If 'working to enable people to learn, share and expand their skills, knowledge and understanding, mainly through the use of technology' is a thing, then that's what I do.
In my own time I've built e-book management services, maintained a list of DRM-free bookshops since 2013, and run an e-bookshop.
How I got to this point
Over the last few years I've discovered that I'm someone who must practice what they preach.
I worked in the charity sector for 20 years. Firstly, because it was a job. Later, because I wasn't spending my time lining someone else's pockets, and hopefully helping society in some way.
My decision to live by my principles particularly affects my behaviour as a consumer. For example, it's no good deciding I don't like how Amazon are exploiting their employees or avoiding taxes, if I still buy from their shops and use their services. So, I boycott them.
Protesting against DRM and still buying locked-down products is an asshole move. So, I don't.
Tweeting about HSBC's illegal practices while still holding an account with them is just hypocritical. So, I closed my account.
Of course, I'm in a privileged position of being reasonably well off, white, male and living in the UK. It's easier for me to make these decisions when I don't have to worry about simply surviving day-to-day. That's where education, consumer rights and technology come in - and that's where I see myself concentrating my efforts.
Access to Technology
We are living through a period of transition, where people are being forced to use the web to access essential services and those who cannot, or choose not to, are left behind.
The UK Government's Digital by Default project created a two-tier society. People with access to technology and the education and means to use it have a clear advantage over those who do not. Many may struggle with access or with usage due to financial, disability, or other social, physical and mental inhibitors.
Growing up, I owned a computer that allowed me to programme as well as play games, now the computer games market is dominated by consoles that only require the press of a button to play. The interfaces between human and computer are now mediated by companies, technologies and practices that do not allow experimentation, trial & error, or simple play.
While computers have become more powerful, they have also become more limited in their uses. They are now predominantly media and app players for the companies that sell them - a sophisticated evolution of the printer & cartridge model monetised so successfully by printer manufacturers; the printer being the loss leader for the cartridge consumable market that derives the true profit.
The range of devices, knowledge & skills, and the ability to tinker are all reduced in a capitalist dream of device-consumer tie-in where the owner doesn't own a thing.
I first worked in e-learning in 1999.
Our audience didn't have regular and consistent access to the web, so our media of choice was the CD-ROM. It contained HTML content with VR examples and situations to enhance the learning and context. Over a decade later, with almost ubiquitous internet access for the intended audience, I continue to deliver content via HTML; an open and universal language that can be accessed on almost every web-capable device without additional plug-ins or third-party software.
I could have chosen to create native apps. But apps need to be tweaked for each and every device, they eventually become inaccessible as devices become obsolete. The skills to create them are expensive, and access to them can be limited by gatekeepers and middle-men: the app stores.
Delivering learning content should always be based on the lowest common denominator of platform availability. The web browser is an universal platform that can deliver that availability. Content based on open, common and free mark-up always wins over plug-ins, closed and proprietary formats that limit creation and consumption.
My passion, it would seem, is accessibility. Accessibility in the universal, holistic sense. Easy ways to create content and access to it for all, while ensuring that creators make a good living.
That's why what I do is all about access to, use of, and income from knowledge.
E-books: finding them, buying them, reading them, and storing them safely are all parts of my businesses. These businesses are branches of the same tree - stories.
- Discovering e-books, digital comics & magazines with The Epubizer
- Buying Special Edition e-books at Scarlet Ferret
- Storing e-books, digital comics & magazines with Libreture