another OCLC word

Since I’ve been getting a bunch of traffic to read about my rants about OCLC, I figured it was worth posting a pointer (which I hardly ever do) to Steffano Mazzocchi’s comments, where he sums up basically what I’m talking about in a very nice way.

http://www.betaversion.org/~stefano/linotype/news/220/

OCLC can do exactly one of two things now:

  1. open up itself so that it becomes the de-facto centroid of an otherwise opened and more diverse ecosystem, where people are excited to contribute to them and not forced to.
  2. try to use all the power they have to stop others from competing with them and displace them.

The first one seems like the most risky one, but it’s really the second.

The first strategy will have OCLC first and foremost rethink their pricing strategies (librarians have to pay to contribute? really!?) and reconsider their place in a world where the center is a place you earn day-by-day and you don’t just inherit, with no additional merit, from the day before. But at least it earns you a survival chance that is much higher than zero, if only because your momentum is great and centroids in open markets tend to align with their previous centers, at least for a while, even when de-regulated.

The second strategy is really just buying some time: there is very little that OCLC owns (data wise) that cannot easily be replicated by the library world given enough incentives and coordination. Their new policy just tries to make it harder, by giving librarians enough rights to the data not to bother them and by hoping to stop the bleeding of their data into other competitive systems.

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