Posted by: crudbasher | June 21, 2011

Can Ideas Be Rationed?

I came across two interesting stories today.

First, this one about expiring eBooks. (H/T Creative Sardine )

A move by publisher HarperCollins, which would cap eBook loans from public libraries at 26 check-outs before requiring the library to repurchase the eBook, has school and public librarians worried about how such a policy will affect strained library budgets.

So once the eBook has been checked out 26 times, the library has to buy it again (at a reduced price apparently).

I remember when I first tried to “check out” an eBook from my local library. The whole concept just seemed a fake as a two dollar bill.  What is actually happening here? Are they sending me electrons and then they lose them from their system? If my hard drive crashes, do they have to buy another copy? It’s an absurd system. Now, I don’t blame the libraries. It’s the publishers that are doing this. I can even understand why they are trying to do this, but they have to know this isn’t going to do anything but annoy people. Why you ask? Let’s look at the second story. (H/T WSJ)

The British Library today announced its first partnership with Google, under which Google will digitize 250,000 items from the library’s vast collection of work produced between 1700-1870.

The Library, the only British institution that automatically receives a copy of every book and periodical to go on sale in the United Kingdom and Ireland, joins around 40 libraries worldwide in allowing Google to digitize part of its collection and make it freely available and searchable online, at and the British Library website,

So add these quarter of a million books to the millions of others Google has already archived. Of course there’s a catch. They are only going up to 1870. Nothing more recent than that will be scanned, but even so. That’s a vast amount of information being put online for free.

(cc) svenwerk

Many of you probably know the origin of the Internet. It originally started out as a research project sponsored by ARPA which was a US military research group. In the original design they had to create a computer network that would keep working around failures. In other words, if a Soviet nuke took out a city, the Internet traffic would route around the problem. The system was resilient so that it was very hard to stop the information flow. That’s the nature of the Internet even today.

I think information wants to be free. In the end what we are talking about are ideas and nobody can contain them for long.


In the movie Inception, the main character Cobb talks about ideas as parasites. (creepy but cool)

Cobb: What’s the most resilient parasite? An Idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules.

Look around you at the vast human civilization. Every single thing you see is the product of an idea. If you can make money by taming this force, then enjoy it while you can because eventually it will get away from you.

P.S. I shouldn’t have to draw a picture on how this relates to education right?



  1. Or ideas spread like fire, destructing wood etc to make light and heat.

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