For a meeting next week at the Internet Archive, I’ve been working on a brief presentation I’m calling “The Opportunity in Abundance”. It’s one of my typically egg-headed mashups of trends in publishing, trends in technology, ideas cribbed from other businesses and some oddball research.
In developing the idea, I’ve talked about it with pretty much anyone who will listen. (This may explain why people are no longer agreeing to have lunch with me.) After one of those conversations, Sarah Wendell sent me a link to a post about Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, who passed away in September at the age of 64.
Hart’s pioneering work in digitizing and sharing e-texts as much as 40 years ago provided a foundation for a lifetime of work exploring the implications of content abundance. Moreover, he saw our era as “an” information age, the fifth in a series created by technology changes and in his view stifled by the over-zealous application of copyright law.
In this regard, Hart stands alongside William Patry, whose 2009 book, Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars, was the subject of an earlier post here. If there is a lesson to be learned from Hart and Patry, it might be that efforts to re-create scarcity, whether through law or other means, are short-term solutions at best.
A brief note: Sara Wendell, who was kind enough to send me the link about Michael Hart, is currently on tour promoting her book, Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels. Just sayin’ …