Education and the feature-cost dilemma

Sakai board member Josh Baron drew my attention to a recent controversy in the MySQL community. The article describes MySQL’s plans to withhold some key features and source code from the community, reserving them for paying customers. I won’t weigh in on the controversy since I don’t really know much about the MySQL community.

I’m not surprised, though. MySQL is a business (now owned by Sun Microsystems) and as a for-profit enterprise they will need to find a way to make money. The standard way to do this in the software industry is to have different editions of the software at different price points. Here are a couple of examples:

You get the idea. More features, more cost. Nothing wrong with it.

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Harvard Open Access

Harvard University faculty of Arts and Sciences voted last week to approve an open access policy for scholarly research.  By default, research articles will be published on-line and available for free. The faculty member will retain copyright and can opt out of the system.  A couple of good summaries can by found at the NY Times, Bloomberg and in a Nature Publishing Group blog (be sure to read the updates at the bottom of the blog, as the author makes some clarifications).

I think the following quote summarizes the underlying intention nicely:

“In place of a closed, privileged and costly system, it will help open up the world of learning to everyone who wants to learn,” said Robert Darnton, director of the university library. “It will be a first step toward freeing scholarship from the stranglehold of commercial publishers by making it freely available on our own university repository.”

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