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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

You Can Watch WATCH

We're hosting a pretty cool event tonight at 7:00 PM at Titles Bookstore McMaster University.

Robert J. Sawyer is beginning the 10-city tour for his latest novel WATCH right here in Hamilton, right here at McMaster, right here at the bookstore I'm privileged to spend my days at.

I was tickled when I found out that Rob was not only willing but interested in starting his launch at our store. I thought back to the last time I had been honoured to host an event for Rob and realized that it went back at least 10 years.

While I had remained in bookselling between 1999 and 2006, I had been working at the Chapters/Indigo head office rather than at a store, so was out of the "hosting" loop for a while.

But here's the neat thing. The last event I'd hosted for Rob was when I was working at the Chapters in Ancaster. The event was part of his tour for his novel FlashForward. (Yes, THAT FlashForward, which is the basis for the hit ABC TV series in which the consciousness of the entire human race jumps into the future for about 2 minutes)

Interesting that, in Rob's novel from 1999, there's a scene in which a couple of characters walk into a bookstore, order a book, then sit down for a coffee while the book is printed on a POD machine in the store. About a decade later, Rob is returning to a store where I work and perhaps twenty feet from where he'll be reading and talking about his latest novel, Watch, will be an Espresso Book Machine, one of only 6 in Canada right now and a handful in the world. They're rare, but the technology DOES exist.

Speaking of rare, Rob is one of only 7 writers in the world (and the only Canadian) to win all three of the world's top science fiction awards for best novel of the year: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

It will be great seeing Rob and Carolyn again this evening. (It seems like forever since we've had a chance to sit down and chat -- it's been at least a year, I think) I'm quite looking forward to having dinner with them this evening before the event and doing a little catching up. Then, I'm going to be delighted to introduce Rob to the McMaster and Hamilton community.

But here's where it gets really cool -- particularly if you're outside of the Hamilton area or find it impossible to get to the McMaster campus for 7 PM tonight when Rob's reading/talk and book signing start.

As booksellers, authors and book lovers know, nothing beats an in-person appearance with an author -- a chance to see them, enjoy the experience of hearing them read live and asking questions face to face while getting a book autographed.

But if you can't, we'll be broadcasting the event live to the internet via a uStream feed.

And, since there'll be a chance for people to ask questions via the uStream "chat" box, people who aren't physically at the event will still be able to ask questions. We'll have someone monitoring the chat box as well as twitter (see below) and injecting those questions to Rob during the Q&A. We're suggesting that if people want to tweet their questions that they do so using the hashtag #sfwriter (www.sfwriter.com being Rob's website). Of course, the hashtag can also be used by people wanting to talk about this event, or, heck, the whole rest of Rob's book tour as well.


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.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

HNT - BNC10

I stayed overnight in Toronto last night as part of the pre-gathering leading up to this year's BookNet Canada Technology Forum 2010. This year's forum is entitled Calculated Risk: Adventures in Book Publishing.

I have attended the BNC Tech Forum for several years now and always find it a fascinating, informative and incredibly useful day of inspiration, ideas and great conversations. This year, I'm also going to be presenting one of the parallel track sessions.

I'll be presenting a talk along with Hugh McGuire of LibriVox and BookOven.com -- two incredibly dynamic online communities of creative collaboration.

Here's the description from the BNC Tech Forum website for the session Hugh and I will be doing.

Trailblazing: Leading The Way to A New Kind of Supply Chain
Hugh McGuire, Book Oven
Mark Lefebvre, Titles Bookstore, McMaster University

What does the next generation of book creation and supply look like? More collaboration? Less waste? Just-in-time delivery? Hugh McGuire of Book Oven and Mark Lefebvre of Titles Bookstore (home of the Espresso Book Machine) present how in their experience new behaviours and technologies are changing the way we create and sell books.
Last night, the folks from BookNet Canada held a dinner in Toronto for forum speakers.

Yet again, I am overwhelmed to be fortunate enough to get to sit in a room with such a dynamic, intelligent and passionate people. Dinner started at 7 PM, with bullets of great conversation and discussion going around the table (and say bullets purposely, because the words came fast like machine-gun fire, riveting and hard to keep up with) -- I only had access to about 1/4 of the conversations going on at our long table -- and even then it was one of those frustrating moments where you wanted to be part of two or more discussions at once, because they were both absolutely compelling.

To put it in simple terms, I felt like Homer Simpson in the "Land of Chocolate" -- so many options, so much to sink one's teeth into it could be completely overwhelming. ("Wow! Chocolate, half price." -- okay, I digress)

I arrived a few minutes after 7 and the next thing I knew it was 9:30 and it had felt like perhaps 10 minutes had passed because the stimulating and engaging conversations were absolutely compelling. We moved on down the street to a bar where even more bookish peeps were hanging out, and where the great conversation continued.

I had planned on trying to get a group shot of everyone last night to use for this week's HNT photo. But of course, I completely forgot (I slipped into Homer mode perhaps?)

So, instead, I'll use the picture that was posted with my profile on the BNC Tech Forum website.

And go back to preparing myself for yet another fun-filled, information-packed day where I count myself lucky to have the opportunity to engage with such a fantastic group of people. I hope I remember to send tweets out (using hashtag #bnc10) about some of the fascinating things I learn/hear today.


Yeah, I know -- it's a picture of me posing with a bunch of books. I've never done that before, now have I?

Monday, March 22, 2010

United We Stand

The spring issue of Canadian Bookseller magazine (a publication of Canadian Booksellers Association) is out.

It includes an article I wrote called: "Better Booksellers Together" which covers various ways in which booksellers have successfully collaborated as well as the net effect these collaborations can have.

It would at first seem counterintuitive for independent operations to collaborate, particularly with a nearby bookstore that could potentially be a rival. But my article gives the perfect example of how two such booksellers have done so, quite successfully, for some time now with an incredible track record of success to show for it.

Similarly, the collaborative efforts between a small community bookstore and some other independently minded retailer make perfect sense.

Sure, an easy link between a bookstore and a coffee house have been around for a while, but what about some of the other not so immediate connections a person can make between a bookstore and another retail operation? Is there a possibility for a bookstore and a hotel to work together? What about a bookseller and a travel agency? Or a laundromat? Or a sporting goods store? Can you draw a connection between any two of them and see how they might be able to collaborate, help each other out and each become stronger and offer more to their customers?

The only thing stopping you from seeing the connections would be the limits we often impose on our creativity and free-spirited thinking.

Bookstores are a dynamic and critical element that are part of the complex mosaic of a local community. Drawing lines between a bookstore and any other neighbourhood businesses should be easy. And, in offering the customer more within their own community, make each business that much better.

And on the flip side of neighbourhood, one would think that geographic distance would make collaboration between booksellers in different regions difficult; but digital technology as well as the broad geographic divides that exist between us all make those types of collaborations unique, offering grounding within multiple communities while at the same time offering a connection that can be unique and lasting.

Similarly, collaborations between two physical locations is one thing, but bridging the gap between physical and virtual takes it one step further -- can you think of any ways in which customers can be better served by a wholly physical location working collaboratively with a service that does not occupy any physical space?

In any case, my article discusses various examples of how booksellers have been able to collaborate to each become stronger and offer more to their customers in the hopes that it offers booksellers food for thought when it comes to establishing their own collaborative efforts

The beauty with this type of strategy is that collaboration can be as small or simple as you'd like or as grand and complex as you're willing to attempt. Each opportunity, of course, has its own challenges and its own rewards. My article points out several different forward-thinking booksellers across our great nation who have collaborated quite successfully, making this business of bookselling, which so many of us are passionate about, that much better for ourselves and our customers.

If you already get Canadian Bookseller magazine, you should be reading each issue cover to cover -- in which case, you'll see my article on page 34.

And if you don't already get the magazine, you can read the article online here where the pdf is posted.

The latest issue of Canadian Bookseller magazine features Penguin Books on the cover -- they are celebrating 75 Great Years. I'm delighted with the great Canadian authors that Penguin Canada has published over the past several decades. (Speaking of collaborations, here's an oldy but a goody, a staple of bookseller collaboration -- my bookstore is collaborating with Penguin Canada for the official launch of Robert J. Sawyer's 10 city book tour for WATCH on March 31st)

Oh, and one last thing before I forget: Happy Birthday, Penguin! (I like your fancy polka-dot bow-tie -- and yes, I did notice that the polka dots are actually the official Penguin logo -- nice touch)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Choice Is King

The April 2010 issue of Quill & Quire (Canada's Magazine of Book News & Reviews) is now out.

Quill & Quire is celebrating their 75th anniversary this year and the latest issue is a special Anniversary Issue.

Following the theme of "75" Q&Q asked publishing professionals to share their thoughts on how to improve the industry. I was delighted and honoured when editor Stuart Woods contacted me a month or so ago asking me for a bookseller's perspective.

The 7.5 POV's included in the article entitled "7.5 Ideas for Fixing Canadian Publishing" are from Patrick Crean, the publisher of Thomas Allen, Dan Wagstaff, sales and online marketing rep for Raincoast Books, Mark Bertils, co-organizer of BookCamp Toronto, Julie Wilson, curator of SeenReading.com and former online content developer for House of Anansi Press, Craig Riggs, a partner in the Turner-Riggs consulting firm and adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University and Peter Waldock, president of North 49 Books. (The .5 is a cute "little thing" that the Q&Q staff collaborated on adding called "Don't be a buzz-kill")

First of all -- wow, I get to "hang out" with some pretty sharp bookish peeps. That alone is a huge honour and reminds me of just how lucky I am to have a job where I get to interact with such great minds.

Second, the article is an intriguing mix of viewpoints and perspectives that will hopefully give people within our publishing and bookselling industry some good food for thought.

Third -- my topic area within the article covers the concept of "Choice is King" and encourages booksellers and publishers to be as inclusive as possible in their thoughts, plans and actions when it comes to maintaining relevance in the hearts and minds of their customers and ensuring customers have easy access to the great products and services that are offered, particularly as our industry struggles to properly embrace digital technology and how it not only changes, but ultimately enhances the game.

So, a quick thank-you to Quill & Quire for asking me to submit my thoughts, as well as a fond and congratulatory Happy 75th Anniversary!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Future Is Being Written

This is a video that has been making the rounds lately. It was originally prepared by the UK branch of Dorling Kindersley Books and produced by Khaki Films (http://www.thekhakigroup.com/).

Originally meant solely for a DK sales conference, the video was such a hit internally that it is now being shared externally.


In my mind it's a brilliant example of the multiple ways anything can be perceived or interpreted depending on how you "read" it.

An absolutely brilliantly written and executed communication, it's easy to see why it was a hit and why it is now being shared.

Here's a direct link to the video. One note -- if, when watching this, you find it offensive and frightening, don't avert your eyes nor stop paying attention. There is an absolutely startling twist/pay-off.



And yes, I know it's immature, but the five year old in my heart gets a chuckle at the musician's name pronounced as "Lady Gargar" -- Reminds me of a Muppet spoof character. I can see her singing with Animal on the drums and the Gargling Gargoyles doing backup.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

HNT - Media Exposure

While speaking on behalf of Canadian Booksellers Association these past couple of weeks, I have certainly been exposed in various ways.

Early last week I was on CBC's Power & Politics. You can watch the clip here. (I come in at about 1 hour and 4 minutes into the broadcast)

On Friday last week, I was on CTV's Business News Network's Midday Markets with Andrea Mandell-Campbell and Howard Green - you can watch that clip here.



Along with a handful of other radio appearances both last week and this, I was also in the CBC Radio One studio with Jian Ghomeshi on Q Tuesday morning, whose other guest was Michael Geist and we discussed the two different sides in the debate. You can listen to that here.

But, of course, the most ironic thing happened yesterday.

A producer from CBC's The Lang & O'Leary Exchange asked if I could appear on the show yesterday evening opposite Paul Misener, VP of Global Public Policy at Amazon. I had to politely decline because I was already booked to host a local author event with a book from a small Canadian publisher in my community. In other words, "Sorry big Amazon executive, I can't debate you right now because my local community, a local author and a small press publisher that I am supporting need me."

Funny that THAT is one of the main reasons that CBA is speaking out right now -- for the hundreds of booksellers across our great nation do just that type of thing every day. They host and support local author events in their local communities every day which adds to the incredibly rich and dynamic experience that Canadians currently have when it comes to books. You can efficiently and easily get the books online if you prefer that, you can get deep discounting at big box warehouses, you can pop into a local drugstore or supermarket, or you can engage within a bricks and mortar store in your local community. We don't want ANY of those to go away -- we want them ALL to continue to be here, adding to the mosaic of the "book" experience.

And here's the clincher. Last night, we only sold a handful of books. The author, who did an excellent job of holding her audience fascinating throughout her talk that evening, apologized to me because we didn't sell many books. I reminded her that while selling books is good for us, for the publisher and for her royalties, the evening wasn't just about the sale of a physical product.

It was, and will always be about that connection we were able to help make between an author and the reader, a physical and live discussion and communication, a culturally significant moment in time in which people actually gather together to celebrate, to share, to interact and to exchange ideas.

Being a conduit for such activities is one of the wonderful perks of being a bookseller. And one of the reasons why we're continuing to speak out. I don't want to see communities continue to lose these types of things.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Man, His Son And Their Laughter

My father died 7 years ago today. In many ways it seems like just yesterday that I lost him, but in other ways, it seems like several lifetimes ago.

Time perhaps makes it a bit easier as all the details of life fill one's days, but the heart aches no less.

Seven years? Really? Wow. And yes, I just doubled checked. Each March 17 I have reflected back on various things that came to mind on this anniversary of his loss in 2003.

March 17, 2005 - Miss You Dad
I had just started this blog and was reflecting on how we "sort of" named our son Alexander in honour of my Dad. I repeat the "sort of" thing with a humour I know Dad would appreciate. I mean, love him as I did, Dad's name was Eugene. But his Dad's name was Alex.

March 17, 2006 - Still Miss You Dad
I'm pretty darned good at consistent naming conventions, aren't I? Is this post I shared a poem I had written for him back in 1996 that I'll share again today.

March 17, 2007 - Dad - Four Years Ago Today
The title of this post proves without a doubt that I can indeed count. Within the post I reflect on a fine fall on Manitoulin Island when I was working on a "father/son" themed novel called Morning Son and had shared some scenes with my Dad. I'm still counting, and the novel is still unsold. (I just got back the latest rejection on it about a month ago - but I'm not giving up on that one. I know if I don't give up it'll eventually find a good home - us writers love abuse; rejection only makes us stronger . . . that's why I was such a force to be reckoned with when I was single and dating - I'd been rejected MORE than anybody around)

March 17, 2008 - And I Miss You Just The Same
This post is filled with pictures of my Dad and me, a brief summary of the day he died (since I re-live it in my head regularly), and a nod to how my Dad always left them laughing. More on that in a bit.

March 17, 2009 - Mourning Son
Last year's post I talked, yet again about the unsold novel, Morning Son (yes, there's no typo here, the title is a play on the words "morning sun" and "mourning son" -- oh how clever I am with words) -- but the really fun thing about this post is that it includes pictures of me and my Dad. They make me smile to look at them, but they make others laugh to see the mullet I was sporting.

And that leads me to a legacy my Dad left me with which I truly cherish.

My Dad loved to make people laugh. Since I admire the man so much, I naturally want to "be like" him or be seen to be like him in many ways. Yeah sure, I have middle age thinning hair and male pattern baldness just like Dad, but gosh darn it all, I want more. If I could possess only one of his skills or talents, it would be that -- make 'em laugh. Continually influenced and inspired by his manner, I do my best to put smiles onto the faces of people where-ever I go, whether it's a quick interaction with a stranger, or yet another chat with a colleague.

The world needs more laughter -- and, since my Dad left this world, and there's one less person making people smile and laugh, I feel it's only right to do my part. It's part of the reason why I chose to poke fun at myself while quietly reflecting on my sadness and loss. If that made just one reader smile, then I've done my job, and I've done my Dad proud.

Okay, and now to the serious stuff -- my (drum roll please) poetry. And no, this isn't the one I claimed to have written about that man from Nantucket.

As I copy and paste (look how hard I'm working here) this poem, I'm glancing at the beautiful artwork from an Ottawa valley artist that Fran and I purchased to give to him with the poem that partially inspired it which hangs in my den above the desk and above this poem, mounted on a gorgeous wooden frame my Dad created. We both channeled our creative energies into the project - I did the writing, Dad made the writing resonate in the beautiful natural presentation of it.

A Man, His Son and Their Dog

A man, his son and their dog
Sit quiet, ever still
They are dark silhouettes against an intense fire-red

display of the waking sun in the eastern sky
The haunting call of a loon in the distance
And a duck flaps its wings, takes flight above the lake
Slicing cleanly through the picturesque scene

The dog whimpers, leans forward, looks askance at the boy

The boy himself turns his head slowly to regard his father
The man nods, smiles, then returns his gaze to the mist
rising off of the lake

In that silent exchange
Against the orange-tinted morning sky
A mutual respect and love are shared
In a way that can never be spoken
But which still carries more power, more beauty

Than any sunset or sunrise
- Mark Leslie Lefebvre, 1996



I cried when I wrote this poem, and I cry every time I read it.

But I smile to think of that powerful, mostly unspoken bond between a father and son. And when I think about both the collaboration this poem represents, as well as the fun times and laughter Dad and I shared, my smile gets bigger and bigger, and the tears are a sadness mixed with laughter.

As I reflect on how Dad made me and others smile and laugh, I realize something crucial about the circle of life. My son makes me smile and laugh multiple times per day. So, no matter how much I try to give back and give that gift to others, it comes back to me two and threefold every single dad.

I'm a blessed man. Rich with smiles, rich with laughter. I have endless pocketfuls of the stuff that I feel is my duty to share with as many people as I can. But, like love, you can never run out of the stuff -- the more you give, the more it returns to you.

Okay, time to go upstairs and wake up my son. Unlike myself and my Dad before me, Alexander isn't a morning person. But when he's particularly hard to wake up, there are tricks I can do to get his attention -- like when I "throw myself" down the stairs. That always gets a rise, and, of course, a laugh out of him. (Kids, don't try this at home - I am, after all, a trained professional in the art of pretending to throw myself down the stairs -- been doing that for decades and haven't broken a limb -- at least yet)

So my son and I will share a quick morning laugh. What a wonderful way to start the day.

I know Dad would have been proud.

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Name Is Earl

Francine, Alexander and I were delighted to get the opportunity to bunny-sit this past weekend.

We were actually quite delighted. It had been about four years since our home was filled with the sounds, noises and delights that a bunny can bring to it.

Our bunny, Mister Bunny, had lived for 11 years -- as I understand it, a bit longer than most dwarf rabbits live. For most of those years, he was a very animated and lively bunny, continually exploratory in nature and full of an endless energy. Even in his final few years, though he was a "senior" he was active and playful, never quite losing that "childish" nature that made him so much fun.

Though Alexander was just under 2 when Mister Bunny passed away, the two of them did have a lot of fun together. (Mister Bunny even consented to appear in various episodes of my HNT Darth Tater series of blog posts that started with the following "trilogy": Darth Tater Unmasked, Carb-Eater Strikes Back and Return of the Spud-Eye. Even after he had died, he appeared in a later episode of the goofy series that wouldn't end, The Final Standoff. Okay, he didn't consent to appear in this series, but he didn't protest it, either)

So, when we agreed to take Earl in for the weekend, we were delighted. And, admittedly, a bit worried about what kind of havoc a 1 year old rabbit might cause in our home.

While Earl is adorable and cute and loves to have his nose petted in the same way that Mister Bunny did, he wasn't quite the little bundle of energy we were expecting.

He stayed in his home pretty much the whole weekend, regardless of the continual efforts we made (both bold and subtle) to encourage him to come out of his cage and explore.

Little Mr Home-body, Earl the bunny

On Thursday evening, when he first arrived, we thought that perhaps he was just a little bit nervous being in a new environment and that it might take a day or so to get used to the new people, smells, sights and sounds.

But that never happened.

When I tried to gently lift him out of his cage and put him on a carpet in front of his cage as a way of encouraging him to explore and run around, he immediately hopped right back inside. And though we left the door on his cage open pretty much the whole time we were around, or had the top of the cage completely off for hours at a stretch, he did nothing more than stick his little head out to sniff around.

Even yesterday when I was cleaning out his cage and litter box and required removing him from his house, he struggled to get back inside, and I had to physically block him from re-entering.

And the second I was finished cleaning his house, and removed barrier to his access, he hopped right back inside.

Sigh.

It was quite a startling change from the animated and restless energy Mister Bunny showed.

Yes, Earl is a beautiful little rabbit. But the main difference between having him stay here and having, say, oh, a goldfish sitting in a bowl in the corner, is that you can't pet a goldfish.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

If You Can Read This You're Following Too Close

I'm on Twitter.

But I'm not on it as a gigantic game of seeing how many followers I can amass.

I'm using Twitter as yet another way to communicate back and forth in the social media landscape. I tweet about writing, books, bookselling and mostly related topics (of course, as we're all human, I also tweet about completely un-related topics)

But let me repeat. I'm not using Twitter out of a "mine is bigger than yours" mentality that the person with the most followers wins.

I don't have a lot of followers. Nor am I interested in having a ton of followers -- particularly followers where I don't offer anything useful to them.

I don't follow people in the hope that they follow me back.

I basically follow any person or entity that adds value to my day as a bookseller, writer and book nerd.

Here's how I roll.

When I started on Twitter I sought out various folks whom I thought would be interesting. Then I followed them. I also followed people whom the folks I followed retweeted (RT) if I thought they had interesting things to say. As I move along, when something catches my interest, I check out a person's profile and see if the rest of their tweets are interesting to me.

Similarly, whenever someone follows me, I usually get a notification. If I have the time, I'll check out their Twitter account and I'll look at a few things I see there.

A) Are they a real person/entity/business that is of interest to me
IE, I want to confirm that they're not some sort of spam account. I also like to see SOME sort of profile information about who they are, and, hopefully, a link to their website so I can see more if I'm interested.

B) What are their last half dozen tweets?
For this, I'm looking at the content of their tweets. Are they interesting TO ME, or do they add value TO MY STREAM? Looking at a single tweet doesn't do it, because the last tweet might be some sort of response to another that I'm reading out of context -- but usually, within the first half dozen tweets I can tell two basic things -- are they a sincere Tweeter and, if so, is the content they're pushing out intriguing or interesting.

I'm quite particular about this last questions, because there are a ton of interesting and intriguing people out there on Twitter. I just don't have time to follow them all. So, in the same way that I can't read every single great book ever published, I recognize I can't follow everyone. Yes, I know, there are lists and filters and all kinds of options where I can add 100,000 people to follow, yet filter 99% of them out and only read 1% of them.

But, seriously, what's the point of that?

It's like subscribing to 1000 channels on TV when what I really want to do it watch 4 shows on 3 different channels.

There's enough noise out there already. Why should I invite MORE of it into my already noisy social media space?

This is why I am continually baffled and ticked off by certain people who seem to be using Twitter to just grow their "follower" list -- they'll follow anyone and everyone merely in the hopes of having people follow back.

You can tell these people because you'll get a notification that they're following you. Then, you'll get a notification a day or week later that they're following you. And again, and again.

What it seems to me like they're doing is following you, hoping that you follow them back. And, if you don't, they stop following you. Then they follow you again -- again with the hope you'll reciprocate.

Seriously, people. Grow up.

If you want to convince me of your complete insincerity, then keep doing that.

If, however, you want to ACTUALLY connect with me, feel free to try to connect with me, not play an endless game of "follow/unfollow" -- I mean, really, who has that much time in their day?

Along those same lines, I don't want everyone to follow me -- particularly if I don't add any value. (Example, if someone is on Twitter to find out more about the fine art of knitting, they're going to waste their time following me - I pretty much have nothing of value to offer to them) THAT would just be a waste of their time. It's similar to the way I think about my fiction. As intriguing as it might seem to me, I actually don't want EVERYONE to read my fiction.

I recognize that some people will love my writing (and am self-aware enough to know that this is very likely to be a select minority of people), some will merely like it and some will hate it. The worst thing I could do would be to flog my fiction around to EVERYONE. In standard day to day contact with people, I don't tell everyone I write and what I write -- I usually only mention it IF I believe that my writing is something they might enjoy. At that point, it stands to have more value to them.

So, similarly, I'm on Twitter. Check me out. If you think my tweets add value to your day, feel free to follow me. If not, then check out someone else. I'd hate to waste your time.

Friday, March 12, 2010

enTourage eDGe

A couple of weeks ago, I got an enTourage eDGe and the first book I purchased to read on it is Seth Godin's Linchpin.


I've been loving the experience of reading (and making annotations on the book) in this dual-book system and have been dying to blog about the experience (and Godin's phenomenal latest book)

However, it's been a little crazy busy for me lately, so I haven't had time.

I just wanted to pause and mention it, and offer a teaser that a longer "review" of my experience reading on this device is going to be coming soon . . .

Thursday, March 11, 2010

HNT - CBC

It has been an interesting week.

CBA's concerns over Amazon's bid to open a warehouse in Canada has generated some interesting buzz within the book industry. I talk about it in detail in this post from yesterday.

Myself and several other board members and members of CBA have been in contact with various media outlets around the country, talking to newspapers, magazines, radio and television programs about it.

On Tuesday night, I made a quick drive in to Toronto to be in CBC's studio for an appearance on CBC's Power & Politics (my appearance comes in at about 1 hr and 4 minutes into the 2 hour broadcast) where I talked about CBA's concerns and the longer term effect this might have on our culture.

It was surreal being inside the CBC building in downtown Toronto. But it was like a really quick and efficient doctor's appointment. I signed in with security, was escorted upstairs, waited a few minutes, got moved into the mini-studio area with a set of chairs and the camera, a sound test was done, then I was speaking with the folks from the Ottawa studio (without being able to see them). A few minutes later, I unhooked the earpiece and microphone and was back out the door.

Here are some still shots from the video of my appearance.



These are, of course, fun pictures, indicative of the "exposure" I was a part of this week. (One does feel quite "Nekkid" in front of the cameras -- of course I didn't have time to become too nervous, as it all happened rather quickly)

My blog post from yesterday gets into long-winded detail trying to explain the CBA point of view to those who misunderstand -- but in a nutshell, here's the summary for those who are confused over what we're asking for.

CBA is not trying to prevent Amazon or any other foreign owned country from selling their product into Canada.

CBA is not trying to prevent competition and not trying to limit consumer choice.

Competition and choice ARE GOOD for consumers and Canadian consumers should continue to have the choice to purchase their books from a variety of sources -- big box warehouses, grocery stores, drug stores, Canadian chain bookstores, independent and local neighbourhood bookstores, or online via Canadian and foreign websites.

The current choice we now have as consumers is great, but something that COULD be threatened if proposed circumvention of the Investment Canada Act allow a juggernaut like Amazon to take a deeper strangle-hold on an industry that is as much about the product as it is about the culture involved in the experience of writing, publishing and selling books.

The current choice we have today could be threatened if, instead of the great choices we have now, we're limited to a single monopolistic giant that can easily out-buy smaller or even larger Canadian companies and through force, eliminate all competition. What choice would people have, then?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Opposing Amazon

* Please note that this blog post is the viewpoint of a single Canadian bookseller and though there is cross-over viewpoint included, this is not meant to represent any other larger entity or organization.

When Stephen Cribar, Canadian Bookseller Association President, was unable to make it in to the CBC studio's yesterday evening for a live appearance on Politics & Power to discuss why CBA opposes Amazon's recent desire to set up a physical warehouse in Canada (Globe & Mail article, Quill & Quire blog, National Post article), as CBA Vice President, I stepped in.



The interview appears on CBC's website here at about 1 hour and 4 minutes. (It's an interesting show overall, but if you don't have time and are interested in the "book" discussion, you can skip through to about 1: 04 in the broadcast)

Reactions to CBA's opposition are mixed, and mostly due, I think, to a misunderstanding on why the opposition is occurring.

Here's my personal take on it, or why I personally support CBA's opposition.

CBA is NOT proposing that Amazon not sell into the Canadian market or that the government attempt to block Amazon from having access to the market.

First of all, it would be impossible, since the internet is pretty much available anywhere to anyone (at least in the free world). And second, let's look at the reality: Amazon is ALREADY a powerful and dominant presence in our market.

So what is CBA opposing?

CBA is opposing a ruling that would open the gate for this foreign-owned company to set up a physical location into Canada. And it's not necessarily because of what that simple warehouse means, but the fact that this step could be the first of many in which a powerful, rich "American Goliath" might be able to commandeer a different sort of presence in Canada that could systematically take down any semblance of independence and free-thinking that currently exists.

Is it likely to happen? Who knows? Is our Canadian independence and distinct Canadian voice worth fighting for? Damn right.

Since the explosion of internet bookselling and big box retailing, many independent booksellers across Canada have closed up shop. It's sad and frustrating to see. However, that's part of the nature of the business. Some stores continue to operate, and some just can't do it anymore. And yes, competition is good. Competition is GREAT, in fact. It allows the consumer to be able to have access to more choice about where they want to shop and how they want to shop.

CBA is NOT opposed to choice for consumers. In fact, choice is one of the underlying reasons why CBA is leery about what this move means for Canada.

Right now, consumers have a choice as to where, when and how they purchase their books. They can do it online via hundreds of various sources, whether it's their local independent bookstore, via Canada's largest chain, Chapters/Indigo, or via Amazon's US or Canadian website. Or they can do it via a variety of physical locations, whether it's a big box warehouse, their local drug, grocery or department store, Chapters, Coles or Indigo, or their local independent bookstore, all of which offer an incredibly complex and dynamic breadth to the cultural landscape of Canada, particularly when it comes to the written word.

In my opinion, consumers having that choice is wonderful. I WANT consumers to have that choice, to be able to decide where and how to spend their money on books. In my mind, the very fact that people are interested in purchasing books and reading is wonderful. And Canadian consumers should ALWAYS have such a wonderful choice between as many options as possible.

But what happens if an American giant is able to work it's way into Canada and takes over a large Canadian operation? The initial thought is that there would be more choice, more selection available to consumers. However, let's look at some things that have happened in Canadian bookselling in the past few decades.

Local communities and support of smaller local presses and local authors suffered significant blows when Canada's dominant bookseller moved their purchasing focus from being decided within the regions where their stores were located, and centralized them to a downtown Toronto office. How can a buyer in Toronto (no matter how great they are, and I personally know many of them -- they are truly intelligent, wonderful and very passionate book people) properly get a handle on a local interest title being produced in a small town in Eastern Canada, a title that perhaps isn't destined to sell well anywhere except in a particular region? A title that requires actually knowing something about the actual community, that requires being a part of that community.

Chances are, it'll get overlooked in the long run if due to nothing more than the red tape of a larger organization.

It's very likely that the local bookseller, whether it's someone who works locally in that chain store, or an owner or employee who works in the local independent bookstore, have their finger on the pulse of the local community, are in touch with the artists and creators and customers.

For the knowledgeable employee in a Canadian chain store to get their voice heard it takes a great deal of effort and energy to work against the "norm" and push for local content and support their local community. Because the system is set up for information and knowledge to flow from Toronto to all outlying locations, getting a decent flow of information back to Toronto that would be important to the local community, is a challenge.

There are employees within the chain stores that do it -- but it's usually because they persist against the odds and these are extraordinary people. Of course, employees and owners of independent bookstores can do these things quickly, easily and efficiently. They are extraordinary people, too -- and fortunately, there isn't a system preventing them from showcasing their passion for books and community spirit. They are, after all, independent, and with that comes freedom of choice and the lack of preventative red tape.

Imagine how difficult that struggle for the local bookseller might be if the bookselling operation and main purchasing decisions for Canada were located in New York rather than Toronto?

Imagine what might happen to those books which are produced that offer regional and local authors and publishers a chance to share their voice no longer have the opportunity to be accessible to consumers?

Sure, the local regional publisher might be able to set up an account to sell their books on Amazon. Sure, perhaps their titles are searchable via a million other titles on a gigantic website that screams selection, selection. The "Long Tail" of bookselling brought about by internet bookstores is truly remarkable. But the down-side of that is that the odds of a customer being able to stumble upon a locally significant title within the overwhelming selection are greatly reduced.

That's one of the side benefits of a local bookseller invested in a local community -- they are there to help consumers within that selection. To get to know their community and their customers. To help the customer make decisions based on previous reading, based on their viewpoints and perspectives. The book-shopping experience isn't just about buying a physical product, it's about the multi-level and complex cultural experience involved. Often, the physical browsing and the conversation between consumers and booksellers are what add a relevant and dynamic spice to the book-shopping experience.

The chances of that local authored and locally produced title being prominently displayed or discussed in a physical location within the region where that book is integral to the community or important to the local consumers is pretty strong. And sometimes it's those lesser known regional titles that end up making a significant stance in the Canadian market that were championed by local and regional bestsellers, merely because they existed, were able to support the book, the author, the publisher, and help it work its way into the hearts and minds of consumers.

Thus, we, as consumers, currently have a great system which is a combination of Canadian chain and independent operations, all offering slightly different things in terms of price, selection, availability and service. We also have access to rich repositories of online books both Canadian and foreign owned.

We need to keep that dynamic and rich selection available to consumers.

With the existing landscape of the Canadian bookselling market, with the wonderful and dynamic range of bookstores that Canadian consumers have access to, customers are nicely served.

In Hamilton, for example, where I live, consumers can go to Coles, Chapters, Bryan Prince or Titles Bookstore at McMaster (to give 4 good examples) to purchase their books. Similarly, they can also go online and seek out their books.

When I work at our general books desk at Titles Bookstore at McMaster I regularly get customers coming in and looking for titles, AFTER they have searched the Chapters and Indigo websites. What are they often looking for? Titles from a smaller press that might not have been able to crack into those markets. Wonderful books from independent Canadian booksellers written by local and regional authors that I, as a bookseller within Canada, either already have on my store shelves or can easily reseach and order. But it's not just my store, it's hundreds of stores across the country where the same thing is played out every day. If the customer's ONLY option were the online behemoths, is anybody going to bother researching and ordering their book in for them?

Again, I'm not saying that the online booksellers are terrible. They're great, in fact. I love them. I buy books from them as a consumer. (I buy books at my own store, and I also buy books online from Canadian and US websites as well as at bookstores wherever I travel. And I LOVE having the ability to choose and relish the fact that consumers should continue to have this choice)

Imagine yet another "Wal-Mart" type business setting up shop and focusing on a strategy by which they will continually sell items below cost in order to squeeze out all competitors.

Imagine what might happen when, in squeezing out all competitors, the Canadian landscape of bookstores remains nothing but a variety of online and physical bookstores all run from a distant head office located outside the borders of Canada?

We Canadians LOVE making fun of how little our U.S. neighbours know about us -- the fact that they have no clue we have a Prime Minister instead of a President, wondering if we all live in igloos, or when, during the Vancouver Olympics, NBC confused Michael J. Fox with Terry Fox. Of course, there couldn't possibly have been two different Foxes from Canada who did something significant. It's a simple mistake for an unknowing US journalist to make. But a ridiculous error made by simply not knowing anything about our culture and identity. What if a Canadian journalist confused Jamie Fox with Matthew Fox? Well, we know that wouldn't happen. We are already saturated in media from the U.S. and regularly see evidence of what a lack of knowledge about Canada in general means.

What if MORE decisions with respect to Canadian produced content and culture were given over to foreign or US owned companies?

What would happen to the richness of our choices, then?

As I stated before, this is merely one possible scenario that could happen. I'm all for selection, I'm all for choice. But I'm also all for a system in which consumers will continue to be offered choice, not have that choice taken away from them if all book-retailing decisions are made by a single powerful foreign owned entity.

Stranger, more frightening things have happened when people just sat back and watched rather than stuck their necks out, took a stand, and spoke out against something they strongly believed in.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Read an E-Book Week

March 7-13, 2010 is "Read an E-Book Week" -- here is a list of various places online where you can get an e-book. Most of the places listed are offering free e-books (if not exclusively, then in addition to the ones you can buy) and others are offering discounts on their e-books in celebration.

I'm currently reading four books, two of which are e-books. Actually one and a half are e-books, since I'm reading two hardcopy paper versions and one pure e-book. The third I'm toggling between reading the e-book version on my iPhone when I'm out and about, and the extremely heavy 1000 page hardcover on my bed-side nightstand. (The back-and-forth between the two mediums depending on where I am has been a wonderful experience, making me look forward to a time where publishers perhaps "bundle" a free e-book version into the hard-cover purchase of a book)

I wanted to take the time to point people to an e-book version of the last book I had the pleasure of working on. Campus Chills, (which I edited), was produced by the bookstores at University of Alberta, Waterloo and McMaster.

The book (which retails in print version for $19.99 and is still available at the bookstores mentioned above as well as a selection of other wonderful independent bookstores across Canada), is now available as an ebook on Kobobooks.com for $9.99.

One of the things I like about Kobobooks (besides their Canadian roots), is the open manner in which you can read your ebooks from them. Rather than be hardware based, they let you read the book online or via a variety of different free applications. You can download free applications to read on the most popular smartphones, such as the iPhone, Blackberry, Palm Pre or Android.

Go check it out -- you can sample a bit of Campus Chills for free. And I strongly encourage you to do so, because Douglas Smith's incredible story "Radio Nowhere" is available completely for free.

You can either read it online or on your smart-phone. Doug's story is a wonderfully touching and thrilling tale that takes place at the University of Waterloo and involves the campus radio station, time displacement, and a duck. It's a "Twilight-Zone" style story that brings together elements of science fiction and atmospheric horror wonderfully and is not to be missed.

But, of course, as the editor of Campus Chills I'm a bit biased. So don't just take my word for it. Consider the fact that "Radio Nowhere" has recently been nominated for a Prix Aurora Award (Canada's premier science fiction award) for 2010 in the English short-story category.

Doug's story opens with the following line:

"On the anniversary of the worst night of his life, Liam stood outside the darkened control room of the campus radio station. Over the speakers, the Tragically Hip's "Boots and Hearts" was just winding down. Behind the glass in the studio, Ziggy's small triangular face glowed like some night angel, lit from below by her laptop screen. She looked up, her eyes finding Liam's in the darkness. Smiling, she wrinkled her nose at him. His own smile slid away, falling into the dark place inside him, the place that was always darker on this night."
- from "Radio Nowhere" by Douglas Smith

Okay, how can that opening paragraph not inspire you to go read the rest of the story? Seriously, STOP READING THIS BLOG POST and go read Doug's story now. The rest of this post is just me blathering on -- but Doug's story, now that's something worth reading.

Here is a picture of Douglas Smith doing a reading at Waterloo during the October 22, 2009 cross-Canada launch of the anthology. (Doug appeared with Julie E. Czerneda and James Alan Garder -- all three are Waterloo Alumni) -- BTW, the picture is blurry because the person taking the picture was so ultimately spellbound by Doug's story that they had trouble focusing on the camera operation.


Here is one of Doug signing copies of Campus Chills at the Waterloo event.


And here's a picture of Doug from a book launch and reading he did at the McMaster bookstore last year for the launch of his first collection Impossibilia. (His latest collection is called Chimerascope)


If you're still reading this instead of checking out Doug's story, I might as well re-link to the free story at Kobobooks.com -- if you don't have time to read it right now, download the app to your smartphone and read Doug's great story at your convenience while waiting in line at the grocery store or somewhere else where you find yourself with a few minutes to read and nothing on you but your phone.

If you like Doug's story, then chances are you'll like the other 12 stories in Campus Chills. All of them are set on campuses across Canada and written by some of the finest writers I've had the pleasure of working with and reading. And yes, they all have a special kind of chill to them (the stories, not the writers -- the writers have a special something about them, but the stories they wrote for Campus Chills, well, that's where the chills lie)

Or, hey, if you're still sticking around and reading this, I might as well toss in some self-promotional activity and say that if you want some other free stuff to read via Kobo, then check out my short story "Distractions" and "Active Reader" -- both are also available entirely free.

So there, if you've never had an e-book reading experience, I just provided links to 3 complete short stories you can enjoy without having to spend a dime. Not a bad way to celebrate "read an e-book week."

Monday, March 08, 2010

Book Nerds TV

So I suppose it isn't enough that I've got this blog, a podcast, and various other online outlets to share writing and various creative activities on the web.

Last night I recorded the first episode of something I'm calling Book Nerds TV. It's a UStream feed, which I'm fooling around and experimenting with.

In the first episode I talk about Earth Abides by George R. Stewart -- one of my all time favourite novels (though I've only read the book twice). It's not a proper book review. Instead, I talk a little bit about how much I enjoyed the book, my journey to finally reading it through at least one false start, as well as a general bit of talk about post-apocalyptic novels. I, (as always), slip in a little self-promotional material by talking about how I quoted from Stewart's novel in the opening of one of my short stories (Browsers -- which you can listen to for free on my podcast), but then quickly got back to talking about how, like the boy I refer to from that quote, I am continually overwhelmed by books.

The episode runs just under 14 minutes. And in all honesty, I have no idea what I'm doing (which you can likely tell if you watch the recorded clip). I grabbed a couple of copies of Earth Abides to keep near my desk, made a quick list of some of my favourite other "end of the world" novels, and started recording.

Given how much I love books and love talking about various different books and bookselling related topics, I thought I'd try doing a semi-regular broadcast on Book Nerds TV and just start talking about something for 15 minutes to half an hour.

I was thinking of a weekly show and picking a time when I figured I'd be able to do this.

Perhaps something like Sunday nights at 11:30 PM. (Tricky to pick a regular time slot and stick to it -- but I can rest assured that most Sunday nights at that time, I'm actually at home) And I'm wondering if, like podcasting, the archived videos which can be watched at any time might have at least some value, or if there is more value in a "live" medium, where viewers can comment live and offer input, ask questions, etc.

It's a fun experiment that I'm looking forward to continuing.

What do you think? Should I give it a shot, try to do this weekly? Was this 15 minutes of listening to me babble on about Earth Abides and other books too painful and should I just abandon the whole idea?

Let me know your thoughts. Don't worry -- I'm a writer with decades of "rejection" experience. I can take it.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Digital Journal

Okay, so the improvement of the landscape of "digital books" is getting more and more exciting.

Check out this Microsoft Courier tablet/e-book device.

I LOVE this collaborative digital journal that seems to offer all the best of a digital planner, a journal, a calendar, web-access and e-reading capabilities. Seems to be the best of all worlds and the type of "all in one" portable device that gets this book nerd really excited.

I'm imagining using this type of device to quickly and easily capture the various different ideas and thoughts that occur to me throughout the day and which are often lost before I get a chance to note them in the journal kept in my desk drawer at home. A quick snapshot with a roughly scrawled note is sometimes all I need, because often, when I'm working on a story, article or novel, it's that random thought that jumps into my head, that, like an "a-ha" moment, provides me just what I need to keep the story, article, writing project moving along.

Thanks to Mitch Joel for posting about this on his blog which is where I first learned about it.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Best A Man Can Get

I'm thinking that, as their slogan goes, Gillette is the best a man can get.

Several weeks ago, towards the end of a challenging pay period where the bills and expenses overpowered the amount of available funds, I was in need of a razor, having stretched the re-use of my existing one to about three times it's expected life.

So, at my local Shopper's Drug Mart, while browsing through the razor blades, I decided to forgo my default purchase of the MACH 4 Gillette razor (or whatever number they're at now, since they just keep increasing it to make it more and more impressive -- soon, I'm sure I'll be using a MACH 4000). Instead, I bought one of the cheaper knock-off brands -- in this case, the much lower priced Life Brand razor (a Shopper's Drug Mart branding for better prices on various products)

The Life Brand, in most other cases has proven to be a suitable compromise for me. Better price, seemingly no difference in quality.

Except when it came to the razor.

How do I best state this? Okay, let me try.

Ouch!!!!

Ahhh!!!!

Damn!!!!

Oy!!!!

By the time I was finished, my face looked somewhat like Frankenstein's monster. Seriously, the tiny nicks and cuts of outrageous fortune were all over my face, some of them running deep and taking well over a week to heal.

Needless to say, I eagerly awaited the next pay coming in so I could buy a decent razor. A Gillette.

BTW, this ad isn't sponsored by Gillette, and they know nothing about me talking about this -- IE, this isn't a sponsored post. I told myself to write it. I've also used Wilkinson and Schick and others, and they all do well, too.

I guess the point I'm trying to make here (aside from an attempt at telling a humourous story about hurting myself by trying to be cheap), is that you often get exactly what you pay for, and that, being price conscious when shopping is, of course, a good thing to do, but there ARE cases where the "deal" is not a "deal" because it's a lesser quality product that costs you something else.

In my case, the cost was blood.

I'm not slamming Life Brand, because there are various Life Brand items I use that are perfectly fine. But when it comes to safety razors I'm going to stick with Gillette and the other top notch brands that cost more, but keep my face smooth and sleek and free of the thousand thin razor cuts that flesh is heir to.

I'm sure you might have your OWN examples of when you tried to make do with a lesser brand or service because of cost savings and ended up doing yourself a huge disservice.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

HNT - Bound For Evil?

Yesterday, The Mark News published an article I wrote in which I attempted to sum up the whole Google Book Settlement thing.

Of course, the article ends up asking more questions than it answers.

The question I started with (at least in the back of my mind) was whether or not, as an author, I should opt OUT of the settlement or lay claim to any of my work that is out there and potentially involved.

The question I ended up with after doing a whack of reading various viewpoints is something I owe to Cory Doctorow's intriguing statements, which I quote in the article. And that is the concept of a single entity controlling all of literature.

Don't get me wrong. I love and admire Google. They have worked hard to build an incredible company and offer a vast array of products and services that are top notch. But the idea of a single company controlling the history of literature reminds me a bit of the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx from the Rush album 2112.

So I thought it'd be fitting for this week's HNT post to be a picture of me reading the wonderful BOUND FOR EVIL: Curious Tales of Books Gone Bad anthology (Edited by Tom English - Dead Letter Press 2008), which includes my evil bookstore tale "Browsers" with the Google logo looking over my shoulder.


No, not as powerful as the naked starman standing in front of the giant red logo used on the back cover artwork of the 2112 album. But my own little modernized ode to Rush and designer Hugh Syme.

Check out the full article at The Mark News by clicking here.



Wednesday, March 03, 2010

I've Been Waiting For A Snow Like You

Well, it took most of the winter in Hamilton, which was, as true winters go, mostly a flop. But the snow FINALLY came in the last couple of weeks.

It's already melting, but when it came down and in the days following, my son and I had some fun working on and playing in Fort Alexander 2010.

And FUN is what it's all about for 5 year olds and 40 year olds alike . . .






FYI, on the little "Fort Alexandr" sign we made, there are a few images. On the left there's a sign indicating that snowmen of all types, including those with ears, as Alexander likes to draw them, are welcome (we're an inclusive sort of clubhouse).

And on the right there's an icon indicating that "no grumps are allowed"