History and the Long Tail

In an interview on the most recent Digital Campus, PublicDomainReprints.org founder Yakov Shafranovich notes that one of the most popular uses of his print-on-demand service for public domain Google and Open Content Alliance books is to supply out-of-print manuals to latter day blacksmiths, pigeon breeders, and others still working in ancient, but declining, trades. Last month also saw the launch of the Obsolete Skills Wiki, an idea originally proposed by journalist Robert Scoble, which preserves such knowledge as how to dial a rotary phone or how to use the eraser ribbon on a typewriter. The Internet has been said to serve “the long tail” of consumers, the multitudes of niche buyers whose needs are not served by mass marketing, mass media, and the big box stores. Here are two examples of how it’s serving history enthusiasts out on that long tail.

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