Re: Failing business models

From: Imre Simon <imres.g_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Sun, 25 Feb 2007 12:48:46 -0200

Dear Jan,

I am sorry but I do not understand your usage of the term non-rival.
For me, non-rival means that your usage of a good does not compete
with my usage. Ideas are non-rival, we are exchanging them all the
time on this list, for instance, and we all learn from everybody
else's ideas without diminishing their own use of them. For more
information, please see the Wikipedia entry:

So, when you correctly say that if I have Nature I still need Science
you are saying that knowledge is fragmented in many (largely disjoint)
sources and this keeps happening all the way down. I couldn't agree
more with this, the only thing I object to is the use of the non-rival
adjective for this phenomenon.

Indeed, this and many other fragmentations are at the very core of the
OA ideology. At least in my view of it.

I believe that (Scientific) Knowledge should be a Commons. A freely
accessible commons. That is what Open Access is all about, trying to
unite something which got completely fragmented by our practices over
the last 150 years or so.

A beautiful book just came out about this viewpoint: "Understanding
Knowledge as a Commons". Indeed, the book has Scientific Communication
as its main example and objective, I would like to recommend its

Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom
Understanding Knowledge as a Commons
MIT Press, 2007

Now, we are discussing here Green and Gold, Copyright (a major
excluding mechanism of many non-rival goods built up by our
civilization), for profit and not-for-profit publishers, Internet
publishing and many conflicting views on a possible transition to
Universal Open Access. All this fragments the theme and the community
ever more and it is OK, in my view. Indeed, I believe that this
fragmentation is essential for constructing a new system, some system
where we will hopefully end up one of these days.

Agreeing (or disagreeing), though, whether Knowledge is or is not a
Commons seems to be an essential difference in this discussion. That
is why I tried to isolate this aspect in this message to call the
attention to this basic question. How many of us agree with it? How
many do not? I propose that this might be a good starting point to
begin building bridges or to leave it cristal clear that some bridges
will not be built.

To finish I would like to make a brief remark about the caveat for
your assumption that the Wikipedia entry for Monopoly is correct.
Nature (the periodical) made a recent study and found that Wikipedia
and the Encyclopaedia Britannica are equally crappy, so to say. I
think that this is unexpected and surprising for some. Anyway, somehow
I find it difficult to believe that you would make a similar caveat
about Britannica's definition of Monopoly. But, if you would, I do
apologize in advance. The point is that if you believe in the Nature
study and in the basic correctness of Britannica, as I do, then it is
unnecessary to make that kind of caveat.

But, again, this has a lot to do with my initial remarks about commons
and fragmentation. Knowledge is a Commons but it is totally fragmented
throughout society, as pointed out by the great Friedrich Hayek (Law,
Legislation and Liberty, vol. I). More than that, through the commons
we all benefit from the knowledge we do not have. Wikipedia, in my
view, might be one of the more impressive experiences and achievements
of this decade, century?, millenium? I don't know. But it is a proof,
or at least a strong indication, that through the Internet it is much
easier to realize Hayek's view of everyone benefitting of the other's
knowledge via a better integration. And, again, Open Access is just
this, exactly this, in my view.

Another curiosity: Lawrence Lessig, in a recently revised edition
(CODE version 2.0) of his 1999 Opus Magnus, CODE and Other Laws of
Cyberspace, put this very impressive dedication:


HERE, of course means in CODE v 2.0, but I think that we equally well
could assume it means this list too. I happen to believe that Open
Access has an awful lot to learn from the Wikipedia surprise.

Cordially yours,

Imre Simon

Velterop, Jan, Springer UK <> wrote:

> Steve,
> Assumptions are being made on all sides of the argument and I'm the
> last to say that I don't sometimes make them, but the examples you
> mention are more to do with definitions than assumptions. Let me
> respond to the monopoly issue.
> You fear that 'gold' would be just a continuation of the cost spiral,
> and as a reason for that you use the argument that "journals act as
> monopolies, and so would gold journals." Now here's an unwarranted
> assumption. Subscription journals are monopoloid *because of* the
> subscription model. The subscriptions are non-rivalrous, meaning that
> if you need Nature, you also need Science (and this principle works
> all the way down the pyramid). And you need to pay for both. But in
> 'gold' this doesn't apply. If you publish in Nature, and pay for it
> (should they offer that option), you don't pay Science. In 'gold',
> these journals -- any journals -- are rivalrous.
> In the subscription world, librarians are the 'captive market'. In
> 'gold', you call authors "still a captive market", but they are
> neither a captive market nor is that "still" the case, because they
> never were. That doesn't mean to say that the best journals aren't
> desirable for authors to publish in. So they may be captivated by the
> journal's allure, but that's not the same as a captive market. If
> they are captured at all, it's by the impact factor madness, and
> publishers are not the ones who can change that culture. It all comes
> down to choice. In the subscription system there is hardly any; in
> 'gold', however high the fees may be of some journals, there *is* a
> choice, there *are* viable substitute services, unless publishers
> should start forming cartels, which is illegal. If the authors are
> not aware of fees for 'gold', that doesn't mean they don't have the
> choice, it only means that they don't exercise that choice, and in
> any case the funders or the institutions can influence their choice.
> Institutes and funders can raise the authors' awareness. Having a
> viable choice makes any monopoly impossible (see definition: http://
> with the caveat that I'm indeed making
> an assumption here, namely that the Wikipedia definition is correct).
> Jan Velterop
> [Quoted text hidden]
> --------
Received on Sun Feb 25 2007 - 16:39:20 GMT

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