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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Monday, 22 September 2008

The European Commission to order reforms for digital expansion in publishing works

by Suzan Abrams

I absolutely love the idea!

I love it that in today's The Bookseller.com, the European Commission has proposed efforts to increase wider accessibility and free availability of digitised works and to prevent published writings from being declared as 'orphans'. These proposals come as the European Digital Library prepares for a November launch.

To fail to recuperate a work from an orphan source means that various obstacles have blocked a published work from the privilege of securing a ready audience digitally.

This happens when the copyright holder cannot be traced. In a changing publishing era, where technology advancement booms its microphone voice every other hour, this has proved to be a major problem.

At the moment, there is the ARROW project which supports broader reforms that call for cooperation between right holders and cultural institutions so as to provide a strong comprehensive digital database for orphan works especially with regards to writings from an ancient time. Denmark, Hungary and Germany are currently, hard at work broadening their own copyright objectives.

The European Commission also wants the present very high cost for rights clearance so as to digitise a piece of writing, especially when dealing with out-of-print or out-of-distribution works, tackled urgently.


I'm pleased because I love the digital era. I also relish my yellow-leafed dog-eared books. Its just that I cherish both differently... am easily able to detach myself between the two categories and to appreciate each innovation for its own sake.

I am an avid collector of books that currently press at the seams of my library shelves. In other words, they may topple at anytime. This, especially with regards to the classics, world literature, crime and all sorts.

Sometimes, when I want to choose a new read, I haven't the faintest idea where to start. The potent effect of a collector's library provides for a delightful mass of story-telling pleasures. Think me the bungling half-blinded pirate, stumped at the sudden sight of a treasure chest.

At the moment, I've scattered untidy stacks of books all over the place and from a spiritual sense, already observe it to be a safe haven, from just being able to catch an adoring glimpse as soon as I wake up.

Never for a moment, have I felt insecure that traditional print would go out of fashion. I believe the world is ready for the tight embrace of a varied contemporary change.

If all my reading of the world's publishing industry is anything to go by in these last months, it signifies, that digital technology works beautifully when combined hand-in-hand with traditional print.

A writer's simple tale is resurrected to a far more abundant and richer personality, than it could have have hoped to conceive with a singular binding of restful pages. Digitial technology is a super and highly effective technological aid. Think the added idea a cd archive, complete with the book's text, pressed onto the book jacket as an extra bonus.


For instance, my cell phone which seriously needs to be upgraded, feels like an essential limb at the moment. When I've recently been busy with deadlines and didn't have time to browse the internet, I read all my favourite world newspapers on the phone. I also used it to send numerous emails, thought nothing of calling abroad - no landlines or operators are necessary - was able to mobilize it from any region during my travels, besides being able to download any number of books I wanted.

At this very moment, my nifty little phone holds all my tight deadline schedules and reminds me of what needs to be completed by the hour. Nestled in a pocket, it follows me everywhere. Without my cellphone alone, to say nothing of a laptop and broadband, I'd be totally lost.


That's why I so absolutely love being in Europe as I'm sure it must be too, in major cities in the Americas.

You're on the forefront of change, running a tightrope on the planet's lively heartbeat that's manouvering its pace for a sharp and speedy new era. To embrace the digital age, you have to respect modernity, be challenged to applaud a vibrant change, be ready for all kinds of unknown possibilities, be full of zest or simply love your life.

In my country, Malaysia, media technology stays stout and highly influential especially with the top-notch presentation of its digital newspapers and sophisticated corporation websites.

But not so, the publishing industry, I have to admit.

Unfortunately, self-publishing methods are painfully traditional and old-fashioned. Techniques followed are perhaps what Europe herself engaged in 20 to 15 years ago. We are almost totally archaic in this area.

Many writers and writing enthusiasts are hardly open to digital change, understand only a fraction of its possibilities and would spend time protesting the change rather than welcoming the idea.

There is an almost ridiculous assumption, suspicion and fear that traditional books would be wiped out altogether. If you observe the publishing industry closely from here in Europe, you'll know the chances of such a happening to be remote.

Many writers in my country also, sadly, don't know how to make the digital era work for them and just through a swift perusal of certain blogs, have watched how the chances of unexpected sales have been easily diminished through a lack of expertise or familiarity with the digital era. - I'll talk more about this someday.

Most don't go further than a website.

Whereas the Singapore publishing industry views things differently.

On the little island, publishers and writers command an Emperor Meiji mentality. Meiji was Japan's ruler in the second half of the 19th century. The Emperor who was also a poet, sent many Japanese to the USA to learn of the latest electrical inventions, scientific applications and to observe economic affairs before returning home to educate the rest of the population, that would result in the Asian nation's major restoration.

In this vein, Singaporean writers are not afraid of looking outwards.

Indeed, it's nothing short of a courageous education. I noticed this at the Singapore Literary Festival last year. The writers hardly felt insecure about aiming their works for the European nations. Their rationale was that it would enhance their patriotism to make their writings better known and understood worldwide.

What Europe knows these days and many in Malaysia unfortunately still don't, is that there are billions of websites in the world in the year 2008 and with all kinds of intricate alleyways to get to one in the first place, a writer is lucky if a rarely updated website strikes even 10 hits every 2 days.

These days, the digital era has commanded such unrelenting universal competition, that a writer needs more than just a stagnant website in which to make published work known.

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