books on the radio


Globe’s Book of the Decade: Zero Comments, Wrong Cover**

US edition of The Deathly Hallows is the Globe and Mail's Book of the Decade.

This is a follow-up to my previous piece on New Rules of Engagement for the book trade in terms of literary journalism and book promotion.

In that piece I took the Globe Books section to task for showing no evidence of being able to connect to or engage an audience online.

What the image above is showing us is the original post for their Book of the Decade piece that first appeared on December 22.  The image above was screen captured on Monday January 4th.

It shows the US cover art for the Harry Potter book and also indicates that there have been zero comments about this post.  (The Globe has since corrected the mistake as a result of Dan Wagstaff’s tweet discussed below and, as of this rewrite, there are now 2 comments attached to the post.)

So, to quickly recap: US cover displayed in Canada’s National Newspaper for the biggest selling book in the history of Canadian publishing and no one notices for 2 weeks.  And a shocking lack of debate attached to the post.

Book. of. the. Decade. Equals. Zero. Debate. Really? Really Really?

Was the choice of Harry Potter so utterly paralyzing to the readership that no one could even be bothered to object, offer an alternative or agree?

Apparently so.

A Breakdown of Some of the Details in this Case:

Book of the Decade inspires zero comments in nearly 2 weeks online.

This is the killer.  Zero comments in nearly 2 weeks on a post featuring what is arguably the pinnacle piece of the past 52 weeks if not longer.

An example of the engagement vacuum happening at Globe Books online.

What is happening here?  Am I missing some crucial metric?

Should a post that distills the greatness of the past 10 years of literature not elicit some kind of debate?  Isn’t an open and passionate exchange of ideas at least part of what literature inspires in people?

Isn’t Globe Books supposed to engage or inspire us in this way?

Take this quote from the Globe Books Facebook page (which hasn’t been updated since August 2009): [Globe Books will] provide readers in Canada with a compelling destination for “one-stop-shop” Books coverage. Also… a new Focus & Books section will be introduced by The Globe as a weekly Saturday section, reaching even more readers with its combined audience base.

Emphasis mine: compelling destination & reaching even more readers.

Online reach is universal – any web page can be read by people all over the world – while content, reputation and community engagement creates a compelling destination.

Here’s a screen capture from my tweetdeck of @GlobeBooks on Monday, January 4th.

@GlobeBooks has 2,346 followers. List 173 times.

The attempt to engage an audience via twitter is there and this is a good sign.  The link included in the above tweet takes the reader to the Book of the Decade piece.

However, when one says that something ‘didn’t get chewed over enough‘ another might be inclined to believe that there was actually some chewing involved.  But there was no chewing of this piece at all.

As noted, GlobeBooks has 2,346 followers and is listed 173 times.  Yet it yields zero feedback.

The 12 ‘thumbs up’ that the Book of the Decade piece received are the equivalent of nods between strangers passing one another on the subway platform at rush hour.

Not really what I’m considering to be engagement.

Here’s a really interesting piece on shifting media landscapes and/or old trusted voices falling on deaf ears: in this case, the once venerable Bono.

and, finally…

Dan Wagstaff of Raincoast Books responds.

**NOW UPDATED WITH THE CANADIAN COVER

The updated page with the Canadian cover of The Deathly Hallows.

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New Rules of Engagement: Advent Books & Canada Also Reads

Natives are restless and have the tools to create the change that they want to see.

I have always read the Globe and Mail.  Still do.

In the morning with the first freshly brewed coffee of the day in hand, the G&M website is the first place that I go for news.

The quality of journalism and writing is quite high and I think that they’re weathering the sea change within traditional print media pretty well.  Generally, I believe that they do an excellent job and have earned my loyalty over the years for the good work that they publish.

Advent Book Blog: Digital Word of Mouth

So, it troubles me deeply how diminished and ineffectual the Globe Books section has become.

The truest evidence of this for me isn’t the tone and style that they’ve adopted in their digital incarnation but the inability for their writers to generate any kind of engagement or conversation among the readership.

The opportunity for healthy discussion often eludes them completely.

The casual reader might even be inclined to think that the choices made for their 100 Best Books feature is decided more based on preserving advertising revenues with the big publishing houses than finding the best books for any given year.

And book lovers, savvy, impatient and tired of the usual suspects in the usual places, have no limit of alternatives.

Enter the Advent Book Blog.

Real people, passionate about books and reading, recommending their favorite books in short bursts of enthusiasm with no strings attached.  Done out of love and a desire to share – bedrock fundamentals for a healthy book culture.

CBC's Jian Ghomeshi

Another alternative is the CBC’s Canada Reads competition, hosted by the affable and well-coiffed Jian Ghomeshi.

It’s essentially an opportunity to start a national conversation about Canadian books championed by celebrities and hosted in Toronto.

I am a fan of the competition and because of the CBC’s mandate to be all things to all people my expectations for the books selected every year is modest.

I’m just happy that we’re showcasing reading on a big stage and having some fun doing it.

But, of course, not everybody feels the same way.

This year there is palpable frustration over the selection of Ann Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees and Douglas Coupland’s Generation X.  Both hugely successful books have been devoured by countless readers all over the world.

Here in Canada, readers are apparently tired of being advised to read something that they’ve already read.  To have a conversation – evangelistic, enthusiastic or otherwise – that they’ve already had – 10 years ago!

Going through the motions isn’t good enough for them.

Enter the National Post’s Canada Also Reads.

Real books – that haven’t already been swaddled by Oprah or big literary awards – recommended by real people.

What a concept.

*

The Advent Book Blog and the National Post’s Afterword book section succeed because they give their readership a voice, because they engage them in genuine conversation from the very beginning and because they’re not seen to be publicity vehicles for big publishing houses.

These two places understand the power of the digital environment to connect directly with their readers and to offer their readers a platform to express themselves and to become a part of a larger community and conversation.

That is power.  That creates genuine enthusiasm and loyalty.

The conversation about books in Canada is big enough to include all kinds of publications, platforms and competitions.

The best one’s in 2010 will be inclusive, generally transparent and engaging.  If the traditional book channels can not provide those things then readers will go elsewhere or build their own better alternative.

They have the technology.

*

Please also check out my follow-up piece on this called Globe’s Book of the Decade: Zero Comments, Wrong Cover.



Makers: The Cory Doctorow Interview (Built from Scratch)
Cory Doctorow Banner

Cory Doctorow Photo by Jonathan Worth.

This interview has it all.  Well, some of it.  In pieces.  Kinda glued together.

Click here to hear the podcast of my interview with Cory.

I called Cory on Thursday November 12th, 2009 from Control Booth B at CJSF.  He was in his hotel room getting started on a day of media publicity for the launch of his new book, Makers, published by Tor Books.

I have no idea whether I was his first interview of the day but I am certain that I wasn’t his last.

He did TVOntario, CBC’s The Hour with George Strombo and countless other interviews throughout the day.

He eventually finished with a talk at the Toronto SF reference library, the Merril Collection, where his old friends at Bakka Phoenix Books (where Cory once worked as a bookseller) sold out of books for him to sign.

His talk the next day at the National Reading Summit was a huge success according to all of my sources in Toronto.

Well, all of my sources except the Globe and Mail’s John Barber, who apparently couldn’t be bothered to actually show up.  Not that a little detail like being physically present prevented him from writing about it.

But back to the interview that you may or may not have already started listening to.

It’s a bit of a reanimated corpse brought together by magic and electricity.  The sound quality is off and my recording software kinda crashed about half way through then came back to life again and then died for good.

So I apologize for the quality and I promise that I’m going to get this whole ‘sound’ thing figured out.  I finish the show off with a recording of Cory’s reading from the Makers that night at the the Merril Collection Science Fiction Reference Library in front of his home town audience.  It’s a great piece about Suzanne Church’s first encounter with a few of the Makers. A scene that I allude to earlier in our talk.

I still like the interview, though.  I’m sorry that an infernal machine ate chunks of our conversation about DRM and most of the talk on Google Books and everything about his With a Little Help Project that he’s cataloging for Publisher’s Weekly.

Here’s the video from his excellent talk on TVOntario: