Book of the Week: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption

“Collaborative Consumption occurs when people come together through virtual and real-world communities to share, barter, trade, rent, gift, lend, and swap to get the same pleasures of ownership with reduced personal burden and cost and lower environmental impact.”

* Book: What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers (Fall, HarperCollins), 2010

We mentioned this crucial book several times already, but this time, we want to give it added weight as book of the week. See the review by Venessa Miemis for added details.

Here are two excerpts send to us by co-author Rachel Botsman:

Better Than Ownership

From pp. 97-98, chapter five:

The relationship between physical products, individual ownership, and self-identity is undergoing a profound evolution. We don’t want the CD, we want the music it plays; we don’t want the disc, we want the storage it holds; we don’t want the answering machine, we want the messages it saves; we don’t want the DVD, we want the movie it carries. In other words, we don’t want the stuff but the needs or experiences it fulfills. As our possessions “dematerialize” into the intangible, our preconceptions of ownership are changing, creating a dotted line between “what’s mine,” “what’s yours,” and “what’s ours.” This shift is fueling a world where usage trumps possessions, and as Kevin Kelly, a passionate conservationist and founder of Wired magazine, puts it, where “access is better than ownership.”

There are new channels emerging—channels that don’t require you to own anything other than a computer or even just an iPhone—to share what we are doing (Twitter), what we are reading (Shelfari), what we are interested in (Digg), the groups we belong to (LinkedIn), and of course who our friends are (Facebook). As our online “brands” define “who we are” and “what we like,” actual ownership becomes less important than demonstrating use or use by association. We can now show status, group affiliation, and belonging without necessarily having to buy physical objects. Self-expression through objects will, of course, not become obsolete. We will, for instance, always treasure possessions that have high sentimental value, such as our wedding rings, relics from travels, or family heirlooms. But our relationship to satisfying what we want and signaling who we are is far more immaterial than that of any previous generation.”

2. Redefining Value

From pp. 220-221, chapter 10:

“Collaborative Consumption may be consumer and community orientated, but its benefits are shared across businesses. Thousands of new opportunities have already emerged under Collaborative Consumption with successful revenue models based on memberships (Zipcar, Bag Borrow or Steal), service fees (Airbnb, Zopa), and micropayments for usage (BIXI, BabyPlays) being established. Also, as companies start to redefine themselves as acting as the bridge between individual users and the community, we will trust them more, and as a result interact with them in different ways. This broader and deeper relationship provides an opportunity for the company to offer more ancillary services such as personalization, workshops, and community support. Etsy is an example of this model. The net result is that while we may see a downturn in the number of products consumed and the amount we shop we won’t necessarily see a decrease in the overall revenue of the company. This democratization and flowering of new companies does not necessarily come at the detriment of existing businesses. Companies such as Interface and Netflix show that it is possible to reposition from an old vertical retail model to an integrated collaborative one with huge cost savings and increases in consumer loyalty.

We believe Collaborative Consumption is part of an even bigger shift from a production-oriented measurement system that just gauges the amount we sell to a multidimensional notion of value that also takes into consideration the well-being of current and future generations. Just as individuals are beginning to rethink the dichotomy between self-interest and collective good, some governments and businesses are starting to rethink their own metrics that have prioritized certain forms of progress.”

Excerpt from What’s Mine Is Yours by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers. Copyright © 2010 by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers. Posted with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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