books on the radio


ABE the Advent Book Elf: An interview with Open Book Toronto (via @seancrnabury)
November 1, 2010, 12:24 PM
Filed under: Enthusiasms, Imagination, Industry Change | Tags: , ,

Last December our friends at Open Book Toronto interviewed Julie, ABE and myself about the Advent Book Blog. It was a fun interview and it gave us a chance to explain ourselves and our project but ABE’s part of the Q&A is the most memorable. I’ve posted it below.

For the full interview check out Open Book Toronto.

I’m looking forward to unleashing more of ABE’s crazy story later this year!

Continue reading



Copyfight Fatigue: My Proposal to End a Polarizing Debate
May 31, 2010, 3:43 PM
Filed under: Copyright, Creative Commons, DRM, Enthusiasms, Imagination, Industry Change | Tags:

It's because of home taping that we no longer have music. Let's not make the same mistake with books. (Photo by Martin Conway)

This Week in Copyright

This week is the all copyright, file-sharing, DRM week from hell with a sick kitty thrown in (not literally thrown in, ‘course) for good measure.

On Thursday the Canadian Government is set to introduce a new bill that will seek to address and update our copyright law.

Then on Friday I’ll be interviewing Cory Doctorow via skype from Toronto where he’ll be touring his new book, For the Win.

Then on Saturday I’ll be skyping in to Bookcamp Halifax to present a session called Simplicity and Control: Digital Potential Beyond DRM.

So, it’s a watershed week where we determine whether law, behavior and the digital landscape can coexist without litigation and acrimony.

Smart money says not a fricking chance.

*

Photo by William Soo.

First Things First.

We’re going to get a new copyright bill in Canada one way or another and really, why not? Let’s just get it done and move on.

There’s been a lot of windmill jousting on all sides of the debate – thank god that analogy is in the public domain! – and I agree that it’s time for our elected representatives to put up or shut up on this.

It’s not a stretch to suggest that a lot of the pressure for this new bill to be introduced in Canada is coming from foreign politicians and from companies who desire to have their content and oil-based distribution chains protected from digital incursion.

That does not make these companies or the politicians “evil”: it makes them companies and politicians.

It is what it is.

The new bill is certainly not being put forward after a deafening hew and cry from creators in this country, though admittedly most will welcome it if only to know where they stand.

And, of course, everybody needs money: countries need money, political parties need money, creators need money, executives need money, we all need money.

I think that it’s obvious that companies with huge amounts of money invested in licensed creativity, content, product, etc… will naturally try to exert as much pressure as possible in order to protect and monetize their assets to their maximum ability.  Many of the creators in their ‘stable’ expect no less.

All of this is understood just as it’s understood that ability and willingness to change and adapt to new business models is very very low on the priority list.

Politicians want to stay in office and donations help to fund election campaigns.  Investments, locally or federally, from big companies or other countries help to make our politicians look good, to grease the economic gears, maybe create some jobs.

These kinds of influences and relationships have occurred since before the invention of fire.

Content creators/licensees want to protect their abilities to maximize their return on investment.  Politicians want to stay in power and also want to be able to fund their next election campaign.

Those are some of the fundamentals.

*

Photo by Kate Black.

P2P Filesharing & Bit Torrent: A Digital Apocalypse or a Huge Opportunity?

The problem is this: creative content is worth something to the creator, the licensee, the fan and everyone else in the ecosystem that facilitates taking the product from creator’s mind to audience.

Digital innovations have created an opportunity for files – potentially carrying creative work whose copyright provisions do not allow for any kind of non-monetized electronic dissemination – to be transmitted quickly and efficiently all over the world.

P2P File Sharing Networks and Bit Torrent technologies are the most efficient distribution system we have invented for getting information – digital files containing anything from scans of a shopping list, to Shakespeare’s sonnets, to a photo of your mom in front of the Louvre, to leaks of patent pending inventions, published unpublished and unpublishable novels, songs, your wedding photographs, etc… – from one computer to other computers quickly and practically instantaneously.

Fortunately or unfortunately these tools for sharing files and data don’t care what those shared files contain.  To them it’s all just information to be transferred.

Hurt Locker or Ishtar are the equivalent of Lady Gaga, a photo of a llama, episode 3 of Rock of Love Season 2, an excel file, a scan of a Mark Danielewski novel, Twilight, whatever. It all has the same basic value.

That value is zero.

* (The zero value is based on the file itself – infinitely replicable and basically indistinct for others – and not the work that went into what the file contains. The value of creation, editorial, design, etc… is invaluable. Unfortunately, these super efficient distribution tools are not designed to monetize in a way that we traditionally link to these kinds of exchanges.)

If you wrap your digital content in a protective layer – DRM – it is easily hacked open and shared regardless.

Even though there no evidence to support the notion that downloading digital content from P2P sites equals a lost sale or in any way negatively impacts revenues for content creators or licensees that does not prevent the appearance of a general assumption that something has been lost, taken, stolen or pirated that should have been rightfully monetized.

As though the 100,000 people (random figure, possibly too low) who have downloaded and watched Iron Man 2 from a practically infinite number of torrent sites around the world would have otherwise paid money to see that movie.

Surely there’s at least a ghost of logic to that statement, right? But can we monetize based on the ghosts of logic?

Probably not.

So… to distill it down to an essence: people are experiencing kinds of content all over the world for free.  This content is being acquired via P2P file sharing sites and is being seeded and further leeched by others around the world via an impossible to track bit of perfectly legal software called Bit Torrent.

Though this content is being experienced and shared by many more people than would otherwise have experienced and shared it previously this is a problem because there’s a perceived loss of revenue attached to this file sharing behavior.

The monopolized traditional distribution chain has been subverted and the digital efficiencies are built on the same logic that brought us the “genius” of the Amazon personalized algorhythm and effectively destroyed north American independent bookstore culture but is now wreaking havoc a little further up the food chain.

Rather than see this technological development as an opportunity to develop new ways of communicating, collaborating, community building and discovering new markets through innovation and imagination our government has decided that we need to legislate protections around ineffectual digital locks.

Digital locks that even the very politicians in our ruling minority federal government admit they broken many times in the average use of their iPods and PVRs.

Digital locks that have never worked, that don’t work even for well-meaning citizens but that will potentially criminalize them regardless.

*

Photo by Ben Heine.

My Proposal to End the Copyright Debate:

Like most of my favorite ideas this one is overly simplistic, possibly idealistic and probably impossible.

But here goes:

Copyright holders should lock up their content to the maximum limit if they want to.This is not mandatory, it is a conscious choice.

If copyright holders want to deprive their readers of the ability to widely share the content that they purchased or to transfer the same content between devices or whatever, that is their right.

And if the readership doesn’t like it, well then they can choose from some of the super-abundant alternative content available that doesn’t possess those same law bound restrictions.

Lock it up and throw away the key, maximize that revenue. It’s what copyright is all about, right?

The locks on this content should also not be broken and the content should not be shared on the P2P sites.

Just let it sell from the standard online channels.  Peddle it from websites and Amazon and iBooks, wherever.

If, however, you understand and are excited by the potential of these P2P sites for all of the digital benefits that they possess and you’re inclined to use other technologies like POD, paypal, skype, social media platforms, mixing tools, Adobe/Apple content creation software to augment your own stories, products or non-fiction writing then you should make that known and freely embrace the potential.

The traditional methods – paper books, vinyl records, prints, dvds, etc… – will continue to support, augment and quantify the work.

That’s it.  It’s that simple.

By taking control of the means of dissemination to build your audience, to collaborate and cross-pollinate media, to explore potentials for new markets and to reach those markets with real product you control your ability to do some really original work and to find ways to get paid that your audience agrees with.

So, pass a law if you want to. But it won’t take long before it becomes insignificant and/or irrelevant as the true creators of the present and the future go to the places that give them the maximum freedom to create and collaborate with the maximum audience and influences.

Taking ‘copyrighted’ content away from the networks won’t stop that it will only serve to create a whole other self-sustaining market based on concepts of creation, sharing, remixing that are outside our common notion of copyright.

And that’s ok.

There is nothing wrong with the traditional model and how it has helped create our current notion of what copyright is and how we should protect it.

But that notion of copyright no longer has exclusive rights to reality.



Dragon Problems: Hur Publishing vs Books on the Radio

Tracy Hurren and Kathleen Fraser are Hur Publishing

Listen to Tracy and Kathleen talk about Hur Publishing.

The 2010 Cohort for SFU’s Masters of Publishing Program are a stone-cold bunch who have really stepped out and shown the industry that they’re ready to accept the challenges that are affecting publishing.

I have discussed this previously on Julie Wilson’s BookMadam & Associates site.

Dragon Problems detail.

Their collaborative print on demand work entitled Book of MPub is essential reading for anyone interested in discovering new ideas for book/magazine publishing.  The book totally levels the playing field and brings the publishing conversation back to a deep discussion of essential ideas and offers no time for weak fear-based arguments.

Tracy Hurren and Kathleen Fraser are just two of the bright lights from the SFU MPub program who are now spending their summer getting some experience interning at a couple of Canada’s finest independent publishers.

Tracy is ripping it up in Montreal at Drawn and Quarterly while Kathleen keeps it closer to home with a gig at Arsenal Pulp Press in Vancouver.

But that’s not what we’re talking about here.

What we’re talking about here is Dragon Problems, the first book to be published by Hur Publishing.

Hur Publishing is a joint conspiratorial effort of Tracy and Kathleen that involves publishing new engaging stories as well-designed books – including some of Tracy’s amazing handmade books.

Dragon Problems is an excellent example of what can happen when you have the convergence of good story + great art + sweet design skills + keen editorial eye.

The story was written by Chris Carrier and the art was created by Stacey Buchanan.

Both Chris and Stacey are lucky to have had their work brought to life by Tracy and Kathleen.  It’s a great first effort and I cannot wait for their next book to drop.

Please check out the Hur Publishing website for more info and also to order your copy of the book.

Also, I believe that both Tracy and Kathleen will be presenting at BookCamp Toronto 2010 this coming Saturday as part of their Book of MPub throwdown.

If you’re attending BookCamp Toronto 2010 then I highly recommend that you attend their session – it’s designed to blow minds and to drag the unwilling kicking and screaming into the here and now.

Check out our interview and let me know what you think.

Go to the Hur Publishing and buy the book. That's all. Just do it.



Goodbye, Sophia Books! Vancouver Loses Another Independent
April 26, 2010, 4:07 PM
Filed under: Bookstore Showcase, Events, Industry Change | Tags: , ,

The legendary Sophia Books front window with reflection of the street.

My friends at Sophia Books are closing the doors on their amazing store in downtown Vancouver at then end of May 2010.

I have nothing but love and respect for Marc and Yuki Fournier, and all of my friends who work there.

It’s another heartbreaker for book lovers in Vancouver as Sophia represented the best and most unique selection of international art, graphic design, comix, fiction, non-fiction, manga and magazines not only in the city, the province – pretty much anywhere.

I went down there today and took as many pictures as I could of the store before my battery ran out.  Check out the Flickr Photo Stream or my Facebook photo album for more.

If you’re in Vancouver please go down to the store and check out this treasure of Vancouver’s disappearing book store culture while you can.



ReThink / ReImagine / ReBuild: Crushing It at #BNC10 and Beyond

Craig Riggs & Dan Wagstaff Crush It at BookNet Canada Tech Forum 2010.

It was a brisk day at the MaRS Building in downtown Toronto last week as a couple hundred publishing denizens gathered for the BookNet Canada Tech Forum 2010.

The title for this year’s discussion was ‘Calculated Risk: Adventures in Book Publishing‘.

Alana Wilcox.

The day focused on four interconnected themes: Ambition, Trailblazing, Energy, Learning as You Go.

The conference organizers did an excellent job of creating a clean, professional and energetic atmosphere that was highlighted by Sachiko Murakami’s  introduction to Deanna McFadden toward the end of the day. (Good times, Sachiko, good times!)

The speakers mostly rose to the occasion and delivered passionate, thoughtful presentations that balanced insight and information in equal measures.

Sarah LaBrie, Clare Hitchens and Sachiko Murakami have written more specifically detailed accounts of the speakers than I will get into here.  Please go to their sites for their excellent analysis of the presentations.

*

My Two Take-Aways

1) Nothing replaces human contact and collaboration.

You’ve got to make the time to get out and meet the people that you work with in the industry.  You have to spend time with them, talk to them, share stories and ideas.

There is no substitute for that experience and as someone who lives in Vancouver and spends a lot of time communicating digitally with people all over North America and elsewhere it was hugely gratifying to meet my online colleagues in person.

2) It’s about open source leadership and community building.

If you’re looking for the cookie cutter formula on how to proceed in book publishing in the digital age then you’ve come to the wrong place.

The opportunities – the verticles – available to content creators, publishers and the audience are past the point of calculation.  

As digital distribution eclipses standard supply chain and territorial restrictions and simultaneously generates new expectations from a worldwide audience where does one turn to for surefire solutions?

As the industry is beset by the sudden – and profitable – appearance of new players and new ideas in the publishing ecosystem how does a traditional publisher adapt?

When content creators have the tools to create and disseminate their work in high quality editions to a cultivated community of passionate followers in several formats for relatively little capital investment, what does that auger for the future of the modern business model?

As the concept of piracy becomes the new supply chain where does that leave the notion of copyright, territorial rights and control? What are the new revenue streams?

How does a publisher with hundreds of titles competing in the market that is divided into increasingly specific self-organized communities – whose constituents spend zero time pouring over the book review section of the Globe and Mail or concerning themselves with flashy banner ads on publisher targeted websites – make any impact on those communities?

What does leadership look like in this environment?

If – as Richard Nash noted in his presentation – content has become infinite and our focus on supply will change to management of demand, how does an organization make the transition?

How does one create, build and manage communities in this environment.  Can a standard top-down management structure succeed here?

I submit that in these circumstances leadership then becomes about empowerment, trust, collaboration and a willingness to explore.

Empower the people in the organization to step outside the box and experiment with authors and audience.  Trust them to make the right decisions and encourage them to be brave enough to make mistakes.  Have the courage to learn honestly from your mistakes and then go make some more.

Treat the people in your organization as trusted collaborators.  Be open to the ideas and instincts of the people who grew up never knowing a time before the internet.

The same goes for the authors and communities.  Empower them, trust them with your ideas and brands and collaborate with them to make books that truly serve the contemporary vision.

Breakdown any process that is inhibiting these relationships from flowering.

Lead by recognizing the moment that is at hand.

Trust, openness, collaboration, community, exploration.

*

Thoughts on #BNC11 as a leadership model for the book publishing industry

If we are encouraging the book publishing industry to be adventurous and to embrace the four themes of Ambition, Trailblazing, Energy and Learning As You Go would it be crazy to suggest that the conference itself live these values and act as a qualified example?

If we are encouraging publishers to rethink their business models, to abandon traditional top-down mentalities and to take a more broadminded view of the relationship between publisher, content creator and audience, would it make sense that the conference itself abandon the standard ‘one to many’ model and encourage a more participatory, collaborative approach?

I’m not advocating for the controlled chaos of the BookCamp formula here and I don’t have any examples at hand for what a ‘more participatory, collaborative approach’ might mean right at the moment but I think that it certainly deserves to be investigated.

If we can engage the leaders of the industry to explore collaboration, to discuss the granularity of the digital possibilities with their colleagues and to facilitate experiential opportunities for engaging these ideas then maybe we demonstrate what adaptation looks like in real time and push the industry forward as a result.

Can the traditional conference formula be augmented to allow for these kinds of exchanges?

Don’t get me wrong, #BNC10 was a success and I learned a lot, but as we move forward I think that there’s opportunity for the idea of what BNC means in the future to change and to reflect the themes that it is built around.

Nevertheless, it was a great day and everyone at BNC deserves to huge thank you for making it so excellent.

I look forward to #BNC11.

Rampant twittering provides an opportunity for the entire publishing community.



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
(Directions)

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!



The End of Publishing: A Very Clever Video by DK from the UK
March 15, 2010, 9:13 PM
Filed under: Industry Change | Tags: , ,