Thursday, August 25, 2011

HNT - BookCampTO 2011

Last Saturday I attended BookCampTO 2011. BookCamp is an unconference - a conversation rather than a keynote. This means all attendees are potential presenters and expected participants. The best thing about this type of gathering (besides the collaborative conversations), is that everybody is welcome to attend. Writers, technologists, publishers, readers, editors, designers, book sellers, book buyers, printers, librarians … anyone who cares about books is welcome and encouraged to attend.

This makes for a well-rounded gathering of people who are passionate about our industry.

Session ideas for an unconference like this are typically born from a flexible series of suggestions for topic areas, with anyone welcome to submit comments, questions, ideas and content related to it. This helps provide some sort of basis for each of the sessions that are ultimately decided upon. Typically, one, two, three or more people are asked to help lead the discussion. But, again, rather than it being a lecture or one to many type of talk, it is meant to be a workshop setting, with session leaders guiding the discussion, inviting participation and trying to keep everyone on track.

I always love this type of collaboration, and I am particularly inspired by the enthusiasm, passion and willingness of people to share ideas. The best book industry events, in my opinion, are ones in which people come together to work at sharing and resolving challenges, rather than in a confrontational way. For the most part, the spirit of collaboration and sharing was evident. The schedule itself included five tracks with five sessions, with lots of great choices for things for people to participate in. Four of the five tracks were left completed un-scheduled, meaning it became the ultimate natural-discussion room, where hallway conversations could be worked into ad-lib workshops.

In a nutshell, the organizers, a small group of committed and passionate book industry professionals, along with the sponsors (a similar group) and the volunteers (yes, cut from the very same cloth as the two aforementioned groups) are to be commended for putting so much time, effort and energy into providing a fanastic opportunity for people from across our industry to come together.

I could write a review, but there are already great POV posts out there that cover #bcto11 (that was the Twitter hashtag - check that out that stream to see the types of discussion and commentary about the day) - there are also some great recaps about it at such places as Amy Reads, Bella's Bookshelves and Ben Dugas . . . a blog.

There's a phrase that Indigo used to use which I always admired that says: "The world needs more Canada" - I'll slightly modify that slogan into "The book world needs more opportunities for collaboration." Events like BookCampTO are definitely necessary in order to achieve that and overcome the challenges and hurdles we face as this industry continues to evolve and grow.

This week's HNT picture is one I found via It's a group shot taken from the hallway where many great conversations always occur at these types of events) and you can see my head in it. Think of it like an introductory "Where's Marko?" type of game. It's pretty easy to spot me, but with a little trick since I look a tiny bit different than my standard avatar - I'm sporting a smeckling of facial hair.

Group shot of BookCampTO from


Steph said...

Yay! I'm in there, too!

It was a great day. I love this: "The book world needs more opportunities for collaboration." Hear, hear! I liked how that came up in our booksellers panel, too: it's about working together, not against each other.

Thanks for linking to me!

Mark Leslie said...

Thanks, Steph.

And how could I not link to a blog post from a person who inspires me to be a better bookseller and which contains such wonderful gems as your statement: “I never recommend books just because I loved them; I recommend books I think the customer will love.” - that sentiment gets to the heart of the best possible customer service; when you actually are in tune with the customers needs rather than your own.

But, yes, it's about working together, and I'm also glad that came up in the group discussion that day.