Friday, September 18, 2009

If You Can't Stand the Heat

A new cookbook based on crowdsourcing sponsored by HarperStudio could be seen as very different from the community-based model of the Unitarians who contributed to the first Joy of Cooking or the Junior League members of Charleston, West Virginia in the fifties who produced the books that still sit on my pantry shelves. As one piece points out, it could be another case of monetizing the labor of others done on the Internet, as even a laudatory blurb like this one makes clear:

These days, more and more books have accompanying Websites and smart authors even try to attract readers online before the book is even published. Sometimes they even try to enlist those potential readers into contributing to the book (for free).

By building on a structure of contests and finalists Food52 hopes to generate a cookbook that could be a profitable enterprise for the two professional writers who are managing the site.

Of course, like fairy tales, I think it can questionable to claim intellectual property over recipes that get handed down over time. My own mother-in-law was very scrupulous about citation in her own making of index cards, so we would know that some supposed heritage recipes actually came from product packaging from the turn of the last century.

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