Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Buying, then liberating excellent educational content

Larry Sanger, A plea to liberate educational content, Citizendium Blog, March 22, 2008.  Sanger is the founder of Citizendium and co-founder of Wikipedia.  Excerpt:

This is a public appeal to philanthropists who are supporting education....

[T]he following is not an appeal for support of the Citizendium....

I cannot help but think that the world so far has been largely missing out on an enormous opportunity.  I am constantly fascinated by what global collaborations can do, and so when I receive a new book, I sometimes think: “How many people have bought a copy of this book?  If all those people had given their money to a web publisher to have the book released to the public for free in a digital form, would it be so released?  Sure; there’s nothing at all economically impossible about that.  So why hasn’t anyone done it?”  The answer, I think, is simply that a future universe of high-quality, free digital content is still in its mere infancy.  No one has yet been bold enough to seriously test out the new model I’m suggesting.  But if, through some sort of collective efforts, we were to liberate that excellent content I’ve paid for, then many more people could benefit from it.  This is deeply important, I think, because books and other media can change lives and indeed the whole world.  Wouldn’t the world be far better off with some of the very best educational content free to everyone?  That seems very obvious.

Well — why not pay for it then?  What’s stopping you? ...

So my suggestion is very simple: liberate truly excellent educational content.

In other words, buy or commission truly excellent content, which would otherwise be sold at the usual market rate to parents or school districts, and then simply post it online for free....

Comment.  The government of Indonesia has half the right idea.  It's buying the copyrights to selected textbooks and reprinting the books for sale at deep discounts.  Stian Håklev argues that the government should make the books OA under CC licenses.  (Blogged here on February 8, 2008.)  Sanger has the full idea.

For related projects, see my past posts on intellectual property conservancies.

Update.  Larry Sanger has now turned his argument into an online petition.  Please sign and spread the word.

Update.  Since I just mentioned the similar program in Indonesia, I should report an update from Stian Håklev based on three recent news stories in the Indonesian press.