November 25, 2005
Wikipedia, The Long Tail and The Innovators Dilemma

A week ago I commented (in Danish) on the approval, in fact encouragement, Google Print was getting from a small danish publisher. For her there was no question her company was getting increased interest in the books they put out from the added exposure.
My take on that was that this rather obvious squeeze from the long tail of publishing would eventually lead to a ceasefire in the war against google print from big publishers also. The force of being available online will quite simply outcompete the quality of popular books. Easy digital availability and searchability may turn out to be a more important quality than whatever quality it is that makes popular books popular tree carcasses.
This is classic Innovator's Dilemma material: The big publishers are failing to realize the disruption of online. The small publishers are unencumbered by having bestsellers to protect and can adapt to the reality of online without any worries.
If the RIAA ever has any success with the anti-piracy campaigns it will be faced with the same problem, and - as we all know - piracy is good for Microsoft for the exact same reason. In a world without piracy Microsoft's market share would be much, much less than it is now.

It just struck me that Wikipedia should be seen in this light also instead of the tedious "but it's not The Encyclopedia Britannica" stories that people keep writing. It isn't (not always, anyway). It doesn't have to be. The success of Wikipedia is in fact not the success of the wisdom of crowds at all. It's the success of good enough. It's an encyclopedia disruption. For many uses shoddy Wikipedia articles are easily good enough. It doesn't matter that there's no signed author, no scholarly review, no locking of a final 'approved' text. In fact these safeguards would cost money and hurt Wikipedia's ability to access the economics of free, which will eventually blast the other models for that kind of knowledge out of the water.

Posted by Claus at November 25, 2005 01:18 AM | TrackBack (0)
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