Four minutes ago, Lauren was in the Netherlands on the way to the UK ( And she is using a new publishing platform called Hi. It may not be the right service in the right vein, but here is as good a place as any to talk about the creative use of the network as a publishing medium. Hi is defined with an Italo Calvino quote: “The city does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corner of the street, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.” — Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities. It enables you to think in two modes, using your smartphone and device to create and extend records of what you have just noticed. The moment sketch is a record in three parts – 20 words, a geolocation and a photo. Then add a sketch (nice beta interface for those like me who think they cannot sketch). Polish it up as an Extended moment, then place it in your Profile. Now sit back and imagine what this tessellated mosaic of sketches and moments will look like when you search on a place, reveal the moments of others, catch a glimpse of realities never before revealed. Here then is a form of travel writing, and a form of poetry, and a form of network expression, and it could be elements of networked fiction. Above all, it is individual expression in a collaborative context. Is it finished? No, it has hardly started and will never finish. But it is art. Or, if you insist, Art.

So does it take us past Twitter? No, it is completely different. This is observation of the mundane as much as the unique. And it is a symptom as much as an answer. It reminds us that the future of entertainment in the network may not be about powerful intermediaries orchestrating things for us, but new tools and platforms allowing us to express ourselves in ways previously impossible. Behind me is a shelf of 32 scrapbooks, in which, for some forty years, I have pasted pictures of houses, paintings, cathedrals and archaeological sites encountered on travels. Apart from the fact that they were attacked by mice one hard winter a few years ago, they have served me well – but how much better if I could now savour them as moments, and easily share them with others. In a recent article on “Big Data” I found the horrifying confession from Netflix that they used advanced data analytics to chart their entry into the production marketplace. Using these technologies, they claimed, allowed them to hone their decision making and allowed them to pick House of Cards as their launch production, bringing 2 million new subscribers in its wake. This is the trouble with success – it brings failure in its wake. Applying data analysis in this way will only ever show what people liked yesterday, and demonstrate that what people say that will like can be in actuality very unstrung from what they eventually discover they do like. The key to data analysis is finding out what it all means. The story of art, on the other hand, is exploring the scope of human expression.

We all know that some things go down well. Narrative works on many different levels. So do images, and location (or do I mean locale?). Many of the services that we create already have precious elements of all of these things. Look at, which raised over $50 million in second tier funding last week. For luxury goods shoppers, this is almost an art form. It lets them dream aloud, then tells them where its at and what it costs Then look at Relationship Science (, which raised $30 million last month. By interconnecting financiers and managers and ideas users build and explore future business development and funding scenarios – or did I mean to say narratives? So we know that life is art and art is life? So why, if we are so prepared to pursue life in new forms in business or shopping, are we so dubious about moving away from the formats of the Gutenberg world when we engage with the world of publishing. Only a few weeks ago I sat calm and still (disguising inner torment) while the lady who heads a major book publisher here explained to me and the audience that I was addressing that she regarded my criticism of publishers as wrong-headed; her company was a very successful example of digital publishing, since 25% of her sales now came from eBooks.

Fortunately an astute chairman directed us away from confrontation. For me, format shifting is simply moving deckchairs on the digital Titanic. And since the roles of publishers in B2B or STM have changed radically as they encounter the workflow issues of end-users, move away from intermediaries, and become investors in tools and platforms, so it will predictably be for consumer publishers. They will seek to manage the platforms of creativity, like Hi, not the outputs. There will be less of them, and so there should be. What is the point of a world where everyone is his own publisher if someone is trying to own everything?

The ineffable Shatzkin reports ( this week on an innocent story with dramatic implications. It seems from his calculations from Hachette UK releases that if eBook sales are indeed now 25% of total sales (and 30% for fiction), then over 50% of sales in all are “online” (print and eBook), and for “some genres and authors, close to two-thirds”. Given that 80% of online in any format in the UK is Amazon, the book trade have acquired an intermediary who can, at any point, tilt the table with offers to authors that no other player can match. In short, the rules of the game can now change radically, the inflection point has been reached, and the “over Niagara in a barrel” experience of the music industry is about to be repeated. So let me, amidst the angst and heartbreak, the invocations of Longman in the 1720s or Murray 1 in the 1820s, the competition law actions, the desire to retain territoriality in a global market and all the other things which will inevitably follow, issue a plea for one small concession? When we have thrown out baby, bathwater and all, can we please throw out the ancient, encrusted law of Copyright as well, and then start over?

Its not, of course, that I despise Intellectual Property. Far from it. Intellectual ownership is hugely important and should be respected at all costs. The ability of individuals to ensure that their creativity is recognized and acknowledged is of paramount importance in a society where intellectual creativity has to be honoured and represents the only we have of saving ourselves – from ourselves. Nor do I baulk for a moment at the thought that individual creators, and their licensed intermediaries, should be able to make investments in the processes by which ideas and entertainment and education are released into society, and seek a good return on those investments. In short, the activity of the book trade, and every other IP based industry, could go on as it is for ever and I would not turn a hair. True, Book publishers (I was one for 20 years) have mostly been rascals, untrained for anything but with a nose for the money. Byron had it about right when he asserted to Murray that Barabbas was the first publisher. His faith in this would have been confirmed when his publisher burnt his memoirs to protect the Byron brand. Allen Lane and Jonathan Cape were sublime marketeers and I suspect that the editors who added lustre to the trade, like Max Perkins or Dick Seaver, realised a lot less out of it in terms of capital accumulation. Today it is a business of Super Corporations, and they must come to terms with Amazon in their own and various ways. Small publishing, the work of individuals to culture and develop excellence in unlit places, will flourish as honestly in the low cost start-up environment of the web as it always has elsewhere.

I know that the leadership of the publishing industry globally fear that Copyright is being eroded at every point. Trade associations reach for the adjectives to tell governments how vital it is to protect the existing framework of law. Fair Use must be protected – or rejected – according to where you live in the world. Educational re-use is a string back of exceptions and deceptions which enable publishers, librarians and teachers to persuade themselves that they have got the best of the deal in subclause 3(e) and thereby assured the protection of life on Earth for another generation. Meanwhile, copyright breach is an unpunished, apparently victimless crime, as sinless as speeding, whose conscious abusers claim that they are “liberating knowledge” while 90% of their brethren do not even know or realise what they are doing when streaming a downloaded book. Apparently victimless, but actually the whole system must be lubricated with cash to make it work, and the victims threatened are of course users themselves.

So, why don’t we step back from “Copyright”, desert the word with all those archaic suggestions of unfairness to learners or the poor, cease to talk about “monopoly” rights and thus invite the enmity of every competition lawyer on the planet, and begin in an new place with a new approach matched by a new language. In my own years of lobbying the European Commission, as junior delegate and bag carrier to the great Charles Clark, my Leader produced the new line in argument “The answer to the Machine must lie in the Machine”. How true, but so far we have not produced an answer half worthy of the Machine. Surely, in a machine age, where every network connection of any sort is known to the network, and every one of us is known as a user (and the National Security Agency plus GCHQ know what we use) we cannot be very far away a universal licensing regime? One that existed at several levels, to accommodate one to one, one to many, many to many forms of licensing. The latter may even be a levy on broadband or a network licensing scheme. Then we could move to global licensing organizations with real clout collecting funds which really were worthwhile to those whose Outed content is so vital to the remashing of information and content and data into new service environments. Which is how the internet operates.

But inside the Internet we are still trying to operate the Book Trade as if the Internet did not exist. Something here has to give. At a guess, at this moment, it will not be Amazon.

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