Pearson Education Undertakes Wiki-style Book
Following in the steps of the user-created world found on the Internet, a major book publisher is putting the content-creation of an upcoming project into the hands of the masses in a fashion similar to Wikipedia, a Web-based encyclopedia that online contributors help create and edit.
“We Are Smarter Than Me,” the tentative title of a book scheduled to be published this fall by Pearson Education, will rely on the contributions of a multitude of registered members on the Web to create this experimental work. The book’s content will focus on the model of collective authorship, found in blogs and social networks, which is obviously how the book itself is being created. Authors Barry Libert and Jon Spector—who originally proposed the project—will help oversee the compilation of the contributions for “We Are Smarter Than Me.”
The project, a collaboration between Pearson and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the MIT Sloan School of Management, will depend on the input of “experts” found throughout the Web. More than a million professionals and scholars associated with both schools received e-mails inviting them to participate.
Why is this new form of collaborative authorship by thousands quickly becoming a preferred form of information exchange? The project “represents some of the best thinking and best practices in communication—real communication—out there, and we wanted to be part of it,” says Pearson Education Editor Martha Cooley,
“I don’t think the traditional model of the single-authored book is one that we consider less desirable,” Cooley says. “Rather, we view this model as an alternative to the ‘single author as expert’ model, which was really the only one available for a long time. Collaborative intelligence won’t take away from the contributions by individuals: their knowledge, their experience, their skills will be included. However, with this model, where the author is not an individual, but rather a community, you get the intelligence that has been refined by conversation, debate, and generalized back and forth.”