books on the radio

Books on the Radio TV Talks to Hugh McGuire

There’s a whole bunch of transformation happening at Books on the Radio these days.

My exploration of Skype video and Final Cut video editing software is progressing apace as you can see from this clip taken from a conversation that Hugh McGuire – Bookoven, Bite-Sized Edits, Librivox, BookCamp Toronto – and I had recently.

Also, I’m finally being joined by the Books on the Radio Street Team, a loosely organized group of passionate book lovers who will be helping to launch BOTR into its next iteration.

The website will be re-launched in the next few months and will be better able to showcase the many different types of media and storytelling platforms that we intend to use.


Sociable! with Advent Book Blog & Open Book Toronto

Advent Book Blog & Open Book Toronto Present: Sociable!

The Advent Book Blog and Open Book Toronto Want You to Get Sociable! 

Get offline. Come be social. Then tell everyone on Twitter and Facebook where you are and how much fun you’re having! Twitter hashtag: #soc10

Sean Cranbury and Julie Wilson of The Advent Book Blog and Open Book Toronto cordially invite you to an event for social media geeks, publishing professionals, and anyone with a passion for books and readers.

Thursday, March 25, 2010
7:00 PM
The Pour House Irish Pub
182 Dupont Ave.
Toronto, ON

Leading up to the event, Julie Wilson of Book Madam & Associates will unveil the identity of the six inaugural Associates, many of whom will be at the event. Find them and say hello!

And be sure to get a piece of Sean Cranbury of Books on the Radio while he’s in town from Vancouver. He’s the big guy with the big voice and an bigger heart. Don’t miss him!

Many thanks to Amy Logan Holmes and Open Book Toronto for their generous support and donation of light nibblies. Nom!

Bring your insatiable thirst and enthusiasm! SOCIABLE!

BookCamp Toronto 2010 Has Been Announced!
March 5, 2010, 12:15 AM
Filed under: BookCamp Toronto | Tags: , ,

#BCTO10 is tentatively scheduled for May 15, 2010.

First, some context…

2009 was a year of immense uncertainty in the book publishing industry as the digital revolution penetrated every level of the business from the readers all the way back to the writers.

In Canada, the change was massive and it seemed that every day there was a news story about another traditional publishing institution taking a hit as the ceaseless development of new technologies – and consumer expectations – redefined the landscape.

The doddering behemoth of a BookExpo Canada – the annual industry conference – finally crashed to the ground in the spring of 2009 when several of the major publishing houses decided that their money and attention were better spent elsewhere. The rest of the industry responded to the news with a collective shrug.

The publishing landscape was fast becoming a bleak, windless terrain and it was getting dark.  The threat of the digital revolution had finally and irrevocably invaded the territory.  New rules were being written, the natives were getting restless as old answers proved to be increasingly wanting in the face of urgent new questions.

I tracked these developments from my remote watchtower out here in the Western Hinterlands.

“Things are falling apart,” I’d think to myself, “This shit is getting pretty bleak.”

And then…

A flare appeared on the horizon and then another and another.

New voices started speaking, new ideas about the future of books, reading, publishing and storytelling started appearing online.  Passionate discussions ensued, new ideas slipped past the traditional gatekeepers with increasing frequency and the next thing that you know I’m on a plane from the Hinterlands to the City of Smoke for BookCamp Toronto 2009.

Suddenly, it wasn’t all about hand-wringing, futile protestations and lamentations for the days of the rotary dial phone.

Suddenly, it was about leadership.  New leadership, fresh ideas and positive change.

It was like a percussive blow that opened up huge new avenues for conversation and community in the Canadian and international publishing scene.  It began the momentum that carried forward to BookCamp Vancouver and many other cool, independently organized projects around the country.

So, it gives me great pleasure to know that the organizers are putting it back up on the rail in 2010.

Hope to see you there!

Here’s the details:

  • Book Camp Toronto 2010 is tentatively scheduled for Saturday May 15, 2010 at the iSchool@Toronto.
  • Register to attend starting April 2, 2010 at (specific url coming in March)
  • Sign-up as a session facilitator at between April 2, 2010 and April 16, 2010 or contact via email (see address above) to submit your smashing session proposal.
  • Follow for updates

What is BookCamp, what is an unconference?

  • BookCamp is a free event. It is an unconference. That means all attendees are participants at the event. All points of view, backgrounds, and levels of experience are welcome. That also means all participants are responsible for themselves. While there is a certain amount of mob rule at a BookCamp, attendees are encouraged to vote with their feet, clean up after themselves, and speak-up when they encounter something they don’t like — in other words attendees are generally encouraged to act like adults.


Content vs Advertising: Lisa Charters @ Random House Canada

The mercurial Alexa Clark interviews Lisa Charters, SVP Digital @ Random House Canada, about respecting a customer’s “time and energy” and the usefulness of ‘book trailers’.

I have always been suspicious of book trailers.  I understand the concept: brief videos consumed online advertising a new book. Slick tantalizing digital productions for the printed word.  I can imagine what a revolutionary idea this must have seemed to be when it was hatched in some reflective tower on Madison Avenue.  But the book is the intersection of the reader’s imagination and the writer’s vision and the publisher’s marketing department needs to stand out of the way.  Trailers, with their representations of location, mood, even the visual depiction of a character can ruin that experience for the reader.

In the brief interview above, Lisa Charters speaks about giving the consumer and their media partners ‘content’ rather than advertising.   Content comes in the form of useful or interesting information like an author interview while advertising is something – like a trailer – designed to sell the book.  Charters notes that content has an increased chance of being seen online because it offers opinions or insights that are valuable while advertising is expensive to produce and highly ignorable by definition.

I met Lisa during BookCamp Toronto 2009.  She attended my early session on Digital Rights Management and also lead the session “The Quagmire of International Copyright in the Digital Age.”  She was totally engaged in every session that she attended that day and I learned a lot from her just by listening.  Thanks to Alexa and Lisa for making the above interview happen.

BookCamp Toronto 2009: Decompressed, Rejiggled, Steps Moving Forward
June 25, 2009, 6:22 AM
Filed under: BookCamp Toronto

BCTOBookCamp Toronto took place a couple of weeks ago and there’s a tonne of really great breakdowns, recaps and analysis already written about the event.  I don’t want to trip on anybody’s coattails here, but, well why not?… before I get into my own thoughts on the matter let’s get down to some old school linkage theft!  That’s theft, not piracy.  Maybe it’s just borrowing or perhaps it’s just redirection.  Either way, just take the links below and do with them what you will!

Mark Bertils, one of the organizers of BCTO09, has compiled many of the relevant links on his blog here.  I spoke with Mark during the BookNet Canada sponsored lunch break as we sat on the grass in the sun and I could tell that the creative wheels were already spinning in anticipation of next year.  Great guy and I think that you’ll see a leaner, meaner and more focused BookCamp Toronto next year.  Looking forward to it.

1)  Some preferred links from BCTO09:

Malle Vallik on Listening to your Customers, Datachondria with a visionary take on the networked book (this is crucial reading), Kevin McFaul attended my Death to DRM session among others and has an interesting take, at least one of the ‘national’ newspapers attended the event, James Caldwell has an excellent rundown of some of the more technical sessions including some amazing pics, BookNet Canada blog is pretty much essential reading any day of the week, the masterful John Maxwell breaks it down, Bronwyn Kienapple takes on Mitch Joel in a steel cage match, Mark Blevis was an enthusiastic participant and session leader, the Torontoist had a nice article, too, but no list like this is complete without the thoughts of Monique Trottier from her Break the Spine blog.

2) My thoughts:

Universal Success: Any comments that I make about BCTO09 are completely contingent on giving massive props to Hugh McGuire, Mark Bertils, Mitch Joel, Alexa Clark, Erin Balser and everyone else who helped to organize this event.  They did an amazing job and I think that we all have to tip our hats to the trailblazers.  Not to be forgotten are the session leaders and all the participants who spoke up and engaged the topics and people in the room.  Well done.  Exciting because the day was a success and BCTO10 should be that much better.

Organizing the Unconference: I’m not a backend technical guy.  Not by a long shot.  I love the wiki formula and I love that much of the future of the book is dependent on developing technologies and weird digital stuff that I only vaguely understand.  It’s humbling to know that I have only a fraction’s fraction of an idea about what’s going to happen in the future of the book.

That’s good: uncertainty will be my guiding light.

However, I would say that the BCTO09 website needed some front-end designer-style love.  If it hadn’t been for the kind guidance of Julie Wilson I wouldn’t have had any idea what the hell was happening on the website, how to sign-up and/or navigate my way around.  I think that I understand why the organizers chose to go with the pbworks/wiki thing but I think that it acts as a kind of barricade to the uninitiated – and in an unconference where one of the dominant themes was ‘making new connections’ it seems like there’s an opportunity to increase clarity next time around.

It was an excellent mix of people from the book trade, outsiders, technologists and the occasional revolutionary walking around with an armful of old James Taylor records (that’s the only time anyone will ever use the words James Taylor and revolutionary in the same sentence.).  An unconference like this runs the risk of having too many well-helled publishing types who are trained to avoid risk, experimental ideas or the future at any cost – *cough* there’s a joke in there somewhere *cough* – and it is perhaps the greatest success for BCTO09 that there was a healthy cross-section of people from many different points of view sharing thoughts publicly.

Managing Expectations: The last thing that anyone wants is for BCTO to become a publishing industry shindig.  It’s important for the focus of the event to be on new ideas and the technologies that are available to change and enhance what the book can become in the future.  BCTO represents an opportunity to explore the landscapes of future contact between writers, artists, designers and readers and we need to keep that in mind for next editions of BCTO and its ilk.  Like it or not many of the new developments are going to come from areas outside the traditional publishing industry.  The industry will either adapt these new ideas over time or it won’t.  It cannot be anyone’s concern whether they do or do not.  The purpose of every session at BookCamp is to explore.

I think that it’s important to emphasize participation among all attendees.  It would be useful for all session leaders to engage everyone in the room – not easy, I know – and for everyone in the room to feel free to lend their ideas and thoughts to the discussion.  It’s natural for some people in the room to steer the conversation and to contribute more because of their experience and enthusiasm for a topic but maybe all participants can take it upon themselves to keep the conversation going and open new lines of inquiry throughout the sessions.

3) Next Steps:

I had the good fortune to have a few discussions with the likes of Raincoast’s Dan Wagstaff, Steven Beattie from Quill and Quire and the ludicrously talented book designer Ingrid Paulson during my time in Toronto as well as many other people.  One of the recurrent thoughts that kept coming up was: now what? – as in, “We’ve had this great day full of discussion, new thoughts and ideas and my mind is spinning but I can’t help but feel like there’s a lack of direction about what to do next.”

Fair enough.  Excellent point.

I would like to pose this idea to anyone out there who’s interested in participating and will put it to the folks at the Vancouver Technology and Publishing group here in town.

We form an experimental publishing project whose focus is to take an unpublished manuscript through every step of the publishing process from a call for submissions through to production of a physical edition of the work.  Along the way, at every point within the process, the project will seek to utilize new ideas and technologies in the service of bringing a truly modern piece of work to the world.  Every step would be documented on a website and would be open to input from anyone interested in the project.

It’s going to take me a little while to put the blueprint for this project together – that will be another post for later this week – but I would say that it could be a really exciting and illuminating exercise.

For instance, are there new ways to approach the acquisitions process?  What does the editorial process look like if you start to incorporate the idea of the remix to chapters?  If you take isolated pieces of the work and pass it along to another talented artist or writer and give them the freedom to reimagine it, what becomes of the text?  Can this kind of remixed text find a home within the original text?  And, can we explore the idea of file sharing from a marketing/promotion angle not to mention a dissemination angle?  What about the notion of ‘pay what you can’ for a digital text?  That’s not even touching on any number of other more technical aspects of experimental book publishing.

Those renegade sensibilities of open-mindedness, sense of adventure and instinctual trust will be essential characteristics for everyone involved – from the writer straight on thru the rest of the team.

Obviously there’s so many more possibilities than just these – this project will be about reimagining the process and tinkering with the parts.

I think that there’s something to be gained from trying this and I hope that we can start this project in the next couple of months.

4) BookCamp Vancouver:

That’s right, there’s rumours going around that a group of ne’er do wells on the west coast are beginning to organize a BookCamp of their own.  In fact, they may be meeting in a Gastown bistro on this coming Monday night.  And, if the whispers in my ear are true, there’s a good chance that I’ll have more information about this event some time next week.

5) And I’m Out:

Great work to everyone who organized and participated in the first BCTO.  The bar has been set pretty high but so long as there’s people who are seeking newer, better ways to engage the technologies and ideas of today and tomorrow – in the service of readers and creators –  I have complete confidence that these events will get better every year.

BookNet Canada Investigates

bnc_header_2I only met Morgan Cowie of BookNet Canada very briefly during the BookCamp Toronto event but it wasn’t hard to recognize her genuine passion and enthusiasm.  She participated in the Death to DRM session that I lead in the morning and contributed great ideas to Lisa Charter’s session on the Quagmire of International Rights.  Unafraid to speak up and contribute, she may have been the secret star of the event.  But more on BookCamp Toronto in my next post.

Now Morgan is writing about the signal flares of interesting innovations in publishing and digital distribution on the BookNet Canada blog.  She’s started to write ‘intermittently’ on new publishing business models.  In her first two posts she highlights developments in ‘liquid textbooks‘ and the still mysterious to me thing called Scribd.

Digital Piracy vs the Left Hand of Darkness

TheLeftHandOfDarkness1stEd Pirates are upon us!  They’re assailing us with their dastardly ways, their electronic disseminations, their digital altruisms.  Quickly, assemble the attorneys and dispatch them to litigate the readership!

That quivering lip is corporate book publishing wondering what to do next about file sharing, bit torrents and the stealthy denizens of the Pirate Bay.

Digital book piracy has made it to the pages of the New York Times and it seems that the hand wringing is about to begin in earnest about how to deal with digital books leaked to the web.

Kassia Kroszer lends her sensibility to the argument with this post on the issue at her Booksquare blog.  She notes while Ursula Le Guin and her publisher are dismayed to find digital versions of her book the Left Hand of Darkness on file sharing sites that it may actually indicate that there’s an unserved market for her work in this format and not an opportunity for panic.

Cory Doctorow closes the NYT article by saying, “I really feel like my problem isn’t piracy,” Mr. Doctorow said. “It’s obscurity.”

The waters are churning.