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.


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.

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.


Cranbury v. McGuire: The Future of Publishing Interview


Sometime around the middle of August I got an email from Amy Logan-Holmes at Open Book: Toronto asking whether I would be interested in participating in something called the 48 Hour Interview that would run in their Fall Issue.

She described it as an email exchange or co-interview between two people working within the books/publishing industry.  The participants are free to discuss whatever they like provided that the ‘interview’ occurs within 48 consecutive hours and, I suppose, is at least tangentially related to the business at hand.

So I’m thinking, “Ok, that sounds doable.  I wonder who she’s going to pair me up with?”

And, of course, it was Hugh McGuire, co-creator of Book Oven and  Organizer of BookCamp Toronto and well-coiffed confidante of the Digital Literati.

No pressure, right?


It was a great, if somewhat long, interview that really dug into some key issues facing the evolving – convulsing? – book publishing industry today.

The whole thing was edited and punched into shape by the very talented Clelia Scala.  Many thanks to Hugh and everyone at Open Book: Toronto.

For an example of something that I wrote for the interview that may or may not be interesting, please click the little red (more…) button below.

Continue reading

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.

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.