Friday Fun Link – If Public Libraries Didn't Exist, Could You Start One Today? (July 13, 2007)

The author of the popular Freakonomics book looks at the question, “If public libraries didn’t exist, could you start one today?

“But
here’s the point I’m (finally) getting to: if there was no such thing
today as the public library and someone like Bill Gates proposed to
establish them in cities and towns across the U.S. (much like Andrew
Carnegie once did), what would happen?

I am guessing there would be a huge pushback from book
publishers. Given the current state of debate about intellectual
property, can you imagine modern publishers being willing to sell one
copy of a book and then have the owner let an unlimited number of
strangers borrow it? I don’t think so.”

He doesn’t bring it up but I wonder if an analogy could be made to bit torrent sites
today? One person buys a legitimate copy and then others are able to
obtain a free copy? The only difference is that instead of dozens of
uses as for popular library items, bit torrent allows thousands of
copies to be downloaded. The other big difference is that bit torrent
tends to focus on movies, music and TV shows that don’t have the
history of “free” borrowing like books in a library do. And of course,
you don’t have to “return” a digital copy.

It’s not a perfect analogy but the similarities are there.

(via Reddit)

Oh, and in a semi-related story, a PhD candidate in economics contends
that the optimal length of copyright in today’s digital age is…fourteen years. (via Boing Boing)

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