything?

This is so very true. Copyright is theft.

Re:Good (1)

renoX (11677) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435098)

>for the same price that I can provide the first copy of those works to anyone, why is it ever moral to exclude anyone from anything?

Because if N is the number of user and C the development cost, C/N != 0 even for large N..
So you still have to find a way for the author to recover the development cost: much less people wants/are able to work for charity.

Re:Good (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435758)

"the transformation to digital methods of production and distribution therefore poses to the twenty-first century a fundamental moral problem. If I can provide to everyone all goods of intellectual value or beauty, for the same price that I can provide the first copy of those works to anyone, why is it ever moral to exclude anyone from anything?"

Moglen


"Digital methods of production" may make marginal costs increasingly close to zero, but they don't make them actually zero. So they really don't raise that issue. Even if marginal costs were zero, however, fixed costs wouldn't be zero, and if you charge nothing for subsequent copies, that means you have to (in order to break even) charge the entire fixed cost for the first copy. But how do you find anyone willing to pay that huge cost so that everyone else gets the good free? For some products, this works, because someone wealthy really wants the good and is willing to pay even if everyone else gets it for free (and perhaps that person's interests are served by having more people using it.) OSS software whose development is largely sponsored by one or more businesses that are also major users of the software approximately follows this model.

Re:Good (1)

AoT (107216) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435896)

"Digital methods of production" may make marginal costs increasingly close to zero, but they don't make them actually zero.
If I write a book and someone else starts distributing copies of that book on thepiratebay in pdf format, then the marginal costs for distribution may not be zero, but my costs for distribution are zero.

Even if marginal costs were zero, however, fixed costs wouldn't be zero, and if you charge nothing for subsequent copies, that means you have to (in order to break even) charge the entire fixed cost for the first copy.
Assuming the standard American capitalist economy. But, why should we assume that is the best model to follow? Isn't that they question at hand, whether or not the capitalist model is what we want to use.

Re:Good (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436080)

If I write a book and someone else starts distributing copies of that book on thepiratebay in pdf format, then the marginal costs for distribution may not be zero, but my costs for distribution are zero.


Sure. Of course, if the first person who buys your book is going to be allowed to do that, you have no economic incentive to write the book at all unless that first person is going to pay all your fixed economic costs (including the opportunity cost of whatever other labor you could have done instead of writing the book during the time it took you to write the book.)

Even if marginal costs were zero, however, fixed costs wouldn't be zero, and if you charge nothing for subsequent copies, that means you have to (in order to break even) charge the entire fixed cost for the first copy.


Assuming the standard American capitalist economy.


No, not at all. No matter what system governs economic exchanges, every human action has a (positive or negative) net utility to the actor undertaking it. If it is a negative net utility, there is no incentive to take the action unless a countervailing positive utility is added to it. Cost is simply negative utility. If someone can't be compensated for whatever disutility they experience producing a work, they aren't going to produce it, even if there is no marginal disutility in distributing subsequent copies of the work.

All the economic system does is control what choices are available to people who want to get other people to perform acts that would have a positive utility to the person desiring them and a negative utility to the person performing them.

Re:Good (1)

AoT (107216) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437380)

Sure. Of course, if the first person who buys your book is going to be allowed to do that, you have no economic incentive to write the book at all unless that first person is going to pay all your fixed economic costs (including the opportunity cost of whatever other labor you could have done instead of writing the book during the time it took you to write the book.)
The vast majority of books that have been written have not been written because the author thought they would make more money than it cost them in time, I would wager that the same is true of the majority of music and the majority of most forms of art. Sure, most of those people would *like* to get paid for their art, but that isn't the reason most art is created. That fact in itself should say something about the creative process and its place in society.

No, not at all. No matter what system governs economic exchanges, every human action has a (positive or negative) net utility to the actor undertaking it. If it is a negative net utility, there is no incentive to take the action unless a countervailing positive utility is added to it. Cost is simply negative utility. If someone can't be compensated for whatever disutility they experience producing a work, they aren't going to produce it, even if there is no marginal disutility in distributing subsequent copies of the work.
Yes, I'm aware of economics and your ability to spout economic theory does not make your point any more valid. You said "Even if marginal costs were zero, however, fixed costs wouldn't be zero, and if you charge nothing for subsequent copies, that means you have to (in order to break even) charge the entire fixed cost for the first copy." I noted that that is only true in certain economic systems. In some systems those costs are shared in ways other than the way they are shared in the U.S. economy. Of course, most people who descend so quickly into economic theory are really heavily invested, emotionally and/or intellectually not necessarily monetarily, in the current economic paradigm of scarcity. Which is exactly the problem, the sort of distribution of information we are talking about does not work under an economic model of scarcity.

Re:Good (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22439776)

The vast majority of books that have been written have not been written because the author thought they would make more money than it cost them in time


Sure, but that's immaterial. They've been written because the expected net utility was positive. The expected financial return from sales is in almost every case one of the positive factors, even if it is not the only one, or sufficient on its own.

I am aware of economics and your ability to spout economic theory does not make your point any more valid.


Insofar as my point is valid on its own, and my ability to point to the reasons why is only a means of demonstrating its validity not something that increases its validity, I would agree with the part of that sentence after the "and"; I am less convinced of the part before the "and" unless it is meant only to mean that you are aware that there is a field of inquiry known as "economics", rather than meaning that you have an understanding of that field.

You said "Even if marginal costs were zero, however, fixed costs wouldn't be zero, and if you charge nothing for subsequent copies, that means you have to (in order to break even) charge the entire fixed cost for the first copy." I noted that that is only true in certain economic systems.


Well, you certainly claimed that. It remains false.

In some systems those costs are shared in ways other than the way they are shared in the U.S. economy.


It doesn't matter what mechanism allows you to counteract the disutility. You have fixed economic (not necessarily financial) costs in producing something, and unless you can recover those costs, there is no incentive to do it. What economic system you are operating in certainly affects the available mechanisms you have to recover costs, but that doesn't change the basic underlying economic fact.

Of course, most people who descend so quickly into economic theory are really heavily invested, emotionally and/or intellectually not necessarily monetarily, in the current economic paradigm of scarcity.


That's a cute ad hominem, and nothing more.

Which is exactly the problem, the sort of distribution of information we are talking about does not work under an economic model of scarcity.


Scarcity isn't a "model", its a fact, and if you want to understand what kinds of distribution of information "digital methods of production" in the real world enable, you won't ignore that fact. There is quite a lot they do enable, but Moglen and those who follow him are deluded if they think that such methods change the foundational economic realities. That's not to say digital methods of production aren't revolutionary, they clearly do revolutionize the practical economics of information dissemination, just as the printing press did; changing the fundamental economic realities of opportunity cost, etc., aren't necessary for revolutionary transformation, and unsubstantiated fantasies about such changes don't help (indeed, they obstruct) understanding of the real impacts of the transformations enabled by new technologies.

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22438302)

If I can provide to everyone all goods of intellectual value or beauty, for the same price that I can provide the first copy of those works to anyone, why is it ever moral to exclude anyone from anything?"
Good Point!

BTW, I want your woman -- you cannot morally keep her from me.

Re:Good (1)

Perf (14203) | more than 6 years ago | (#22438374)

If I can provide to everyone all goods of intellectual value or beauty, for the same price that I can provide the first copy of those works to anyone, why is it ever moral to exclude anyone from anything?"

Good Point!

BTW, I want your woman -- you cannot morally keep her from me.

Oh, wait. A copy of the thing of intellect and beauty. I want your daughter.

Who needs the publishers? (3, Insightful)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434716)

What's needed are the professors and students to do this. So of the best textbooks I had in college were published through the University printing department for the cost of materials.

I took a course in Technical Business Writing for where as a final project we had to write a real manual for an existing product. That sort of class could easily churn out several good textbooks a semester.

Re:Who needs the publishers? (1)

rfunches (800928) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435824)

So of the best textbooks I had in college were published through the University printing department for the cost of materials.

Only cost of materials? Sure, until the printing department realizes they have a captive audience and can charge whatever they want. I just had to buy one of those custom in-house texts -- a series of Harvard business case studies -- and clearly printed on the cover were two prices:

  • Royalty: $27.00
  • List price: $55.13

Do you really think it takes $28.13 to cover the costs of the bookstore and print services? Students are either not buying traditional textbooks or buying them used, so the bookstores and the universities have to find another way to make up that revenue. First it was releasing a new edition every year with new sets of questions and problems, then it was the inclusion of "one-time" online codes shrinkwrapped with books, then it was those stupid "clickers" which were electronically tied to a class. Then the textbook companies pitched "custom texts" which they printed. Now the universities realize they can finally cut out the textbook companies by licensing the content directly, and they literally write their own paycheck by deciding the markup. Not to mention, they intentionally lowball the print run, so they never end up with excess copies (they simply reprint on an individual basis and tell you to wait 24-48 hours).

Re:Who needs the publishers? (4, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436240)

What's needed are the professors and students to do this.
See my sig for a whole bunch of examples that already exist.

So of the best textbooks I had in college were published through the University printing department for the cost of materials.
My experience is that these days, that kind of thing tends to be much more expensive and inefficient that simply putting pdfs on the web. That's what I do for my students, and self-service laser printing on campus only costs them 4 cents a page (which is basically what it costs the school for paper and toner, and is much, much less than it would cost for the ink on a home inkjet printer). If I did it through my campus's bookstore, it would cost more like 8 cents a page. Part of the reason for that is that bookstores normally operate in a system where any books they don't sell, they just return to the publisher for a full refund. But course packets can't be returned, so the bookstore has to eat the extra cost of producing any copies they produced that ended up in a dumpster. To keep from taking a loss, they raise the price. Another factor that raises costs is that the course packs are being produced by paid workers, not by students on a self-serve basis, so the price has to include that labor cost. AFAICT, there are only three reasons any professors are still doing these course packs the old-fashioned way: (a) they don't own the rights to all the materials, and are paying the publisher for permission to use them, (b) they did their materials on a typewriter in 1962, and haven't gotten around to modernizing, or (c) they want to make a royalty. I think c is completely unethical when you're selling to your own students. There's a massive conflict of interest when you can force your students to buy something that puts money in your own pocket. If you want to make royalties from your writing, then ethically you really need to make those royalties from sales to other schools.

Re:Who needs the publishers? (1)

dickens (31040) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436540)

Last year I had to pay $45 for a 20 page 8.5x5.5 perfect-bound custom-published book for a World Civilizations I course. Everything in it was public domain except the notes and review questions. I was pretty pissed, since it was such obvious gouging. This year for World Civ II I had a $165 text, which is a great text, but it came shrink-wrapped with a useless study guide that corresponded to a 2-editions-ago version of the text, so not even the topics and chapter numbers matched up.

Re:Who needs the publishers? (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437624)

Ouch. Another horror story: At the school where I teach (physics), the math department has a course where the required text is only available in DRM'd digital form. You can only access the text in IE. (Spoofing the user agent string in Firefox doesn't work.) Oh yeah, and the book evaporates at the end of the semester so the student loses access to it. Obligatory link [gnu.org] to Stallman's The Right to Read.

Re:Who needs the publishers? (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437848)

My experience is that these days, that kind of thing tends to be much more expensive and inefficient that simply putting pdfs on the web.
Absolutely, but when I started school, there was one class that was still using punchcards. The web had only been dreamed of.

In this century, yes, it's best to keep everything in electronic form, so it can be searched and updated properly. Kudos for thinking about your students.

Re:Who needs the publishers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22438798)

"There's a massive conflict of interest when you can force your students to buy something that puts money in your own pocket." Ben, I would go even further by saying that there is a conflict of interest when even the school is making a profit from one of its Professor's books. At the University of Oklahoma, I had to buy a professor's book, and it was printed and bound by the Universitie's printers. There were no other options, and they chraged a hefty price of around $30 for it. If the teacher just allowed us to print it ourselves, we would have easily been able to get it for about $20 at a local print shop. Or, in my case, I would have just read the digital version.

How to fund the structure of legitimate review? (1)

objectwizard42 (618972) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434740)

Open content is a good idea because it makes information freely available to a larger number of people for no additional cost (compared with limited distribution). However, there is still some fixed cost to be absorbed somewhere in the chain to support the administration and management of legitimate peer review. Presently, publishers absorb this cost. Frankly, it's a pittance compared with the profits they reap from electronic journals, but the service is nonetheless essential for preventing the confusion that would arise if non-peer-reviewed electronic media were not distinguished in a meaningful way from peer reviewed media.

Similar observations can be made regarding academic book publishing.

We live in an age where knowledge and information may be distributed more broadly and democratically than ever before. The corollary is that anti-knowledge and disinformation travel through that same, free pipe.

The free distribution of politically purposed disinformation ought to be guarded against. For that to occur, the established infrastructure of peer-review must be leveraged. Or replaced with something run by the researchers themselves. A better option for the world we live in, but one that requires funding from somewhere.

Re:How to fund the structure of legitimate review? (4, Insightful)

yankpop (931224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434900)

However, there is still some fixed cost to be absorbed somewhere in the chain to support the administration and management of legitimate peer review. Presently, publishers absorb this cost.

Not quite. Peer reviewers are not paid for their efforts, and the associate editors that manage them are not paid for their work. The only people that get paid in any of the journals in my discipline are the technical people responsible for actually assembling the articles, and possibly the top editor who oversees the associate editors. The actual cost of production is tiny compared to the price charged for a subscription.

A colleague of mine is involved in a small non-profit journal, and he figures he needs to charge less than half of what the mainstream journals do in order to cover his costs. Considering that the big journals will benefit from a substantially larger subscription/content ratio, they really are making out like bandits.

We have the tools within the academic and library communities to take control of our own publications, what we need is a shift in thinking, and some way to reward running a journal that is on par with the professional prestige associated with actually publishing in it.

yp.

Re:How to fund the structure of legitimate review? (1)

objectwizard42 (618972) | more than 6 years ago | (#22440080)

A colleague of mine is involved in a small non-profit journal, and he figures he needs to charge less than half of what the mainstream journals do in order to cover his costs. Considering that the big journals will benefit from a substantially larger subscription/content ratio, they really are making out like bandits.
Bandits is way too generous.
I've worked for two of the top three publishers on earth, and I suspect that your colleague could charge 1/10th of what a major publisher would charge and still recover the costs for a well paid staff.
My only point was that some money will need to change hands in order to support professional peer review. The costs aren't the costs of reviewers, they are articulation costs (see CSCW literature) associated with coordination, communication, etc. ow42

Brought to you by the geniuses behind OLPC (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22435030)

Excellent! Let's package all these books, ship them off to the third world... and wonder why the kids can't read them.

OMG, the kids can't speak (or read) English? How did that happen?

uPhail.

Good squared (1)

suitti (447395) | more than 6 years ago | (#22438602)

Let's say that there's more than one DVD's worth of CC content available. What do you send? I'd say, send it all. Each laptop gets one DVD, but a random one. If you want to hear more music, you collaborate with others who have it handy...

Free Content Drive (0, Offtopic)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434238)

OK, this is only marginally on topic (but WTF it may be FP so it will get modded offtopic or redundant anyway) but the words "Free Content" mande me think of the content-free encyclopedia. [uncyclopedia.org]

For those of us who care. [uncyclopedia.org]

I should say something about the actual topic but...

Good news! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22434320)

Education in desperately poor countries has too long been held back by the lack of drum-and-bass loops and slash fiction about Professor Snape and Captain Janeway.

easy (1, Redundant)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434322)

http://thepiratebay.org/ [thepiratebay.org]

sorted...

More important: relevant content by language (4, Interesting)

CodeShark (17400) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434408)

While all of this sounds great, as far as I can tell most of the stuff being offered is in English. Which is great, but why isn't there more of a movement to recreate the most important bits of knowledge -- public sanitation and mosquito control are two big ones -- as part of an educational program that can be stuffed onto a DVD and shipped out. Why are we only hearing about college textbooks, etc. which -- hello out there? are mostly what those of us who have been in the armed services used to refer to as "chloroform in print" or whose relevancy to real world problems is scant at best?


Simply put -- why aren't we hearing about a focus on education that matters -- in the languages of those who need it most?

Re:More important: relevant content by language (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434786)

People publish what they know. Not too many people know squat about mosquito control in third world contries, so they create what they can.

This is not a bad thing, but I can see your point about all this stuff masking what is really needed.

As far as stuff being published mostly in English. The text will best be translated by a native speaker who also knows English. Since the OLPC is networked, the translated texts can make it to where they are needed.

Relevant to who? (1)

hotsauce (514237) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435190)

I only had time to skim the page, but I could not find who their target audience is.

Teenage American kids?

Developing country schoolchildren?

Programmers?

I'd think the last, from the way they go on and on about the platform and the desktop and such. But then why distribute at SXSW? To bore people and make FOSS seem irrelavant to people at large?

I think the first page of their document should be their motivation and target audience, not what distro of Linux they think is cool.

If they're distributing at SXSW, I think they should have creative CC movies and music.

Re:Relevant to who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22435524)

Redundant RAS syndrome detected...

Re:More important: relevant content by language (1, Insightful)

goldspider (445116) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435244)

Simply put -- why aren't we hearing about a focus on education that matters -- in the languages of those who need it most?

Because we pride ourselves more on making meaningless gestures to the third-world than on producing real results. That's why we're providing them with laptop computers instead of basic infrastructure and medicine.

Re:More important: relevant content by language (2, Insightful)

renoX (11677) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435400)

> to recreate the most important bits of knowledge -- public sanitation and mosquito control are two big ones -- as part of an educational program

I would add sex education to the list..

Re:More important: relevant content by language (1)

AoT (107216) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435554)

If you are going to learn about mosquito control in more than a superficial manner -- beyond "drop these pills here" -- then you will need some of that "chloroform in print." A real understanding of mosquito control would require a knowledge of biology, ecology, field methods, statistics and probably some other things I'm not aware of. If this weren't the case one could just drop some pamphlets that say something like "slap the little suckers when they land on you," and be done with it.

Public sanitation has the same depth.

There is obviously a problem getting these books into languages that are useful, but I would say that often times college student can speak, or at least read, English well enough to comprehend a text book. That or we can look to the foreign language departments at universities.

Re:More important: relevant content by language (2, Informative)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436378)

Translation is hard work, and people tend to underestimate how much work it is. My physics textbooks, in English, are free online. Over the years, I've had four or five people contact me, acting extremely enthusiastic about translating them into other languages. One of them translated one chapter into French and then stopped. None of the others actually did any translation. It's the same logic as any open-source software project; although you hear a lot about collaborative development, the bazaar model, etc., actually the vast majority of OSS projects never attract any developers other than the original one.

There are also significant technical obstacles. Producing a high-quality illustrated textbook requires a fairly complicated software setup, and that means that the translators have to be able to reproduce that setup. If you're using proprietary software, you have a problem, because prospective translators aren't going to pay for a copy of it so they can have the privilege of translating a free book for free. If you're using an OSS software stack, then you have the issue that some of the OSS software for this kind of thing is not yet totally mature (e.g., Inkscape is great, but it's still quite new and under heavy development), and some of it is fairly hard to use (e.g., my LaTeX class file for my textbooks runs to 2400 lines of code, plus a few thousand more lines of custom perl scripts).

Re:More important: relevant content by language (2, Informative)

gnujoshua (540710) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436596)

You are right, "most of the stuff being offered is in English." But, that is why we are asking people to collect materials and post them to the wiki. We need everyones help, this includes non-english speakers who can help us find free texts in other languages. Thank you, and if know another language besides English, please add it to the Wiki, too! -Josh

Re:More important: relevant content by language (1)

sdguero (1112795) | more than 6 years ago | (#22440906)

They need to learn English anyway to be successful. It's fucked up, but thats how it is. I think its a good way to force English on them...

If the content is so good... (1)

webword (82711) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434462)

Why bother with CDs or DVDs? Why not just pump that shizzle right onto the laptops being given away or sold for dirt cheap?

Re:If the content is so good... (1)

Calinous (985536) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434534)

Because of the limited space for permanent storage the XO laptop has available

Re:If the content is so good... (1)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434616)

Then how does one plan on reading the discs? The XO has no optical drive and external optical drives are expensive.

Re:If the content is so good... (2, Informative)

RicardoGCE (1173519) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434738)

Individual schools or libraries could host the material locally (perhaps customized) and let XO-1 users access it via wifi.

Re:If the content is so good... (4, Informative)

grumbel (592662) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434798)

The OLPC laptops are not meant to work in isolation, they are meant to be used in combination with a school server that handles extra content and backup.

Rifters (2, Interesting)

pionzypher (886253) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434522)

Peter Watts [rifters.com] Has his Rifters series as well as Blindsight up on a CC license. Good series for those who haven't read it.

Re:Rifters (2, Informative)

gnujoshua (540710) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437136)

Thanks! If you know of any more please post them either to http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Books [laptop.org] or its discussion page!

What kind of kids are we trying to raise with OLPC (0, Offtopic)

JosefAssad (1138611) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434640)

See, it depends. If we want the kids to know that God is a disinterested chap, that cup size is the primary determinant for getting into Heaven, and that hamsters are good for more than just tasty sandwiches (wha?) then this [sancairodicopenhagen.com] ought to go on the stack.

Then again...

Parenting classes? Me? Why? Oh come onnnnnnnnn...

The not-so-commonly-known goal of OLPC (5, Informative)

kriston (7886) | more than 6 years ago | (#22434644)

One of the more important and not-commonly-know goals of OLPC is for electronic textbooks.
The people who stand to benefit from OLPC are popularly seen as becoming computer literate, but the real benefit is the fact that these people do not have access to textbooks.
The OLPC project, with its extremely power-efficient ebook reader mode, attemps to solve the problem of out-of-date textbooks (and no textbooks at all).
For delivery of electronic textbooks, the Worldspace satellite radio service (http://www.worldspace.com/) already offers 128 kbps for the common good. This bandwidth is available to most of the people who stand to benefit from OLPC (except South America) and is a suitable delivery platform for textbooks.

Satellite radio data bandwidth for charity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22435574)

For delivery of electronic textbooks, the Worldspace satellite radio service (http://www.worldspace.com/) already offers 128 kbps for the common good. This bandwidth is available to most of the people who stand to benefit from OLPC (except South America) and is a suitable delivery platform for textbooks.
Cool. Details where? (Can't find it on their site)

Great! Now when will they fix the eBook reader? (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 6 years ago | (#22438092)

Yes, here comes a lazy, selfish, and mean-spirited comment.

I participated in the G1G1 program half for altruistic reasons and half for selfish reasons. (A perfect match for the program, right?) I thought that if nothing else, the XO would make a very satisfactory eBook reader for the wealth of public domain material available from Project Gutenberg.

As with so much about the XO, the hardware is great, and the software is flaky.

I don't see how the Read activity can be regarded as adequate for reading textbooks, at least not in its present form.

The "Read" activity is... unpredictable. It's not clear what file formats it's supposed to work with. The one that works most reliably is PDF. In particular, downloads from Manybooks.net [manybooks.net] , with translation format set to PDF, Large Print gives access to what seems to be most if not all of Project Gutenberg, with formatting that works quite well for the XO.

My first attempt at reading for pleasure from the XO went very well; the screen was legible, the package was portable, I enjoyed the story (L. Frank Baum, "The Master Key," a very entertaining read by the way).

Until I tried to continue reading a day later and found myself back at page 1, having lost my place.

When you go back in the Journal to a book you've been reading, sometimes it appears to reopen the book at the page where you closed it, and sometimes it loses your place and reopens at page 1. I haven't been able to characterize the behavior well enough to report it as a bug.

The "Keep" feature, which I would have expected to be the right way to save the state of the Read activity, always reports a "Keep error."

There is no way to bookmark a page, at least not one that I've been able to find.

The XO is not clever about the journal titles that it assigns to downloaded eBooks, nor does it attempt to automatically generate metadata for them, so they are hard to find in the Journal unless one goes in and manually enters things like title and author for every eBook.

The Read activity does not appear to have any way to suppress the display of the mouse pointer. Which on the XO is a bit on the big and intrusive side.

It seems to behave badly on long PDF documents. This, too, is hard to pin down, but any full-length novels... especially full-length Victorian novels... strain its capability.

Now, I'm sure someone will say "It's open source, so fix it." The honest response I'm too lazy and have other things to do with my spare time, but I will point out that the promise that you could directly view the source of any XO activity directly on the XO itself does not appear to be realized, at least not in the G1G1 as shipped. Nor is it at all clear to me that Pippy, which appears to be the development environment included, would be up to the task of modifying the Read actvity.

Re:Great! Now when will they fix the eBook reader? (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 6 years ago | (#22442074)

but I will point out that the promise that you could directly view the source of any XO activity directly on the XO itself does not appear to be realized,
There is a Develop activity in development that should handle the task, but its not finished and not in the stable builds. Just installing your favorite text editor via yum and using that will however work.

Currently many things in the XO's software are very unfinished and at this point in time "It's open source, so fix it" is really the best advise, since there simply is a lot that isn't done and when you want it fast you have to do it yourself. Its a little sad, but true.

Anyway, for eBook reading I have hacked together a little eBook reader [blogspot.com] of my own, its far from being finished and only good for viewing images, so one has to convert things first (pdfimages, pdftopnm, etc.), but once done is works nicely for reading.

When it comes to plain text reading I also hacked together a few scripts to make them more viewable with the HTML browser, i.e. split them up, convert to HTML, add a TOC and such. All rather hacky and not really end-user ready, but it works with a little extra effort.

Last not least I would strongly recommend to install Opera, it has much more features then the rather unfinished Browse activity, which can't even handle bookmarks properly.

Does it really matter when OLPC can't deliver? (1)

inicom (81356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22555544)

I was extremely excited and enthusiastic about the OLPC and the projects (like sugar) that make it innovative and seductive. But now I'm just deeply disappointed in the inability of OLPC to communicate manufacturing/delivery delays, repeated lies from them about when I would get the laptop, and the total refusal to ship to my new New Zealand address when they had plenty of time to ship it to my domestic address if they had kept any of the delivery promises.

My support of the project would've extended to presenting it at the private international school in Miami that I was on the board of (and where my son would've used it). Since I've now moved out to New Zealand, I would've also done my best to proselytise at his new school, also filled with a good mix of prominent people who might've become supports of the project. Instead, their failures to deliver and to communicate their delays has gone well beyond simple frustration and made me suspicious of their ability to pull it off. They finally set up a phone number one could call a couple weeks ago, but only as an 800#, which I couldn't call from outside the US! Once I got back in the states, in response to my repeated emails and phone calls last week I was told timeframes ranging from "asbolutely mid March" to "probably 45-60 days" depending on who at OLPC was spinning the tale.

As a person who has been involved in the computer industry for 30 years, I'm well aware of problems with manufacturing and shipping a new product, but I have never seen such a poorly handled situation. I was very excited and enthusiastic about the OLPC project and more than willing to support it and proselytize. My purchase/donation was a sign of my support, and I intended to prominently display the laptop at my son's schools to motivate more support for the project. The lack of communication and lies about the status has not only disappointed me, it has really soured me on the project and caused me to also withdraw my donation, something I've never done in my life. No matter how innovative and seductive a product, if you can't actually make it available you're just wasting your time.
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