Form will follow content in We Are Smarter Than Me, a book on social networks and business written by… a social network of business professors, students and professionals — on a wiki. They’re calling it a “network book”:
The central premise of We Are Smarter Than Me is that large groups of people (“We”) can, and should, take responsibility for traditional business functions that are currently performed by companies, industries and experts (“Me”).
A few books have recently been written on this topic, but they all fail to confront one central paradox. While they extol the power of communities, they were each written by only one person. We’re putting this paradox to the test by inviting hundreds of thousands of authors to contribute to this “network book” using today’s technologies.
The project is a collaboration between Wharton Business School, MIT Sloan School of Management and a company called Shared Insights. A print book will be published by Pearson in Fall ’07. The site reveals little about how the writing process will be organized, but it’s theoretically open to anyone. As of this writing, I see 983 members.
To get a sense of some of the legal strings that could enwrap future networked publishing deals, take a look at the terms of service for participating authors. You sign away most rights to your contributions, though you’re free to reproduce or rework them non-commercially under a CC license. All proceeds of the book will be given to a charity of the community’s collective choosing. And here’s an interesting new definition of the publisher: “community manager” and “provider of venues for interaction.”