Monthly Archive for August, 2007

Making a living authoring public domain works

There are a couple models for paying authors of public domain educational works that I think would work reasonably well. (For reasons why educational works should be released into the public domain, see A case for public domain educational material). The first is the street performer protocol, which I discussed in a previous post. The other, which is more tailored to the specific problem of how authors of public domain educational works are paid will be described here. I call this model the Educator Donation Model.

Virtually all educational institutions use hard copies of educational works in their classrooms. This is likely to remain the case for some time because of people’s preference for reading educational material from a book rather than on a screen. As a result, educational institutions will continue to purchase printed educational works from publishers even if all the educational works they use are in the public domain since it is still relatively expensive to print a class set of textbooks oneself.
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A case for public domain educational material

I recently spent a weekend in Ottawa, which involved a 6-hour bus ride each way. Naturally I took along my laptop and several textbooks to study from during the bus ride. While lugging the 20-30 pounds of textbooks and electronics from the bus stop to where I was staying, it occurred to me that it makes no sense for me to carry around textbooks and a laptop when the textbooks could be electronically stored on my laptop with no additional weight cost aside from the initial weight cost of my laptop. Why can’t I do this? It’s simple: most textbook publishers do not provide electronic versions of the textbooks they publish because doing so would make it too easy to illegitimately copy a textbook, which means the author would not benefit monetarily from that copy.
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