Author: Simon Worthington

Street MBA, technologist, art freaker, dreampunk, organiser, media activist, publisher and book nut. Co-founder of Mute Magazine Skilled as an artist at Falmouth Art School, The Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, London and at CalArts, Valencia, California.
Extreme Librarianship at its limits

Extreme Librarianship at its limits

Public Library – HAIP Festival 2012! Kiberpipa/Lublijana 28.-30.11.2012

Come join us at the festival, come hackathon, come coordination meeting to explore cyber-librarianship exploring art as infrastructure and autonomous infrastructures.

The Hybrid Publishing Consortium, the open source software infrastructure part of the the Hybrid Publishing Lab will be presenting an outline of its newly hatched plans.

We’ll keep you posted on MIKRO our micro-blog corner of the free and open web.

In the catalog of History the Public Library is listed in the category of phenomena that we humans are most proud of. Along with the free public education, public health care, scientific method, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Wikipedia, Free Software…

It’s one of those almost invisible infrastructures that we start to notice only once they go extinct. A place where all people can get access to all knowledge that can be collected seemed for a long time a dream beyond reach — dependent on the limited resources of rich patrons or unstable budgets of (welfare) states.

Internet, however, as in many other instances, has overturned what we take as given and as possible. The dream of all people getting access to all knowledge suddenly came within our reach. It seemed just an issue of interpreting when the trajectory curves of global personal computer distribution and internet access penetration would finally make universal access to knowledge a reality. However, the actual trajectory of development of public libraries in the age of internet are pointing in the opposite direction – that the phenomena we people are most proud of are being undercut and can easily go extinct.

Public libraries now cannot receive, and sometimes not even buy, the books of some of the largest publishers. The books that they already hold they must destroy after lending them 26 (?!?) times. And they are loosing the battle to the market dominated by new players such as Amazon, Google and Apple.

In the catalog of History the emancipatory revolutions are listed in the category of phenomena that we humans are most proud of. They empower the oppressed and give them the means to reach their dreams. That the dream of Public Library in the age of internet, the dream of universal access to all human knowledge, should now be relinquished, that cannot be let happen. And artists and hackers, as in many other instances, are taking upon themselves to make dreams a reality.

Melvil Dewey would be happy. “Free schools & free libraries for every soul” shall never wither away.

RobinHood_OA_OERIn looking at how books can be remixed, cut-up, recompiled, augmented I decided to enquire into a specific area of educational publishing the standardised textbook. Specifically I wanted to see what European examples of Open Educational Resources (OER) services were available in this area.

So far I’m still on the lookout, in the universities and HE sectors there are a good number of services but as yet I haven’t found any European commercial OA providers. One example educational research body which covers textbooks is the  Joint Information Research Council (JISC) in the UK, which has been supporting ground breaking OER research across at least fifty institutions. You can see the results of this three year programme which is just coming to an end this October (2012) on their Evaluation Toolkit site.

When you look over to the US you see a completely different picture with commercial providers adopting OA open business models and state legislatures passing bills to make Community College (pre-degree two year study HE colleges) textbooks as free or low costs CC textbooks.

The shift over to OA on textbooks is so complete that a US educational standards body (State Instructional Materials Review Association SIMRA) has renamed its oversight committee from the ‘textbooks’ to ‘instructional materials’ group as an indication of the digital switch over.

In California, State Governor, Jerry Brown, recently signed a bill (27 Sept) to support free and low cost textbooks licensed under Creative Commons.

In the private sector Flat World Knowledge have developed a business around OA textbooks (oops instructional materials) for the Community College sector, with free to use books online and minimal charges for purchases and college licenses. Books are on average 80% lower in price than high profit margin commercial publishers.

What is clear is that the scarcity economic model practiced by publishers is over and that in a European context we’ll be seeing a further wave of universities, educational bodies and private companies offering OA instructional materials textbooks.

News source on the US textbook changes
SIIA – The Software & Information Industry Association is the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry.

Other links
PIRG 2010 report found open textbooks reduced prices by 80%. PIRG (Public Interest Research Groups).