At the 2010 TED conference in Sydney, Rachel Botsman, the founder of Collaborative Consumption and co-author of the book What's Mine is Yours, gave a compelling presentation on the global trend towards increased peer-to-peer sharing, which she points out has been facilitated by improved technology that now allows individuals to rent, trade, and share their things (cars, beds, DVDs, etc.) more easily with their "neighbors", whether near or far. The meteoric rise of peer-to-peer online marketplaces like zipcar, airbnb, and Getaround, who all piggyback on the movement of "collaborative consumption" in which people willingly share their stuff with others if it allows them to save money (think: zipcar) or to make some extra money by renting their excess capacity (think: airbnb), has been incredible. Surely the state of the economy, in the U.S. at least, has influenced this trend, as people look for new ways to maximize the use of their assets while minimizing their non-essential daily expenses. Nowadays, technology permits us to share or trade our things with almost anyone living nearly anywhere; the expanded pool of "neighbors"  and ability to easily reach them is behind the new growth of these secondary marketplaces.

As this trend turns from passing fad into a legitimate movement, it's hard not to wonder how it will affect our various businesses going forward. The simplest application I can see is the effect on our publishing business — will schools start leveraging new technologies to trade and share their books rather than buying new copies. In the world of cash-strapped school districts, it seems reasonable to think that districts might start looking for alternatives to spending large portions of their budget on new materials when they might not have to. Almost all companies will have to consider how the collaborative consumption movement will change how they do business as I'm sure car companies are doing now. It's interesting to think about, both as a business owner and a consumer.  — K





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