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Now, perhaps more than at any other time, the papers collected in Internet Publishing and Beyond: The Economics of Digital Information and Intellectual Property can provide vital insights into how electronic publishing ventures will need to do business to stay in business. The recent failure of APBNews.com, a highly-touted online content provider, merely brings that need into sharper relief.
Most of the papers in Internet Publishing and Beyond were presented as part of a Harvard Information Infrastructure Project conference in January 1997. The papers Kahin and Varian chose to include in this book cover the spectrum of issues, from analyses of the microeconomic principles that govern electronic publishing to the economic impact of copy protection, offer a sound background for academics and business people who need to make decisions about and perform research relating to Internet publishing.
The first chapter in the book, DeLong and Froomkin's "Speculative Microeconomics for Tomorrow's Economy", sets a theoretical basis for discussions in later papers. Much like University of Texas professors Choi, Stahl, and Whinston in The Economics of Electronic Commerce, DeLong and Froomkin attempt to identify the role that traditional economic concepts such as excludability, rivalry, and transparency play in digital commerce in general and Internet publishing in particular. The role of the open source software community in granting consumers greater knowledge of and control over software they acquire figures prominently in the transparency discussion and, by implication, most of the rest of the book.
Many of the remaining chapters can be easily understood by readers without formal economic training. One particularly interesting chapter is Shy's "The Economics of Copy Protection in Software and Other Media". With the federal court decision against Napster, the failure of DIVX technology, the Recording Industry of America Association's actions to prevent DVD decoding software from being distributed over the Internet, and the now-abandoned effort to build copy protection into hard disks, the author's argument that copy protection, at least as practiced in the past, was economically disadvantageous bears serious examination by publishers of all stripes.
For those readers with the math and formal training to understand them, there are chapters on software bundling models and a Michigan pilot program offering journal subscriptions on an article-by-article basis.
Curtis D. Frye (email@example.com) is the editor and chief reviewer of Technology and Society Book Reviews. He worked for four years as a defense industry analyst at The MITRE Corporation in McLean, VA, and is the author of Privacy-Enhanced Business, from Quorum Books.