I have a new
obsession hobby. This past weekend, I discovered BitTorrent, a cooperative distribution protocol for sharing large files. In my case, it’s a way to get concert recordings (of artist who approve of that sort of thing) without having to set up a snail mail trade with someone and hope it works out for the best. It’s fast way to distribute shows, too. I was able to download a show yesterday that was recorded the day before!
The key to scalable and robust distribution is cooperation. With BitTorrent, those who get your file tap into their upload capacity to give the file to others at the same time. Those that provide the most to others get the best treatment in return. (“Give and ye shall receive!”)
Cooperative distribution can grow almost without limit, because each new participant brings not only demand, but also supply. Instead of a vicious cycle, popularity creates a virtuous circle. And because each new participant brings new resources to the distribution, you get limitless scalability for a nearly fixed cost.
So, what’s the library world application of this kind of protocol? The obvious one that comes to my mind is distribution of electronic publications. If part of the difficulties of publishing electronically is the cost of maintaining the backfiles, then perhaps publisher should look into a BitTorrent-type distribution model where everyone who is interested in the electronic content shares the burden of distributing it on demand.
I’m not sure if this would work in libraryland, but it certainly makes it a lot easier to share concert recordings.