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AJ Cann

But what's the revenue model for universities? We can have this very academic discussion during the bubble, but when the bubble bursts and all the free startups go belly-up, the whole thing will be come revenue-driven again.

Tony Hirst

It'll be interesting to see what effect print-on-demand has on the role of publishing, given that they reduce the need for large print runs, albeit at the cost of a higher unit price for individual books.

Amazon started making the whole marketing and delivery of POD books easier with there CreateSpace offshoot, for example ( http://blogs.open.ac.uk/Maths/ajh59/010549.html ).

Just by the by, small bands have always been responsible for marketing their own wares. I've got box loads of band-produced cassettes, own label (small run) 7 and 12 inch singles and EPs, and tatty old band printed T-shirts stored away somewhere...


AJ - I've tried to avoid reference to education. This is about pure content. So the question for universities is 'to what extent is education a content business?' To some the answer is 'not at all', to others 'totally', and to most of us it'll be somewhere in the middle. There are still lots of other dimensions to a university experience - the cohort, the social life experience, the support and guidance, official accreditation. But if you count lectures as 'content' then the role of content amongst these other services diminishes. This may or may not make a difference. At the least I think it will affect pedagogy.
Tony - re. bands, yes that's true but such promotion is limited by all the constraints of the physical - distribution, manufacture, storage, etc. It is very difficult to build up an Arctic Monkeys style following through these means, but online the market is bigger, cheaper and enhanced through all the various content discovery routes (forums, MySpace, Bebo, etc). In addition the cost of recording equipment has come down so they can put together their own stuff quickly and edit it on a Mac/PC. So they are much more of a finished product by the time they sign up with a label.

AJ Cann

I agree that IME, universities vary widely in how they regard the value of "content" vs. "student experience". Certainly, the OU guards its content actively, Open Learn excepted. Giving away free content might be good for bums on seats, or it might just be helping your "competitors". Either way up, it's all about revenue in the end.

Doug Clow

I reckon print-on-demand is going to be huge. It already is: look at how the 'paperless office' has become the print-out office. Paper consumption has shot up, not down, as a result of new technology. The same is already true of books, and it'll become more so.

Sure, it's an interim technology. Some putative future device that gives you the readability, reliability, portability and usability of a book will beat it once it gets down to a reasonable price point. But POD is available now and the costs are doing the usual high-tech tumble; digital paper is still at the flaky proof-of-concept prototype stage.

It's surely very low-risk futurology to imagine a POD machine in most offices, libraries and bookshops within the next five to ten years.

You do your discovery process online, and knock out a hard copy for ease of reading.

The barrier, of course, is rights management, ho-ho. Which could hold it up for a decade, but if it does, it'll mean the collapse of the book trade sooner rather than later.

AJ Cann

POD is fine for bookshops but is an incredibly resource hungry and inefficient model for libraries.


As a person who has studied and continues to study the music industry, I find it difficult to hypothesize the future of music itself in regards to content like you have. Music is an ever-changing form of expression, and I know you speak of it as a product (which it is) there are a few things I disagreed with:

You said that "Economics will be the main driving factor in the liberation of content and has focused on individuals or small groups creating content."

In relation to the record label model that is still dominant today and will probably continue to be dominant for at least the next 5 years, economics is the main driving factor behind the restriction of content. The huge record labels give people what they want to hear, or at least what they think they want to hear- even if it's horribly produced teen pop from the 90's. No matter how many different artists these labels sign, what makes the most money will get the most attention.

"Increasingly bands are establishing an online presence, allowing free downloads of their music to build a following, touring, and recording an album, and only then seeking a label."

This is only true for a handful of bands at the moment. Where do you find a band with the money to use professional recording equipment? Most artists still need the financial backing that a record label can provide. A lot of the online super-bands were signed to very small labels, and then signed to bigger names after their small successes.

Henry Willett

I see the university/college as a brand that must market itself as a place of learning, and sell its 'content' (degrees, certifications, prestige) and the values of its collective learning experience (campus, web, social, etc).

Tony Hirst

"POD is fine for bookshops but is an incredibly resource hungry and inefficient model for libraries."

In an academic library, many books are rarely, if ever, taken out; I would have thought that POD for libraries was a good thing?
It may be that the POD happens at a central location, though - like Amazon? ;-0
So Amazon is my library catalogue, and if I'm the first to want a particular book - and have agreement from my library rep - I might buy it on the library account from Amazon for Libraries, whence it is printed - if necessary -and mailed to me, and then I return the book TO THE LIBRARY when I've done with it!

I don't think the actual service ( http://www.amazon.com/Library-Services-Librarians-Books/b?ie=UTF8&node=16374521 ) works like that yet, though...


Re. POD - I'm not so convinced myself. There is such a long tail of print books now and their cost and access is attractive so they represent a convenient option. I'm waiting for digital paper (although not holding my breath while I do so).
CMP - sorry I disagree - I don't think the record labels do dictate our tastes any more. Online access (iTunes, Myspace, Limewire) and digital radio makes it music a real long tail market now. The charts are largely irrelevant to what people are listening to. You have to ask what are the economics that make record labels necessary? Previously it was the economics of publishing - ie it is difficult for an individual to manufacture, store and distribute CDs. And with record shops as the main retail outlet there was a mutually beneficial lock down between labels and retailers. But now both the manufacture and distribution channels are democratised, making the need for a record label much less obvious. Where you may be right though is in the tie-in with rights management which the record industry sees as its saviour in this. See Ray's response to my piece at http://b2fxxx.blogspot.com/2007/09/future-of-content-pt-2.html
Henry - yes, I'd agree with that, universities need to focus on what it is they can do, over and above just imparting content.

Watching Them. Watching Us


Books - Printing On Demand per se is not that attractive any more.

Cyberpunk science fiction and literary author William Gibson's new novel Spook Country was written "in a cloud of hyperlinks" with a Google search engine and a Wikipedia window open at the same time as the author's word processing software.

It has been read and reviewed using the same tools by mainstream media and academic reviewers in a similar fashion Dedicated fans have also hypertext annotated the novel before the official publication of the hardcover book.

Apparently this may signal a new model of literary criticism:

"William Gibson's "Spook Country"annotations via Node Magazine, node.tumblr.com and SpookCountry.co.uk - "the future of literary criticism", according to Professor John Sutherland"


The content discovery and online sales mechanism of eBay, was vital to getting hold of an Advanced Release Copy or Uncorrected Proof Copy of the novel before publication, and the annotation took place internationally on both sides of the Atlantic.

Print On Demand is not enough for major new novels, surely there must not only be e-book versions, but hypertext annotated e-book versions made available at the outset ?

Some people will be willing to pay for this in the same way that they pay extra for "Director's cut" or additional content on the DVD versions of cinema films.



I think that what you have said is somewhat true when it comes to smaller market artists and what I have said also works when it comes to the bands that want to be like The Beatles. I'm thinking in a much larger sense on a much larger scale where a huge record label is still the way to go for things like Mass distribution and marketing. Besides, many "indie" record labels are under a large record label's umbrella or are even distributed by these record labels distribution departments.

Also, singles may be winners when it comes to the market online, but for albums online music markets still only account for about 25-30 percent of music downloads, which means that the CD is still king despite the publicity that successful online music stores have had.

check this Billboard article out: http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/content_display/industry/e3idb123582ebc7d42b3f8bee9123801556

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