Monday, July 14, 2008

On demand publishing

I was thinking the other day about the possibility of extending the revolution in book distribution started by Amazon. Amazon still has vast warehouses full of books; the point of Amazon, from a consumer's point of view is the vast choice available, plus the ease and efficiency of their fulfilment. In addition, typesetting and printing technology has evolved to accomodate very short print runs relatively economically (POD). Could the endpoint of these trends be to replace physical warehouses of books with data warehouses? Connect these to flexible printing technology and you get on demand publishing; an Amazon that creates books on demand!

This not only makes economic sense, but also offers fantastic possibilities for comsumer choice; choice of cover, design, form factor, paper quality. Possibly even configurable content (bespoke cookery books with selected recipies, tailor made travel guides, etc.).

One of the possible stumbling blocks on the route to achieving this goal might be rights issues; so why not bootstrap the process with Project Gutenberg?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Justice of Simplification

I was listening to "Start the Week" the morning, in which Masha Gessen talked about genetic destiny and related ethical issues. One of the issues raised was the ethics of genetic testing for medical insurance. David Blunkett pointed out that there was a moratorium on insurance companies having access to genetic testing information. It occurred to me that there could be an argument in regulating against insurance companies using any actuarial information in setting premiums; although this my seem an extreme position, it has several advantages;
  1. it is more equitable; ill people, or people judged more likely to be ill, don't have to pay more
  2. it is simpler (and therefore presumably cheaper) because the insurance companies don't have to calculate(specific) actuarial risk, conduct health checks, etc.
  3. it is inclusive; it removes potential barriers to entry to health or life insurance. In particular, there is no disincentive for people to get tested or treated for conditions that they are worried will affect their insurability
In some respect it is similar to the arguments for flat tax - in the sense that simpler = more just

User Generated Co-op

With all the hoo-ha over google / youtube, I had a thought about a new model for UGC sites, where ownership of the service as well as the content is shared. Two of the problems with the youtube purchase were:

1) youtube is a lawsuit waiting to happen - the only reason content owners haven't sued already is that youtube has no money
2) youtube member perceive that google's interest in youtube is predicated on a revenue model around advertising, and some are not happy about this

Is it possible to have a legal entity (like a co-op) where ownership of the company is shared amoung users? This would distribute liability to the content providers, and perhaps encourage self regulation, and also allow users to decide on the cost / revenue model