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Re: Brantley blog post

Paul Courant is the economist (and I am not) so he could surely 
make this point better than I. But I will make it anyway.

He wrote:

  I am not convinced by Joe Esposito's notion that 'information'
  or 'attention' are comparable commodities.

But if these two abstractions are commodities, 'attention' is 
pretty much by definition 'rivalrous', whereas 'information' is 
'non-rivalrous'. So for sure 'attention' remains competitive and 
contested when information is by and large free, or might as well 
be free if it is to be searchable and useful (and nothing is lost 
by making it open -- which is what it means to say that it is 

Of course, there are still plenty of things and services for 
which publishers can charge a fee, earn a crust, build a 
reputation. Its just that in the age of the web no great value 
will be attached to providing mere access to information. There 
may be no mileage in acting like the Mafia when guns have gone 
out of fashion and what users need is a guide and a gardener.

Joe Esposito professes to see no public interest in Open Access. 
But Brantley clearly does. His posting includes a heartfelt claim 
which could be included in a web manifesto

*We must learn, in other words, to trade for our own account - 
not the account of Google, Elsevier, the AAP, or the Authors' 
Guild. We must acquire, and build, a shared universe of 
information, freely available to all, on our terms. We must stand 
together for all we profess, against all danger -- stand for what 
no other organization in this world can: the fundamental right of 
access to information, and the compulsion to preserve it for 
future generations.*

Book Search will not work like Web



On Jan 9, 2008 1:10 AM, Paul Courant <pnc@umich.edu> wrote:

> In response to Joe's statement, "attention, not information is 
> the scarce commodity," I hearken back to the old Certs 
> commercial, where the dispute over Certs as breath mint and 
> candy mint is resolved with, "stop, you're both right."  (I 
> have no doubt that Barzini used Certs and paid full price for 
> them.)
> Attention is indeed a scarce commodity.  Particular slices of 
> information are also often scarce, or priced beyond the means 
> of people who could both make good use of them and cover 
> marginal cost.  Locking everything up would not solve the 
> attention problem unless price were a perfect indicator of 
> quality.  And I must say that I find a world where high quality 
> information is only available to the rich to be an extremely 
> unattractive world, even if we knew exactly what we should 
> attend to, if only we could afford it.
> Paul Courant
> On 1/7/08 10:28 PM, "Joseph J. Esposito" <espositoj@gmail.com> wrote:
>> Some clarifications in response to Adam Hodgkin:
>> 1.  Brantley is no longer blogging for O'Reilly's Radar.  Much
>> of his attention has shifted to the Publishing Frontier blog
>> (http://pubfrontier.com).
>> 2.  You would have to ask Brantley this directly, but from my
>> extensive communications with him, I would say that his
>> concerns for libraries and the Google project in particular go
>> far beyond open access.
>> 3.  My view--not Brantley's--is that the phrase "public
>> interest in Open Access" is misleading.  The public is
>> interested in the sense that open access has captured its
>> imagination, but there is no "public interest" in the sense
>> that there are any public benefits to open access.  I know I
>> have become tiresome on this point, but I will assert it once
>> more and move on: attention, not information, is the scarce
>> commodity.  Open access adds to information and dilutes
>> attention.  One might as well sell a space heater in the
>> tropics.
>> 4.  I am skeptical about the assertion that "publishers are
>> showing a very proper concern with the benefits of an information
>> commons."  This sounds like Woodstock.  Publishers are awakening
>> to various ways open access can be used to market other products
>> and services, including subscriptions.  This does not meant that
>> OA is a publisher's preferred marketing venue, but it is the hand
>> they have been dealt and they are learning to play it.  Over
>> time, except for those publications (a small number) that are
>> fully funded for open access by various groups (e.g.,
>> philanthropies or universities), open access will evolve into one
>> facet of a broadly based marketing strategy.  A publisher's
>> "proper concern" is perhaps better summarized by Don Barzini in
>> his address to his fellow thugs in "The Godfather":  "After all,
>> we are not communists."
>> Joe Esposito