Thursday, September 29, 2011

HNT - WOTS 2011

I was at The Word On The Street this past Sunday. It's always such a fantastic day. Of course, how could spending a beautiful Sunday afternoon with thousands of people who are there to celebrate reading and advocate literacy (two key ingredients of WOTS) not be a great thing?

Joining several other authors at Horror Writers Association's booth in the Writer's Block, I got a chance to meet a lot of fine folks, bump into friends I haven't seen in a while and share some information about my existing and forthcoming books.

This week's HNT include a few pictures taken that afternoon.

Nancy Kilpatrick, Sephera Giron, Ken Lillie-Paetz, Mark Leslie
Ken and I chatting with a book lover who is checking out CAMPUS CHILLS

For the display table, I had brought a beautiful hand-carved skull chest that I had purchased at a Hamilton street festival just a few weeks before - the Locke Street Festival, which is, like WOTS, always a grand time.

At WOTS I was handing out a coupon code so that people could download a free digital copy of my short story SPIRITS via Smashwords. Since the code is still valid for a few weeks, if you're interested in checking it out, please email me a request with SPIRITS in the subject line and I'll send you the code.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

First Major Publisher Finally Gets It!

Last week in what I fully believe will become known as an historic turning point for the publishing industry, HarperCollins Publishers announced a partnership with On Demand Books (makers of the Espresso Book Machine) and something called “Comprehensive Backlist.”

The program will allow any physical bookstore with an Espresso Book Machine the ability to offer thousands of backlist trade paperback titles from HarperCollins to their customers. This means that the vision of walking into your local bookstore only to find the title out of stock and a wait of one to three weeks for that special order to arrive, a thing of the past.

Me and some of the first EBM titles at McMaster in 2009 in front of the EBM 1.5

Now, all the bookseller will need to do is look up the title in their Espresso Book Machine (EBM) catalogue, hit a few buttons, and the perfect bound trade paperback, complete with a full colour cover will be produced right there in the store in a matter of minutes.

This represents the very dream I had envisioned when I set about to purchase the Espresso Book Machine for the bookstore at McMaster back in 2008. Titles Bookstore at McMaster University was the 2nd location in Canada to acquire an EBM and, even though the catalogue of well over a million titles was immediately available, content from the major publishers was still part of the “coming soon” rather than the “feature attraction.” Instead of waiting for the inevitable content, McMaster took a “buy it and they will come” approach and haven’t looked back.

The EBM at McMaster has allowed us to partner with academic publishers to ensure the availability of custom versions of textbooks that helped us save students hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past three years, while increasing bookstore and publisher sell-thru. The EBM has also attracted an entirely new revenue stream due to our ability to offer services for self-publish authors. With an ideal print-run of 1 copy, anybody who ever wanted to follow the dream of publishing their own book saw some previous high barriers fall.

“Bookstores continue to be an important place for customers to shop for physical books,” Brian Murray, Chief Executive Officer at HarperCollins said in a September 22nd press release. “The goal of this initiative is to give the local bookseller the capability to provide customers with a greater selection of HarperCollins titles in a physical environment.”

Visionary Dane Neller, CEO of On Demand Books applauds HarperCollins on this move. “By committing thousands of titles to the program,” Neller says, “HarperCollins is showing its clear support for bookstores and authors, and reaching more readers.” Neller goes on to state that “Digital-to-Print at Retail” (DPR) will become a powerful new sales channel helping to eliminate lost sales due to out of stock inventory.
This is a day that I dreamed of when I first watched the EBM roll into the bookstore at McMaster University one fine day in November of 2008.

I knew that digital books and ebooks would continue to grow and eventually become a dominant force within the publishing market; but I have also long held the belief that there was a need for digital distribution with a “print local” element – allowing customers who still prefer the printed artefact purchased from their friendly neighbourhood local bookshop an easy way to get access to more titles than can be physically held in a small and often high rent retail space.

We have all seen evidence that bookstores attempting to stock upwards of 100,000 titles on their shelves is not always a fully sustainable business model. The McMaster bookstore, for example, which used to stock 40,000 titles in the store, eventually recognized that the cost of attempting to physically carry “everything” was simply not sustainable. It was the Espresso Book Machine and the continually growing digital catalogue of print on demand titles that allowed us to finally make the change and stop carrying so much backlist and overstock. We knew that the day would come when that backlist (or Chris Anderson’s “long tail” of titles would soon be available in a more convenient fashion for customers, booksellers and publishers thanks to our Espresso Book Machine.

Now that HarperCollins has stepped up to the plate, I’m sure that the other major publishing stakeholders will follow suit.

I’m rather enthusiastic to watch a fresh new opportunity that represents a win situation for publishers, bookstores and authors, particularly at this time of unease and unprecedented change in our industry.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

HNT - Avatar

For years I have been using the exact same avatar across various social media platforms. It's the little image of my head, tilted slightly to the side, with some buildings in the distance and an orange post immediately behind my head.

I thought, for this week's HNT, I would reveal where that head-shot came from.

First, I stole the image from a friend's blog back in about 2005. Taras Shuper, a buddy I used to work with at Chapters Online had a list of his blog friends on his side-bar which included images. Shupe (as he is affectionately known my many pals) had cropped that image of my head-shot from a picture I had posted on my blog. I thought it was a cool picture - so I started using it as my avatar for my profile on this blog. As I branched out into various other online social media, I used the same picture.

I thought it would be important for people to be able to recognize me across different platforms, so, using a consistent avatar is one way of ensuring people know that it's the same Mark. I also potentially confuse people since I write fiction under the name "Mark Leslie" and am known in the bookselling world as "Mark Lefebvre" and in various other circles I use the full "Mark Leslie Lefebvre" -- thus, the consistent avatar assures people it's the same me.

The original picture that "Shupe" cropped was one that Francine took of me on the Staten Island ferry. We were in New York City for our anniversary many years ago (I believe it was in 2003), and she snapped this shot of me - we were "close" to the Statue of Liberty and I wanted to get some pictures of us with the beautiful New York city skyline in the background.

New York is an absolutely beautiful city. I have also recently made some changes in my life (which will be revealed very shortly on this blog), in which New York features quite prominently. So I figured this NY picture is rather appropriate right now.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

HNT - Boys Being Boys

It has been a busy few weeks. It always gets this way working at a campus bookstore.

The storm will pass, things are already starting to slow down.

For example, yesterday, I only worked 12 hours. It felt, strangely, like a really short day. (It's all relative, right?)

And though this summer was a great one (we had one of the best July's for weather in our little part of the world), it seemed to have passed all too quickly.

This morning I was looking at some pics from the past summer, and laughed when I saw this one of Alexander and I goofing around at the Dinosaur Mini Golf on Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls earlier this summer.

It reminds me of how the fall season brings Halloween -- one of our family's favourite times of year. Fran and I have always loved Halloween.  And, ever since he could walk, Alexander has been involved in the huge tasks involved in purchasing new materials for, deciding on a plan, and setting up our front yard to be a spooky haunted graveyard.

And I just love those special family moments where, after acquiring one or two new Halloween things as a family, Francine sends us out to work in the front yard; then the delight we take in showing her all the details of our new "masterpiece."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11 Ten Years Later

It has been ten years since the tragic events of Sept 11, 2001.

Several years ago, on the anniversary of the tragic day where 2996 people lost their lives, blogger D. Challenger Roe began Project 2,996 -- it was an exercise in bringing bloggers from around the world together to remember the victims of Sept 11, 2001.

The idea was for bloggers to take the time to get to know one of the people who died and to celebrate and remember their lives rather than focus on the tragedy that befell them that fateful day. I loved the fact that the focus wasn't on the tragedy but on celebrating the lives, the people they had been before 9/11.

I took the time to find information and remember three different individuals over the years. Each year, I go back and re-read the posts about them, think about the lives they lived and the differences they made before their lives were cut short.

The posts about the people are listed below.

Raymond Meisenheimer - Remembering Raymond Meisenheimer  (2006)

Deora Francis Bodley - Remembering The Lives of Two Heros (2007)

David Reed Gamboa Bradhorst & his fathers Daniel Brandhorst and Ronald Gamboa - Project 2996 - Sept 11, 2008 (2008)

A return/overview to the previous posts -Project 2,996 (2009) and yet another revisit last year.

These are just a few of so many lives that have been lost on that day and in the days beyond. So many lives have been altered, the course of history was forever changed. But beneath the world-wide gathering that is occurring on this tenth anniversary, all the memorials and media attention there still lies the simple fact that loved ones were lost, people who loved and were loved and who continue to live on in our memories and hearts.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

HNT - Zombie Mark

I didn't leave work last night until almost midnight. I've had too many of the days that never end lately.

It seems as if there's way more to get done than there are hours in a day. And the most frustrating thing is that, even if I had stayed and worked around the clock, I doubt I'd be even close to caught up. To toss in a well-used cliche, it's like I'm trying to squeeze blood from a stone.

On days like these when it feels as if I'm shoveling water, I wonder when I'll start to look like Zombie Mark.

A buddy of mine (a friend I made through the weekly ritual of HNT actually), made this photo of me - this zombi-fied version of me is based on the profile photo/avatar I use for most of my social media presence.I thought it was pretty damn cool. Brandon is a very talented fellow.

Actually, I think the zombie Mark in this picture looks a bit better than I feel right now.

Oh well, onward and upward. If I can't pause to make fun of myself, then what good am I?

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

What I Missed Today

I just got home from a fourteen hour work day. I have a lot of them this time of year. Not a big deal. What is a big deal to me, though, is that I missed my son's first day of Grade 2.

For Kindergarten and Grade 1, both Francine and I were there.  This year, however, I wasn't able to be here for the first day of school ritual (cue up Cat Stevens' "Cats in the Cradle").

Fortunately, Francine took some pictures, so I could at least see what I missed.

Here are a couple of nice shots of Alexander on his way to school.

Here's ye olde standard first day of school shot . . . .

Then the old "look over the shoulder to show off my new Star Wars Clone Wars backpack" shot . . .

Of course, in the evening, after school, Alexander got his hands on the camera and took a few shots of his own. Experimental fun shots - the kind that show his creative, and "hey, let's check this out" approach that I so love.

There's the: "Look at me posing with the blue bird I bought for Mom at French River." (One of about a dozen self-pics with this bird) . . .

Then there's the: "Hey, look at me posing in front of a digital picture frame that has me in it!"

Then we have the classic: "Oh, look, a mirror! That'd be a great shot!" picture . . .

Followed by a: "Hmm, let me get this up close" shot that ended up turning into a pretty stylish and funky picture, due to the shaky hand blur.

Yes, I missed the first day of school ritual. But I think what I missed more was that fun playful evening I could have spent with my son.

And I'm thankful that though I missed some fun stuff today that I'm usually there for a good part of those playful moments . . . it makes me feel fresh and young.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

HNT - Sue Dough Nym

CHCH news recently did a "back to school" piece on ebooks and came to the bookstore at McMaster to look into whether or not more students were buying etextbooks.

I talked about the fact that etextbooks were not like the "general trade" ebooks that you might normally buy from a place like Kobo, for example. (A great example to use since our bookstore sells Kobo readers along with iPads and other tablet devices that are popular because you can run various ebook apps on them).

Etextbooks are typically "time bombed" or set to expire at the end of the term, so, though the student pays slightly less for their etextbook they don't have anything at the end (ie, a book to keep or perhaps sell back into the used market and get some cash for, which typically helps them buy the next textbooks they need on their educational journey) - thus, the initial cost might be a little lower, but the residual value is typically much less in the long run.

Most of the students who have been weighing their options end up finding it a better value to purchase the textbook package which includes access to the etextbook. It is typically not that much more expensive than buying the ebook alone (several times, the ebook is included for free with the new textbook purchase), and they get the flexibility of using both depending on their location/situation. (For example, with a couple of the 1st year books we have for Chemistry and Kinesiology, the textbooks are extremely heavy. The bundled textbook/ebook allows the student to leave the textook in their dorm-room rather than lug it across campus, and if the prof refers to or reads from the book in class, the student can easily follow along accessing the ebook on their laptop, tablet or ereader device.)

Here's a snapshot from the interview done with me in our store.

I think it's cute that they got my name wrong. (They transposed the B and V - a popular mistake in a name where the B and R are silent and thrown in seemingly just to confuse people) and the second e is more of an "a" sound - ie, Lefave.......) It makes me want to collect a scrap-book of all the times I have appeared in the media over the years and my name has been mis-spelled. It might be fun to look back at.

But really, is it any wonder why I write under the pseudonym Mark Leslie?