The Open Flip

At the start of the digital, networked revolution there were lots of books about new business models. Most were, let’s face it, rubbish. But there were some salient points that came out amidst all the hyperbole. I think Weinberger’s concept of filtering on the way out instead of filtering on the way in, is a good example.

Anyway, now that internet models have settled a bit I’ve been thinking that the next phase might be around what openness offers. I circulate in different overlapping communities: OERs, open access journals, MOOCs, open textbooks. I’ve noticed a common theme emerging which you could label the “open flip”. Briefly stated, it is that money shifts from purchasing copyrighted resources to production of open ones.

Cable Green, speaking of open textbooks, says we have lots of money in education, we’re just really bad at spending it. His claim is that the cost savings for schools buying books is considerable, once you make this shift. Similarly, for open access journals, there is a good argument to stop buying journals, but instead start producing them ourselves. Or we stop buying elearning content and produce OERs.

There are other areas where this might be applicable too, beyond education. For instance, currently we spend billions on purchasing drugs from large pharmaceutical. An open flip would see that money spent on producing drugs that are then openly licensed so production is cheap. I don’t know enough about big pharma to know if the economics would work out in this instance, but the point is it is an approach that could be considered now.

The digital, networked infrastructure is the substratum that allows this to happen, but it is open licensing that adds the final ingredient. I think we will see variations of the open flip across many disciplines as the intersection of these three elements opens up new approaches. Often we have become so accustomed to existing models that they seem like the only way to realize the desired goal, but we have an opportunity to reconsider where money is allocated in the chain now, and there may be more effective ways of spending it.

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