Friday pipedream.

It’s Cesar Chavez Day here, which means the library’s closed and I’m at home reading articles and wandering around the apartment. I just read Paul Stacey’s article “Open educational resources in a global context,” which gives a good overview of the major open online educational projects (MIT’s Open Courseware, Rice’s Connexions, etc.) and transcribes parts of a large-scale UNESCO conversation about the benefits and drawbacks of trying to share online educational tools around the world.

Then I spent a few minutes flipping through this month’s Wired magazine. It occurred to me that I have stacks of old Wireds that I don’t want to hang onto, and wouldn’t it be great if I could donate them to, say, a school media center in the East Bay? But I don’t have any of that handy information–which school to contact, who to get in touch with at a school.

Then it occurred to me that this would be a great new subscription model for magazines to offer, along the lines of a gift subscription. You could choose to subscribe to the magazine and pick from a designated list of locations to donate your read copies to. You might want to donate your current, read copies of Wired to a local school media center, or your copies of Runner’s World (hint hint) to a local running group for disadvantaged kids, or your copies of Lucky or Harper’s Bazaar or Ms. to a halfway house or women’s shelter, or your copies of Popular Mechanics or The Nation to a prison. Or whatever.

The subscription would arrive in a Netflix-style envelope, you’d read it, and when you were done with it you’d slip it back into the reusable, preaddressed sleeve, and away it would go to its next set of readers. Somewhere, a giant database would keep track of who needed a copy of this month’s Wired, and would make sure it arrived. It might not be 100% accurate–some months the school might get three copies, some months they might get none–but it would be reliable enough to keep everyone happy and keep magazines out of the landfills. And schoolkids would get to read Wired without a million extra copies being printed and subsequently pulped.

I don’t think Conde Nast is in any hurry to launch this program, so consider it a golden business opportunity, for the right person with the right organization skills, technology, and do-right attitude. The perfect gift for someone who has everything–a subscription to Mags4All, clearing out clutter, recycling, and benefiting social programs all at the same time. Voila!

And with that, I wish you all a happy weekend.

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