I heard on the radio the other day that Swiss students went on strike to ask for more scholarships and less student loans. It sounds quite obvious that they would rather go for zero interest rate funding rather than for a loan with a strictly positive interest rate. Indeed, a scholarship is nothing but a fully subsidized loan. Hence what the Swiss students have been advocating is a zero cost funding topped by the right not to repay the principal of the loan. Well, I assume many of us would indeed love to be able to receive free money to fund the assets we want to invest in whatever these assets are.
What strikes me is that (far too) many people seem to think that we live in an "All or Nothing" society. Either you get what you want in full (zero cost funding for that matter) or you get nothing (namely a loan with an interest rate). But wait a minute, where has their creativity gone? Human brain is admirable precisely because it has always been able to fill the void between all and nothing. Let's take the example of the student loan again. It does not have to be zero rate or fixed rate. What if it were something where the loan installments would be indexed on some earnings measurement. When earnings would go down, installments would go down too precisely when you need it badly. When earnings would go north, installments would go north too precisely when you can afford it.
I know there are many contractual details to be fixed (may explain why the folks at My Rich Uncle don't offer the scheme anymore (?)). But the spirit is there: Use your brain to fill the void.
Last week-end, we went visiting antic shops and I was able to buy a vintage textbook dated 1900. The textbook is entitled "Textbook of Commercial Sciences" and has been written by Professor Merten of the University of Ghent. Very interesting book (we should have some of these wonderful vintage textbooks in Cyberlibris) where you can feel the author's passion for pedagogy.
Two things in particular have caught my eyes. The first one is related to the way the reader can authenticate whether he is reading a true copy or a faked one. Simple, each true copy has to carry the author's signature. The absence of the signature indicated that the copy is fake. It begs the question however of how you know the authors' true signature in the first place and how you can be sure it has not been counterfeited.
The second thing has to do with copyright and copyright enforcement. We all know the traditional formula. It usually says "All Rights Reserved".
Well here the text is rather different. It is a lot more personal. Indeed, the publisher says quite openly:
"All rights are reserved in accordance with the law. I am willing to sue anyone who would, in violation of my copyright, reproduce any theory or proof from this book, either from past editions or from the current one." The Publisher.
One cannot be clearer! Somehow I find it more "romantic" than the rather dry "All Rights Reserved".
What strikes me is that here again we are stuck in an "all or nothing" situation. Either the book is copyrighted (all) or the book is public domain (nothing: No Rights Reserved).
This is sad! What about having something that would say "Some Rights Reserved" I know that Lawrence Lessig and the folks at Creative Commons are fighting big time for this. The simple fact that they have to fight for it is again a strong evidence of the pervasiveness of the "All or Nothing" society. By the way the book by the way is an interesting creature as it blends in one entity the hardware and the software, the container and the content. Gutenberg was smart indeed!
But this obvious fact has odd consequences that we know quite well at Cyberlibris. Publishers often say that their business is to sell books. Not true! Their business is to sell content. This begs then the question of what is the best "container" to sell the said content. Sometimes Gutenberg is the winning option. Sometimes not. Again it is not all (Gutenberg) or nothing. Digital for that matter may win and that's how we make our living at Cyberlibris (not any kind of digital though: Digital without a clean and proper business model is doomed to failure).
The "All or Nothing" society is a real plague and the last thing we should do is surrender to it, an insult to our brain indeed. Next time you see or feel "All" or its mate "Nothing", watch and listen carefully there might be room for a new business. Your business!