Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Summit 2010 - Closing Panel Notes

As I mentioned in a my Top 10 Takeaways post from a couple of days ago, the single day Book Summit 2010 was a satisfying and engaging day chok-full of some great thoughts, ideas and challenges.

One of the highlights for the day for me came from the panel discussion that took place at the very end. To the left is a blurry picture I took of the panel (left to right are Mark, Kate, Sandra, Anne and Dominique) - yes, my photo is continued evidence it's a good idea I didn't pursue a career as a photographer.

Moderated by Mark Medley of the National Post the discussion featured Anne McDermid (Literary Agent), Sandra Kasturi (ChiZine Publications), Dominique Raccah (Sourcebooks) and Kate Pullinger (Author).  It was one of those great panel discussions populated by some amazing minds.  It could have gone on for several hours and I would have sat there completed riveted (with perhaps the except that my butt was a little uncomfortable in the chairs by the actual end of it)  But, physical discomfort aside, my mind was certainly stimulated.

Here are several statements from the panelists that struck me as important and which I jotted down. There were certainly a lot of other great things said but I'm not as adept at note-taking as I'd like to be, so we'll have to just live with what I was able to make note of. And I was going to add commentary to them but figured I could simply leave them as they are and let readers apply their own commentary.

"Storytelling is never going to go away." 
- Kate Pullinger talking about the printed book being a single touch-point in a long history of storytelling, one in which cave paintings (the original Powerpoint presentations) were the beginning of that history.

"Suck it up! Be there, don't be rude, sign some books and shut up. Yes, it's very much like a family."
- Sandra Kasturi talking about addressing the shy author who doesn't want to get "out there" and meet readers. The comment was made doubly hilarious considering that just minutes earlier she was talking about how every single author at ChiZine Publications commented how being published with them felt very much like being part of a family. Kasturi is frank and funny at showing both sides of what "family" can offer.

"If we limit our vision to ebooks we limit our overall impact to the culture."
Dominique Raccah talking about publishers learning to embrace all possible manners of producing content and connecting with readers.

"There is more merging between author, agent and publisher."
- Anne McDermid talking about the need for the three parties who have historically seen themselves as competing or having conflicting goals needing to come together and work better towards common goals.

"We publish authors, not books."
- Dominique Raccah

"It seems complete madness that you would put text on a computer screen and not take advantage of all the various options made available by the computer."
- Kate Pullinger, talking about how technology can help readers interact with stories rather than just dole out tales in a one-way manner.

"A writer has to be a salesperson, a performer, a blogger, etc."
- Sandra Kasturi (Okay, I'll be honest, Sandra didn't say "etc," I just couldn't keep up with the long list of cool things she mentioned so wrote down "etc" as the lazy way out. But you get the point.)

"I want a device that's free so I can spend the money on the content."
-Kate Pullinger talking about e-reading devices. This statement was following by a round of applause.

As mentioned I was quite pleased with the people on the panel and the conversation taking place, but have to admit that it still felt like there was a small thing lacking.

The panel included journalist, author, literary agent and publisher. But no bookseller. At first I thought it was a bit odd, but then felt it could have added to some of the POV's being presented onstage. Particularly when part of the conversation turned to embrace the connection between writer and reader with a suggestion that the model in which bookstores are relevant falls apart. As a bookseller, I would have loved an opportunity to be part of that discussion, despite the potential discomfort inherent in that sentiment -- especially since one of the core things a bookseller has always done (and can continue to do even in a digital world) is help bring those two together. In reality, every single player in this industry needs to feel a bit of discomfort, needs to seriously question their current role and look at how evolution might need to be embraced in order to continue to be relevant. And yes, that includes booksellers like me. We need to embrace the question of relevance. To that end, wouldn't it have been interesting to have invited a reader into the panel -- someone who loves reading but doesn't have a vested interest in any part of our industry, but attends various sessions and then is up there on stage at the end of the day to offer their views?

Erin Balser of booksin140 put up a post about the Book Summit on the weekend and also suggested some intriguing things such as the possibility of making some sessions more hands-on and more interactive as well as the suggestion of a stronger focus on Canada.  Great suggestions to make a fantastic day even better.

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