Sarah and I read a ton of books related to open business models in 2015. We’ve referenced a few of them in our writings. The picture above shows most of the books I read in 2015. They are all interesting in their own way (and I encourage you to read them all) but I thought I’d create a 2015 top 10 recommended book reading list from the collection along with a few notes on why each book is of interest. If you have recommendations for books we should read in 2016 leave a note with your suggestion.
1. The Art of Asking
by Amanda Palmer
The best open business model related book I read in 2015. Amanda Palmer’s personal account of her evolution as an artist and the methods she uses to connect with and get financial support from her fans and followers shows what is truly possible. This is a must read book for anyone trying to transition to an open business model that relies on community engagement.
2. Business Model Generation Handbook http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com/book
by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
This book establishes a common framework for understanding what makes up a business model. It provides a business model canvas with nine core building blocks and corresponding set of questions as a tool for designing and prototyping business models. In 2015 our Creative Commons open business model initiative remixed and modified this canvas into an open business model canvas and associated questions. We used this for everything from analyzing how open companies are, to designing open business models for startups, and as a hands on activity in workshops helping people create their own open business model. Try it out for yourself!
3. Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power: Capitalism, Creativity, and the Commons
by Max Haiven
Suggests capitalism encloses time, communities, resources, the environment and even our imagination creating a kind of futility and cynicism. Calls for a radical re-imagining of value and taking back collective creative cooperative action separate from the market and government. Promotes the creation of a new commons of social reproduction outside the command and control of capital, including new and rekindled forms of community care, horizontal and grassroots democratic decision-making and local production. Also calls for reclaiming public institutions (schools, hospitals, public works) from the market in the name of the public and increasingly democratizing and rendering these institutions common, so as to “avoid the enclosure of public bodies by bureaucracy and crypto-capitalist models of ‘efficiency.’”
4. Free Knowledge — Confronting the Commodification of Knowledge
Edited by Patricia W. Elliott and Daryl H. Hepting
This book is a wonderful collection of essays exploring how knowledge is generated and shared, and to what purpose. It pays particular attention to the rapid appropriation of public knowledge for private benefit around the globe and across multiple sectors and disciplines. Specific examples in education, the pharmaceutical industry, biomedical research, and even seeds are explored. Alternatives to this commodification of knowledge are described including indigenous and traditional knowledge and open access research publishing. Some pretty profound emerging ideas reframing the future are put forward including the economics of information in a post-carbon economy and the study of abundance. An a-ha book for me as referenced in earlier Medium writings.
5. The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, The Collaborative Commons, and The Eclipse of Capitalism
by Jeremy Rifkin
This book describes how the capitalist era is passing and being replaced with a new economic paradigm it calls the “collaborative commons”. It documents how the collaborative commons is changing a wide range of fields from renewable energy, to marketing, logistics, transport, education, manufacturing and health care. It explores how the two economic systems currently work in tandem and sometimes compete. However it argues that technologies impact on the economy has already created a marginal cost of zero model that wreaks havoc with the capitalist model and new forms of sharing and collaboration are further leading to its decline. A fascinating depiction of an emerging new economy.
6. Governing Knowledge Commons
Edited by: Brett Frischmann, Michael Madison, and Katherine Strandberg
This book contributes to evidence-based policy making about innovation and creative production in the knowledge commons. It draws on Elinor Ostrom’s Nobel prize winning work around natural resource based commons and adapts that work to the knowledge and information commons. It’s an important book for the way it adds a third approach to traditional views of methods for promoting innovation and creativity. The two traditional approaches are, 1. innovation systems organized around markets, supported by intellectual property rights directed to exclusivity and ownership, and 2. innovation systems organized around governments, which intervene in markets in various ways to sponsor and subsidize innovation. The third approach explored in this book is commons-based sharing of knowledge and information to produce innovation and creativity.
7. Society 3.0
by Ronald van den Hoff
Written by one of our Kickstarter backers this book describes society in transition. It documents how the web, social capital, and value networks, are creating an interdependent economy and new ways of not only doing business but functioning as a society. It shows how this transition is playing out in the environment, work, money, democracy, education, health and even the organization of businesses. Written with a particular critical eye on the state of affairs in Europe this book describes and advocates for new ways of governing and functioning as a society. It provides some good insights on social, co-creation, and transactional business concepts with specific suggestions and examples of how to set up and operate a new kind of business.
8. Think Like a Commoner
by David Bollier
This book traces the history of the commons and dispels the myth of the “tragedy of the commons”. It presents the commons as an ageless paradigm of cooperation and fairness and suggests that it is re-emerging as a practical new form of self-governance and production controlled by people themselves. A key aspect of this book is helping us all think differently and seeing the commons as a framework for social action and value production. Does a good job of exploring the logic of the market and the commons.
9. The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World
by Lewis Hyde
Not a new book but an important one for the way it explores the artist’s dilemma. At its core this book investigates the way that “every modern artist who has chosen to labor with a gift must sooner or later wonder how he or she is to survive in a society dominated by market exchange.” Examines the anthropology of gifts as a kind of property and gift exchange as a kind of commerce. Important for the way it delineates the differences between a gift and a commodity and for describing the human aspects of gift giving and sharing.
10. Information Doesn’t Want to be Free — Laws for the Internet Age
by Cory Doctorow
Quoting the promotional blurb “Can small artists still thrive in the Internet era? Can giant record labels avoid alienating their audiences? This is a book about the pitfalls and the opportunities that creative industries (and individuals) are confronting today — about how the old models have failed or found new footing, and about what might soon replace them.” As others have done it emphasizes the importance of building an audience through open sharing. It also examines past business strategies of creative industries and shows how they have been adapted to the Internet. Most provocative of all it looks at how ever increasing copyright laws mess up artists and endanger privacy, freedom and our digital lives.
A short summary of what I have learned from this collection of books goes like this:
- The commons has been increasingly enclosed and commoditized by government and market forces for decades.
- Technology and the Internet have generated a distributed and participatory means of production and can store and distribute goods at near zero cost.
- Zero marginal cost creates abundance (or the potential for abundance) which traditional market economics has no model for.
- The commons has new relevance, particularly the digital commons, and is re-emerging as an important alternate means of achieving social and economic aims.
- The commons is not just a place with content and resources but a social process, enabled by technology, that involves people participating, co-operating, sharing, and collaborating.
- The social process of commons practice is affecting all sectors of society including education, manufacturing, health, energy, work, and even money itself.
- The re-emerging commons does not mean the elimination of business or work but does mean business and work are done differently.
- Commons-based ways of working and doing business are being invented right now and must co-exist and sometimes compete with existing models.