Explore the differences and related issues of sharing a physical object (like a book, recorded music, or a piece of art) versus digital versions.

For educators, the power of digital sharing offers both ways to use shared materials from others and then to reciprocally return the favor.

You may not need too much convincing that sharing something digital is definitely easier in terms of what you have to do- just send a link or email a file.

In this quest we ask you to dig in a little deeper to appreciate how the considerations change for sharing with one person to many (and also to respect the work of creators) by going through a process of actual  (or imagining) sharing if something you own.

Look around your home, office, for a book, maybe a music CD or recod album, or a piece of art that you might be interested in sharing. Have a person in mind that you would want to share the item with.

To complete this quest, you can use get your own copy of Google Document Template  – When you are done, click the Share button in the upper right, and then press the option for Get Shareable Link. This will produce a URL you can use to share your response to this quest. You may also choose to publish this as a blog post on your own site, using the questions below as a guide.

Item to be Shared

Described a physical item that you would want to share- e.g. a book, recorded music, or art object. Include a photo of it How and when did you acquire it? Do you know how much it cost (or find its current cost, shared with link to source).

Who Would You Want to Share This With and Why?

Think of a person and a reason why you want to share this item (you can use a pseudonym or a fictitious person, but a real one makes this more interesting! To go extra mile, take it to your post office, or your friend’s house, and actually share it.

What would it take to share the item?

How would you get the item to this person? What would that cost it terms of transportation but also, to you to be without the item? How much (and where) would it cost to purchase a copy to send to them? Is that possible or feasible?

How would you share this item with more people?

What if it was important to share it with more than one person, such as a class of 25 students, or everybody in your organization or community? What would it take to share with 100 people?

Are there digital versions available? If so, can they be shared?

Try to find as many different digital versions of the item, include the names, and URLs for sources. Are they free to share (open licensed)? Do they have a cost?  Are they restricted for sharing (e.g. DRM)? Are there questionable copies (e.g. search on title and “free download”)? Are any of these options viable to share with the one person you listed? Is it viable for many sharing?

Are there alternatives to sharing the entire work?

Perhaps you can find a free excerpt, or review, or a demo copy that is free to share digitally. See what you can find. Does this provide enough of the information you hoped to share, or is it critical to share the entire work? Why?

Imagine the entire work was available for unlimited digital sharing…

This would likely serve your needs well, but imagine you are the person who created the work. How do they benefit? What would you be willing to do to see they are recognized / rewarded?


Having done this exercise, how would you explain the tradeoffs of physical versus digital sharing to a friend or colleague? Is there something physical that you have created that you would be willing to openly share via digital means?


Featured image: flickr photo by derekbruff https://flickr.com/photos/derekbruff/6134574629 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

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After you do this quest, please share it so it can appear with other responses below. If your response exists at a public viewable URL, you can add the information directly to this site.

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This work by Alan Levine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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