Books written by Ray Sullivan

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Virtual Bookshelf

I can't speak for the US, but anyone watching the UK housing market, looking at new build houses, will realise that there is a growing trend towards increasingly compact houses, if that isn't a contradiction in terms.  Of course there are plenty of valid reasons for this:  a growing population puts increased strain on a finite amount of space; building material costs makes smaller houses theoretically cheaper (or increase in cost less quickly); and of course some builders and developers just can't help themselves from trying to extract as much money as they can out of their customers.

The paradox of all this is the increase in the size of furniture in this country; everything seems to be built larger every year.  Sofas big enough to seat a platoon of soldiers would appear to be the norm in houses designed to accommodate a couple of rabbits.  Sure, there's occasional minimalist pushes every now and then, but in general the trend is larger.  It's a conundrum that's puzzled me for some years, but in a moment of mulling over random thoughts today I reckon I've cracked it.

You see, it is simply a case of the furniture industry reacting to technological change a little bit early.  Look around your house right now and you'll probably have a couple of book cases heaving with books going back many years.  And then there's the CD cabinet, the DVD collection, the magazines stored in a rack by the oversized sofa.  That creaking noise, by the way, is the overflow media stored in the attic.

But I've discussed all of this before, so what's different?  Well I reckon the relentless march towards cloud based storage is the point.  And cloud based storage isn't something that 'other people' are involved with, you and I are using it already.  If you have any Apple devices, especially if you're using iOS 5 (and if not, why not?) then you're storing some of your stuff on the Apple Cloud.  Got a Kindle?  Love Whispersync?  You're using the Amazon Cloud.  Access your emails using webmail from your phone?  Another cloud.

And you can understand why some of these clouds are forming.  Apple want you to buy your music and books from them, the Apple Cloud makes it easier and more compelling.  Ditto Amazon.  I'm not quite sure what Google want their cloud to do, but they're so cash rich it's probably just something to spend their money on that looks and sounds techy.  And it sounds so much cooler than paying Corporation Tax, that's for sure.  Either that or it's for world domination - I'll ask B L O'Feld if he's been coaching the guys from Google next time I'm in Basildon.

Ultimately, though, I suspect that Apple, Amazon, Google and anyone else muscling in on the Cloud technology will want us to start paying for accessing our data on their Clouds.  In one way, that's not unreasonable: get this Cloud thing right and we may never need buy another bookcase, book, CD, magazine or photo album again.  Or external hard drives, burnable DVDs or flash drives (except for those files you don't want floating in cyberspace - us authors can be a tad paranoid about our random words, or stories as we like to think of them).  And without the need for bookcases, magazine racks, CD cabinets and so on, at least we can fit the oversized furniture into our shrinking houses.

Accepting the inevitablilty of paying for some of our Cloud storage, wouldn't it be a better solution if we had a personal Cloud.  The idea is that we use some of the cash saved by not buying physical storage solutions to buy virtual storage that interfaces where necessarily with the various Apple, Amazon and Google Clouds.  Unlike those Clouds, your personal Cloud would have privacy as well as security built in - currently, what Apple and Amazon don't know about you, only takes your credit card company to fill in.  MI5 and 6 would love the intel these guys have got.  It's going to take a bit of mapping out, a lot of negotiation to get the likes of Apple and Amazon to interface with but, ultimately, they'll still be selling us content.  And we'll get fuss free storage for all our books, magazines, music, photos, letters, family history, blog entries, web pages etc.  The only thing missing is some way to find any specific item from all that personal data, and for that you're going to need a tried and tested search engine.

Perhaps that's why Google are building a massive Cloud?


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