We’ve all heard of Wikipedia, the freely editable online encyclopedia, but have you heard of its sister site WikiBooks?
Wikibooks is a collection of open content textbooks, manuals, and other texts, with supporting book-based texts that are being collaboratively written. This site is a wiki, meaning that anyone, including you, can edit any book module right now by clicking on the edit this page link that appears in every Wikibooks module. Set up in July, 2003, volunteers have written around 12,294 book modules in a multitude of books.
I fully admit I am no expert in IP, but with the Sony DRM backlash, and John Dvorak saying things like “Content theft is here to stay and the big media companies are going to have to get used to it“, I can certainly ask the question – What’s going on?
I love the collaborative nature of the web, but recognize that all things must be kept in balance. Free textbooks are great for Researchers and Instructors, but not so hot for Authors & Publishers. I do think that original and innovative Authors will always be able to create and market their materials, but the marketability of some ‘retread-publications’ could come into question.
On a larger scale, I’m wondering – Are we seeing some type of ‘information divide’, where truly valuable information will still cost money, but the public realm will become a free-for-all? Or, are we seeing a cultural shift where society is pulling as much content as possible into the public realm, and doesn’t want to value information as it traditionally has?
I don’t have any answers here, but will be watching with keen interest.