I’ve been thinking about the ramificaitons of open access publishing for quite some time now, especially with the work that Lawrence Lessig is doing. It’s no secret that he’s become one of my real heroes, and so his ideas are forcing me to rethink a lot of what I’ve always believed about intellectual property and publishing and how that relates to academia in general and the classroom specifically.

Here’s how I come at this issue. The capability now exists for mere mortals to publish ideas to large audiences, and it’s now easy for large numbers of people to contribute ideas to the process. And, in my mind, there are enough models to show that the collective efforts of the group can create a far more effective and useful product.

So, as someone who wants to continue publishing articles about the benefits to educators of the Read/Write Web, and as someone who has a good chunk of a book written on the subject, this all poses a serious conundrum. Should I, should we all follow Lessig’s lead and pledge not to publish without a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license? Should we, perhaps, publish our ideas not in book and article form but in blog and wiki form where others can contribute?

Alec Couros is struggling with the same issues, it appears:

Here I am at the beginning of my academic career, in a world where the old adage “publish or perish” still stands strong. Can I, in my position, possibly resound Lessig’s pledge? While my heart and mind will fight for this, what sacrifices will I have to make in the short term? Or, alternately, will I be able to build my career through the opposition of this seeming inevitability? It’s too soon to tell … one thing at a time … but what a ride it will be.

My sacrifices would not be as significant, I don’t believe. I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I’m not in a publish or perish environment. And having this space has already proven to be an increasingly effective way of airing my own ideas and spreading the meme. More importantly, I feel strongly about the idea of sharing the ideas in new and helpful ways. My inclination now is to let others write the books and instead work to facilitate and support the creation of more effective content by the community in more non-traditional forms. I won’t say it’s been easy to get my brain totally around the idea. But it feels right.

I’ll be writing more about these ideas as they develop, but I would really love what others’ take on all of this is. To me, it’s one of the really important shifts the Read/Write Web is bringing about.
(Alec also points to a long list of activities that can support open access publishing, by the way.)