I’ll be giving a talk at the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing conference in New York City next week: Beyond Numbers: Gatekeeper Effects and Just-in-Time Publishing, on Tuesday, February 12th, at 2pm; conference details here. The talk is on the commercial potential of on-demand publishing of freely-licensed material, even as a storefront business model, and how it could mean a richer and more participatory experience for readers, authors, and booksellers.
Another way to get at it is with this question: what economic arrangements would help ensure that publishers spend their energies on publishing, instead of on today’s contradictory combination of publishing and the prevention of publishing? The latter is what happens when publishers exercise copyright to prevent others from publishing certain things (such as fan fiction and other derivative works), and it’s still considered a normal part of the business — like a hospital that somehow thinks its job is partly to cure its own patients and partly to make patients at other hospitals sicker.
The conference as a whole looks excellent. Naturally, there will be a lot of attendees who are, to say the least, not in complete agreement with QuestionCopyright.org’s mission. But this conference attracts people in the publishing and bookselling industry who are looking for new ideas, and who fully understand that the old monopolies, enforced as they were by technological constraints, are going away. I’m looking forward to talking with them, and seeing many of the other presentations there.