Economics and Usage of Digital Libraries: Byting the BulletSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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To my knowledge, Richard Stallman was the pioneer of open source software. In 1984, when he founded the GNU ("GNU is not UNIX") project to write a free operating system to replace Unix, few people believed that such an operating system would come about. Building GNU took a long time, but in the late 1990s, the open source movement basically realized Stallman's dream. My call for an open library may face similar skepticism, but the obstacles it faces are fewer and less daunting than those faced by the open source movement:
The operating system of a modern computer is far less complex than that of a metadata collection.
Computer programming is a highly profitable activity for the individual capable of doing it; therefore the opportunity cost of participating in what is essentially an unpaid activity is much higher. These costs are much lower for the academic or the academic librarian who would participate in an open library construction.
A network effect arises when the open library has reached a critical mass. At some stage the cost of providing data is much smaller than the benefit—in terms of more efficient dissemination—of contributing data. When that stage is reached, the open library can grow without external public or private subsidy.
It remains to be seen how great an inroad the open library concept will make into the library community.