Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers offer us a really beautiful book. The first interior page set the tone : they invite you to “barter, swap or pass on” the book to someone else. You can even track your book’s journey with all the following readers through a code name that you can create online. This is what the authors call Collaborative Consumption. And what they consider as an emerging global phenomenon.
Collaborative Consumption is a response to a context of change in consuming behaviours : people feel that after decades of a race for more products and possessions, they are more interested in using things than owning them, more concerned than ever by the environmental consequences of what they buy, and maybe also shifting from an individualistic (“me”) attitude towards a higher consciousness of the whole and the communities they belong to (“we”).
Botsman and Rogers discern three main forms of Collaborative Consumption : product service systems, redistribution markets and collaborative lifestyles.
- “Product service systems” are best exemplified by new ventures like AirBnB or ZipCar where private bedrooms in one case or private cars in another can be rented thanks to peer-to-peer online processes that give security to the owners.
- “Redistribution markets” are (mainly) virtual marketplaces that allow people to sell or barter products they own and that they want to get rid of : craiglist or eBay are of course the most well-known examples of this type of collaborative consumption.
- “Collaborative lifestyles” refers to sharing experiences with others, be it in offices designed for coworking (like the Hub) or through Internet-based exchange programs like CouchSurfing, where people can experiment a very different way of travelling -meeting local communities.
This book is very interesting because it shows us – like a reporter – a new world being created. Examples are abundant – and they are sometimes born less than a year ago. The trends that the authors describe seem to me very relevant and the case made in the book is more than documented. There is to me one ambiguity though. To my eyes, Botsman and Rogers do not discern enough what comes from a real comitment towards changing society for good and what is just another way of doing traditional business. I don’t think that the deep differences in motivations will lead in the long term to the same sort of Collaborative Consumption. Hybrid forms are what happens in emergent times. Future will tell what will really last.
PS / Bertrand Delanoe is not mayor of Montreal (p.77) but of Paris, as far as I know 😉