Wednesday, March 31, 2004

questions that need answering

1. why would lawrence lessing release his book for free on the www?

2. why would lawrence lessing’s publishers release his book on the www?

3. who feeds lawrence lessing’s children?

Posted by steve at 03:06 PM


  1. Lessing, like a number of other folks, are leveraging the web to do the work of distribution for them. Reach is so critical, particularly with ideas that are at once subversive & universal. If Lessing has kidds, their stomachs are no doubt filled by the universities that he teaches at & the legal clients who pay him a coin or two. His attractiveness to both of these “sponsoring” food providers & employers is actually enhanced by the broadest distribution of his memes.

    Comment by bob c — March 31, 2004 @ 3:53 pm

  2. ah. i see. so free stuff can be offered if a corporate bank rolls you? but if you are a lone artist, and the www voraciously gobbles your stuff, when then feeds your kids?

    Comment by steve — March 31, 2004 @ 8:33 pm

  3. Like the open source software movement that’s been in place many years, we’re probably not at a point of seeing how this is going to feed a family yet. The software movement itself was, and by and large still is, fed by individuals who have a passion for the work, and don’t necessarily need to the money for survival. That movement is now at a point where the people making money are the ones who have the ability to gather and tweak that code, and make tools that interact with the major programs. So the value has shifted in that culture to best assimilators and packagers. It may take many years for an open source lit movement to bear out where the value (monitary that is) will be placed, but the thought of it excites me! The American band Wilco released their latest album for free over the net, then months later when they hooked up with a record company released a hard copy for sale. I still bought the hard copy.

    Comment by chad — March 31, 2004 @ 9:42 pm

  4. In a day or so (way behind schedule) I will have the Afterward of the book recorded (actually, there’s already a version recorded if you want to listen now). I’ll send you the link, when I have it, so you can listen. It answers all your questions — well, except for the last one, though I assume that his other books help — as well as his professorship, etc.

    Or, you can just read the book! 🙂


    Comment by timsamoff — April 1, 2004 @ 3:46 am

  5. This is the weakness in the open source movement. If you don’t charge you don’t get money. I don’t understand why opensource fanatics don’t get this.

    Comment by Chris — April 1, 2004 @ 9:18 am

  6. it seems to me wonderfully ironic if a corporate might bankroll the deconstruction of another corporate… this is not freedom … this is just a different form of hegemony … that still keeps the lone entrepenuer out of the loop.

    i am sure i am missing something.

    Comment by steve — April 1, 2004 @ 2:15 pm

  7. Yes, the open source thing is kind of perched on a cliff between contractions.

    How I see it working is that releasing a product for free shifts the economy from production to services. So: Linux may be free, but you don’t actually want Linux as such. You want a computer system. A company such as IBM or Joe down the corner garage may contract with you to build you a computer system and keep it running. That they use (and maintain) Linux as a component of this doesn’t really matter as such to you, the end user. The promise of open source in this case is that it will keep costs lower for both the service-supplier and the end-user, because it is a single standardised system.

    Of course, if at the end of the day the big companies like IBM end up giving up their monopoly over products for a monopoly on services, then the world isn’t necessarily any more free – the chains have just shifted one level up the value hierarchy.

    How this works for literature I’m not sure, since it often tends to be a one-shot product deal. Or so the myth of the Struggling Artist Writing Blockbuster In Attic goes. For open-source literature to work there would have to be a culture of contracting writers to provide writing or consulting services, rather than viewing them as transient creators of disposable reading materials.

    Or else you have things like Wikipedia, which take the other tack of being a global resource that is not owned by anyone precisely, and doesn’t require a lot of effort by any one person to improve.

    I think the payoffs with open source tend to come when the material in question can benefit from having input from multiple creators, the more the better. An encyclopedia would fit this model. If it’s the type of work that gets worse the more hands touch it – an essay, perhaps, or a novel – then perhaps open source isn’t the way to go.

    Simply allowing everyone to *read* freely isn’t open source per se. The trick is allowing people to *write*.

    Comment by Nate Cull — April 4, 2004 @ 10:03 pm

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