Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, April 28, 2008

Business models for openness

Laura Dewis, Money makes the world go... open?, OpenCourseWare blog, April 23, 2008.

As we move towards the end of the OpenLearn pilot phase, thereís a lot of evaluation and reflection to do, especially on what business models might take us forward. I spent some time this month at the Economies of the Commons conference in Amsterdam. (Other people have blogged the event here so no need to post my 14 pages of notes). Since Iíve returned the Ithaka report on Sustainability and revenue models for online academic resources has been published in draft form for comment.

The conference, as the name suggests, was about how you make money from open content so you can sustain its production. Refreshingly, it wasnít just about fab shiny young startups making tons of cash for a good idea thatís cheap-ish to produce. Speakers included those managing the digitisation projects for National Archives and the scale of these projects was overwhelming. ...

Interesting questions were raised such as: Are we creating a commons for a rich community? Who is paying for the gift economy? Is free culture just a fad? If scarcity of information is now over, might it return? How do we tip the idea of openness so it becomes commonplace? Are the community the new archivists? When will copyright die?

Free is not an option for digital businesses, itís a reality. The value of what is easily copyable is low and getting lower. So we need to monetise the uncopyable ... Weíve understood this from the beginning - OpenLearn makes our educational resources freely available but doesnít replicate the experience of being a student at the University. ...

At this point in the lifecycle of OpenLearn we need to do more than experiment and start work on the new business models. OpenLearn canít be seen to be a nice standalone experiment that makes everyone at the OU feel good about working here - although it is and does - but as something that presents an ongoing challenge that needs to be worked out for the future sustainability of our entire business. Economic equilibrium takes time as we move from one cultural paradigm to another - it doesnít happen overnight ...