A medieval historian by training, for the last several years I have worked to support the European publishing community. I love reading, to a point where finding room for all these books is now becoming an issue! I have always been around books in libraries, book shops, in schools, in universities. I don’t think I have spent a day in my life without reading at least a few pages. Books are a fantastic way of travelling from your sofa to new countries, new lives, of discovering new habits, being a backpacker one day, a young Jewish girl hiding in the cellar the next, a Russian activist on yet another day - through reading, I can live hundreds of lives and I just love it.
And if books are my true passion, the other creative and artistic expressions are also very close to my heart. Going to art shows and exhibitions, watching ballets, movies or listening to concerts, these are fundamental to a person’s well-being and self-building, certainly to mine.
So the internet, and the fantastic opportunities and great challenges it brings, could only capture my attention. How will we access these works now that everything seems seamless? How will this access impact on new creations and the lives of creators and investors? These are fascinating years, when everything seems possible, when everything can happen.
This is all about balance.
It is a legitimate wish to access as much as possible of the culture that is out there, to hunger for culture. This is a huge opportunity for us publishers to develop new ways of accessing our books through multiple channels, to work with everyone, not forgetting our traditional allies - the booksellers and the librarians. The ecology of the book chain is a fragile one and we need to work together to find ways of preserving it as all the links are crucial. A book needs many actors, from the author to the prescriber via all the necessary steps of the publishing process, to transform itself from a manuscript (or rather a typescript?) into an object (or a file) which is desired by the readers. The internet has changed many things and today, if an author wants, he/she can decide to offer (for free or with a fee) his/her work directly to the public. Many authors still prefer to go down the more traditional publishing road, although anyone visiting a publishing house today will see that the traditional has actually become very modern. Authors have the choice. Once that choice is made it must be respected.
How we will read books tomorrow (and the day after) is difficult to predict. Probably the only prediction we can make is that the devices will be different, they have evolved so much in the last few years and they will continue to do so in the coming years.
As far as access is concerned, we need to look at solutions that nurture the ecology. For commercially available books, the solution will be different than for out-of-commerce works. I am happy that things are moving along in that field with the French decree on out-of-commerce works having been finally published today (following a law passed year - 1/03/2012), and positive movements in Germany. Other countries should also follow the same path using the Memorandum of Understanding we signed last year with libraries. Commercially available books can be accessed through booksellers/online retailers and many new initiatives such as streaming for comic books and this is only the beginning… Publishers and librarians all over Europe are experimenting with innovative licensing models, and this needs to be encouraged. The future is bright for all those with an open mind.
This is my take and this is what I can bring to the Europeana Network. I am encouraging publishers and other cultural and creative sectors to explore collaboration with Europeana. Culture is what makes Europe a very unique place, we cannot achieve anything alone, united we stand much stronger.
If you want to pursue the discussion with me, please write to me.
You can read the post on Europeana website here