Some time ago I had the opportunity to go fly fishing for the first time, in the Provo, near Salt Lake City in Utah. It was an exhilarating experience, just what I needed at that particular time in my life. I hope to repeat the experience soon.
Beginner’s luck meant that I caught quite a few fish that day. Something far more important happened to me that day, though. I learnt about the joy of catch-and-release firsthand. There was something immensely satisfying about the process of making sure you took the hook out carefully, then let the fish go and watched it disappear at speed. There was a real sense of stewardship when you did it. In fact the whole experience was about stewardship. You had to be licensed before you fished, which meant there was some modicum of accountability and responsibility for the environment even before you began. It made sense that the money collected for the licence would go towards the upkeep of the environment. When you entered the water, you could see just how pure and clear it was, an eye-opening experience for someone like me, brought up with the Hooghly as the river of reference.
More recently, I was checking out how BookCrossing was doing. 735,000 members in 130 countries. Not bad. If you don’t know what BookCrossing is, here’s what they say on the site:
BookCrossing is earth-friendly, and gives you a way to share your books, clear your shelves, and conserve precious resources at the same time. Through our own unique method of recycling reads, BookCrossers give life to books. A book registered on BookCrossing is ready for adventure.
Leave it on a park bench, a coffee shop, at a hotel on vacation. Share it with a friend or tuck it onto a bookshelf at the gym — anywhere it might find a new reader! What happens next is up to fate, and we never know where our books might travel. Track the book’s journey around the world as it is passed on from person to person.
Join hundreds of thousands of active BookCrossers daily in our many forums to discuss your favorite authors, characters and books in every genre throughout history right up through current releases.
And that made me think. I can only listen to only one thing at a time; I can only read one thing at a time; I can only watch one thing at a time; I can only mash up a small number of things at the same time.
Maybe I could buy the right to hold m songs and n books and p films “in the cloud” concurrently at any given time, as a bundle. Maybe, separately, I could buy the right to fiddle around with q digital objects at any given time, on an “if you change it you must pay for it” basis.
Maybe I can check these digital objects in and out as I please, constrained only by the total I can have, which in turn is related to the bundle I signed up for.
I’m still free to buy the physical disks as normal, this is just about cloud libraries. Maybe there’s room for a small number of players to be the safety deposit vaults for these digital objects, to collect the rents for their usage and to disburse it amongst the long tail of creators, much like a library would do. Maybe the Cloud gives us opportunities to do something about new business models for digital “content” by connecting price to capacity and metering usage simply as a result. [Yes I still believe there is a long tail, despite everything I have read. People are not measuring unfulfilled intentions properly, so the exercise often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for those that do not want the long tail to be true].
All this is amorphous, poorly formed, still inchoate. There’s just something about the catch-and-release model I like, something which I feel is applicable to digital objects. Something that resonates with the “extreme nonrival good” nature of information, particularly digital information.
So why am I sharing it here and now? Precisely because it is amorphous and poorly formed and inchoate. So that people like you can comment on it, criticise it, negate it, improve on it, make it your own, do something with it. Ideas are free. So steal this book.
As I said, musing lazily.