Back now from the Helsinki Book Fair, an event that is sure to put a smile on the face of any author who’s been told that book is dead. Unlike London’s annual book fair, which is more about business and marketing junkets, Helsinki’s is wide-open to the public, and all the books are actually on sale. I may have accidentally spent a hundred pounds on obscure Finnish historical works, as well as several CDs from the Valamo Monastery.
I had been summoned to Helsinki by the Finnish publishers of my Mannerheim book. They wanted me to ride shotgun on Don Tapscott, a Canadian statistician and management professor whose Grown-Up Digital they were releasing that week in Finnish. Tapscott, who has a company that advises heads of state on futurist issues, had jetted in from Italy, where he’d been hobnobbing with Al Gore, and was giving the keynote address that afternoon to the VIA Forum, which comprised the serried ranks of Finnish CEOs, company directors and entrepreneurs.
I’d been seconded to the press conference, because Finns can be very shy when faced with a celebrity, and need someone to show them that it’s okay to ask questions and argue. Although, my publishers needn’t have worried. Tapscott strode into the room, sat on the desk and then talked for a solid hour with barely any prompting. He carries all his figures in his head, and is a persuasive, inspirational speaker on generational matters.
Tapscott has no time for airy theorising or impressionistic opinions. He has the data instead: data that says kids today genuinely do have different brains, genuinely are smarter and more pro-active than previous generations. He is eternally hopeful about the prospects for what he calls the Net Generation, even concerning such issues as piracy.
Tapscott is horrified that, he says, the third most lucrative business for the music industry is currently suing music lovers. He thinks that music should stop being about consumer goods and start being a service. He wants to see all the music in the world available for immediate streaming from a central server, to which the subscriber pays a mere two or three dollars a month. “Why,” he says, “would you want to ‘own’ it when you can have it all?”
It would be a logistical nightmare in terms of access and micropayment management, but then again, the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society already manages something similar for British books in foreign libraries. It’s merely a matter of scale. So there’s a thought…