Monday, March 29, 2010
Top 10 Takeaways From BNC Tech Forum 2010
10 - A top 10 is a GOOD thing to put on the internet
This point comes with props to Deanna McFadden, Marketing Manager, Online Content & Strategy at HarperCollins Canada. I was planning on writing a summary of my learnings at the BookNet Canada Tech Forum 2010 - Calculated Risk: Adventures in Book Publishing. But after seeing Deanna's talk towards the end of the day I figured my notes could easily be translated into a top 10 list. Besides, it nicely breaks it all up into 10 smaller, digestible chunks. Given my verbose nature, that makes my words MUCH easier to swallow, doesn't it? And, while I got a LOT more than 10 simple things out of the forum, this list, which is a combination of actual useful tidbits as well as silly asides and observations, is a great way to sum up an otherwise "unsumupable" kind of day -- because that's exactly the kind of wonderful day last Thursday was for this book nerd.
9 - Michael Tamblyn could present a grocery list and make it riveting.
This is not to say that the topic of his presentation, "Lessons Learned" (about year one at Kobo Books) wasn't fascinating and informative, but seriously, every single presentation I've ever seen him do is a wonderful combination of great information and entertainment wrapped up into a tight little package. His insightful exploration of the first year at Kobo Books provided many interesting details, such as cheaper not being the only value -- the less a customer can do with an ebook, the lesser the value; the importance of multiple platforms; the importance of INSTANT; and that long form reading is alive and well on mobile devices (hence the name change from "Shortcovers" to Kobobooks.com)
8 - "Content isn't King . . . Culture is." (Richard Nash)
Richard Nash of Cursor Books certainly said a lot of interesting and fascinating things. But this was one of the points he returned to in his "Publishing 3.0" talk. Nash talked about books being "social glue" that they are a cultural icon that take 15 hours to read. He explains that book clubs connect 2 or more people in a more deep and meaningful way than any other and that authors aren't happy being "published" in the conventional supply chain way -- that they want to connect. I also quite loved his statement that "we're a tiny industry perched above a massive hobby." Nash is a fascinating speaker who had so much to say about this cultural connection that writing/reading brings. I'm fascinated with the fact that so many other presenters that day returned to this main concept. Mark Coker of Smashwords, Len Vlahos of ABA/IndieBound, Ian Barker of Symtext, Mark Scott of Bookriff and Hugh McGuire of BookOven.com all presented various projects and perspectives on publishing/content creation/customization and collaboration -- and yet, in my mind, what they were really doing is offering services and focusing on the importance of culture.
7 - "Every book is new to everyone there every day" (Bob Miller, speaking about Workman Publishing)
This speaks to the wonder and thrill of what bookselling means to me. I never realized that a publisher could see it the very same way. Imagine the wonder and thrill that the people at Workman must feel if this is the way that they approach their day. Imagine the wonder, thrill and excitement you could feel in your own day if you took this very same approach, no matter what it is that you do. Consider it. The concept fascinates me to no end.
6 - Even though you might have your head down and appear to not be paying attention, it could be a sign that you're enjoying the hell out of a particular presentation.
This was the first conference in which I paid continued attention to the Twitter stream. The hashtag for the day's event was #bnc10. I followed along the "underground" conversation taking place and also attempted to tweet or retweet moments and quotes that caught my attention. Information and knowledge-sharing days like BNC Tech Forum are great enough on their own, but it's also fascinating to to be able to share thoughts immediately with others in the same room (or perhaps in the room next door during the parallel sessions portion of the day) Case in point, this picture of me with my head down looking at my iPhone taken by Tim Middleton. I happened to have been tweeting about a point I'd just heard in a talk, so moved that I felt a need to immediately share my positive thoughts.
5 - "The novel died again last week for the 27th time." (Deanna McFadden during her "Has Content Outgrown Its Covers" talk)
I love this quote, and how true it is in its cheeky, unique way. And yes, we were all there to discuss technology and new risks that people were taking within the publishing spectrum. But at the end of the day all the technology and exciting developments we're all experimenti with are really in support of something that we have never forgotten is at the centre of it all, and which is something we all still completely believe in. The book. Yes, we're all fascinated with and leveraging technology in as many ways as we can. But, as I have mentioned before, technologies come and go, but books abide.
4 - "Books create theatre of the mind" (Dominique Raccah, Publisher of Sourcebooks)
Dominique's "Breaking Ground" talk was a great one in which she explored the concept of the "book unleashed" and the promise of digital as being more than simply text transfer. Her talk circled back to the concept of the communities that a publisher is a part of while creating new ways to deliver content to readers. And, of course, given all things that technology can bring to the delivery of the content, she reminded everyone of the importance of the continuance of the suspension of disbelief, or the simple fact that whatever you do, you don't want to interrupt the theatre of the mind, that engagement which exists between the reader and the book.
3 - "They're paid by the tweet"
Bob Miller said this in a joking response to a question about Workman's social media success. I thought it was funny because, though it was a good question, if you have to ask it, you don't really get it do you? Social media success has less to do with the technology and more to do with the belief and passion and honesty of the motives of the people behind it. Technology and social media might allow slick salespeople to sneak in and attempt to blast out their message, but those fake attempts are just as fruitless in social media as they are in real life -- the fact is that people can easily see right through them. It should be obvious that the reason Workman social media is so successful is that it is true engagement on behalf of the people at Workman taking part in it. It's not part of a slick marketing campaign but about a true belief in the things they are talking about. It takes us right back to point 7, which I was unable to properly explain, but will attempt to do so again. At Workman, he said, every book is new to everyone there every day. Wow. Powerful words that convey so much yet are difficult for me to illustrate. It reminds me, in fact, of an old quote that a used book store in Sudbury, Ontario has used. Bay Used Books' slogan is that "A book you haven't read is a new book." Yes, that slogan is perhaps just justification of a retailer selling used books, but it conveys a universal truth, and something I believe. And perhaps why, 3 decades after first hearing it, it has stayed with me.
2 - If you let me take the stage, I'll likely use some sort of potty humour
Nuff said? In all seriousness, I quite enjoyed being able not only to enjoy the wonderful talks and presentations of the day, but I was also honoured to be able to present as well. And not only did I get to do a presentation of my experiences with the Espresso Book Machine, but I got to share the stage with Hugh McGuire. Wow. I was like a fan boy who got to hang out with the big league people. So, what does a nervous fan boy do in a case like that? Revert to humour -- and yes, potty humour. The picture below (taken by Sachiko Murakami), featuring my "potty slide" shows part of the reasoning behind my bookstore's purchase of an Espresso Book Machine back in 2008. And just to confirm, though our "general book" sales might have been slipping, I couldn't believe in the importance of carrying a selection of "want to read" books more. For reasons, check points 8 and 5 above for starters.
1 - The learning and content go WELL beyond the formal presentations
How wonderfully true, particularly in today's digital society, that a good deal of the learning and information to be had comes from the in person interactions and side conversations that take place throughout the day. Funny that, at a conference focused on technology, it comes down to that simple personal detail. A wonderful consideration of this from my POV is that my learning didn't start the morning of the conference when I first arrived, but it started within seconds of me attending the pre-conference dinner the night before that many of the speakers attended. I was sitting closest to Hugh McGuire, Mark Coker, Ian Barker, Richard Nash, and Dominique Raccah at dinner the night before and was immediately overwhelmed with the fascinating and lively discussion. It was like one of those great dinner parties where all of the people surrounding you are absolutely riveting and compelling and you want to be part of all of the conversation at the same time. If for some reason I had been unable to actually attend BNC Tech Forum 10, I would have gotten a complete day's worth of value, insight and knowledge from sitting with this incredibly passionate, intelligent and forward thinking group of people. But, fortunately, for me, I got to spend the whole next day watching fantastic presentations and continuing to be involved in phenomenal conversations with even more great people within our industry. And the truth is that there were still at least a dozen other people I had wanted to spend time conversing with. But better to be left with wanting more than being bored, isn't it?
I'd like to extend a huge thank-you to all the folks at BookNet Canada for pulling this together each year, and to the presenters and attendees who made the experience of being at the conference fulfilling beyond my wildest expectations. That single fun/fact-filled day that BookNet Canada brought was worth ten times the cost of registration.
Wow, what an incredible and dynamic industry I'm privileged to work in.