Yesterday, 99% of the BookNet Canada crew left the office in Toronto to come visit Titles Bookstore at McMaster University.
It's not enough that the folks who work at BookNet Canada are champions of supporting the multiple aspects of our industry, by providing tools and services that help booksellers, publishers and distributors become better, stronger, faster, smarter. (Yes, but not just like Lee Majors in The Six Million Dollar Man -- they help steer innovations that allow us all to prosper)
No, working on all these various offerings isn't enough. The good folks at BNC thrive on getting out into the field and checking out various operations. (And yes, I'll admit I'm a bit biased because I sit on the BNC board -- but from the beginning days of BNC, I've had the priviledge of knowing and working with many of the people behind the scenes there, and watched them build from a great idea into something that I truly believe is a fantastic benefit to our industry -- I mean, who else out there is truly invested in trying to benefit ALL parties, from the author down to the consumer within the Canadian book industry?)
So, yesterday, the team took the loooooong and painful road trip from downtown Toronto to Hamilton. I say this tongue in cheek because it's a POV thing. If you're a central Toronto person, anything past Oakville seems like the "edge of the earth" -- but if you're from the edge of the GTA, like we are in Hamilton, you're used to the groans of people who rarely dare to venture behind the "sprawling fringes of the city" (yes, I'm quoting Rush - I like to do that regularly)
For one, it was great seeing the whole team. (Okay, it wasn't the whole team, because their fearless leader, Noah, was stuck back in the office with the auditors. Someone had to hold the fort down, and you have to admire a leader who is willing to "take one for the team" in such a way)
I gave them a tour of the main bookstore and our main textbook location (the Tank), as well as the big piece of innovation they were there to check out -- our Espresso Book Machine and how we're using it to print textbooks to lower the price for students, to get access to digitally distributed titles more efficiently than ever before, to create new business models for regional community bookstores that take advantage of technology that benefit consumers, booksellers, publishers and authors, all in one fell swoop.
The crew, (a little tech savy to say the least), were using FourSquare to check in, taking pictures and sending them off into Twitter, etc. throughout the tour.
Noah, back at the homestead, saw one of the pictures and made a hilarious comment back on Twitter: Is Mark praying that the live demo goes well?
It was in response to this picture...
Hilarious. I wasn't praying, though. I was just talking with my hands. (Hey, I'm French - it's all about using my hands as much as my lips when I speak -- besides, when I wave my hands around and make lots of guestures, I'm hoping it distracts people away from noticing the bald thing going on upstairs)
In any case, the tour went well. Laura (the main EBM operator extraordinaire) and I printed a bunch of different books for them, and they asked tons of great questions. Okay, in all honesty, Laura did all of the real work and printing -- I just did most of the talking.
One of the books we printed was an oddity I never saw before. (And you have to expect that, with any demo of a new technology, there's got to be at least ONE hiccough) -- we selected a title from the catalog of just under 1 million titles to show them how we order from the EspressNet Catalog. We picked a public domain Google Book of Shakespeare -- a "King Lear" search result that was listed as 120 pages. We figured it would be a nice short book that could be completed in about 3 minutes, as part of demonstrating the quickness of this process.
Of course, it took a unexpected longer time for the book to load to our system and start printing. And once it started, the print que was showing a gigantic page count, well behind 120. So we let it run it's course and out came a 1000 page book.
The BNC folks, grinned at this and stated something they often say, and something I'm familiar with given my previous job role as data wrangler at Chapters/Indigo between 1999 and 2006.
"See," Tom, the Bibliographic Manager at BNC said. "It all comes down to the quality of the metadata."
Spoken like a true bibliographic data manager and BookNet Canada team member.