Hugh McGuire

publishing, technology, media, philosophy, a bit of politics.

My Thoughts on BookcampTo

bookcampto logoIt’s been … wow, almost three weeks since BookCamp Toronto, and I guess I should get around to writing out some thoughts. So in no particular order, here are some of my personal reactions to the event:

1. What a great event
I have been involved as a participant and an organizer of numerous unconference / camps: barcamps, podcamps, democamps. But there was something amazing about this one, and certainly for me personally it was the most rewarding camp – or indeed conference of any kind – that I’ve attended. (With the caveat that, as an organizer, I am probably biased, but still … that was my personal reaction).

alana wilcox2. Engagement from industry
One of the most powerful things about BookCamp, compared with other events I’ve been to, is that this was not just a grassroots group. There was high-level engagement from the publishing industry, with publishers, editors, senior VPs, production managers, marketers, and interns, and everything in between. It was great to see the honest debate and conversation being lead by these insiders, who are truly grappling with the future of their business and their passion. This is something different from almost all the other “camps” I’ve attended (with the exception of BookCamp London), where it is often a grassroots gang talking about the future, with very little stake in existing business. BookCamp felt a very relevant meeting for a big industry in the throes of change.

evolution3. Mixing publishing insiders and outsiders
One of the things of which I am most proud was our success in getting dialogue going between book business insiders and passionate outsiders. Along with the publishing big wigs, there were free culture advocates, open source proponents, artisanal bookbinders, librarians, web developers, readers, standards and accessibility experts, writers, bloggers, podcasters, technologists, marketers, newspaper folk, booksellers, and on and on. It truly was the open, mixed crowd we were hoping for, and I think the beauty of the event is that we managed to create an even playing field, where everyone got to talk as equals, all driven by the desire to see a healthy future for books.

relating4. Getting the numbers right
We worried about numbers. Too many people? Too few? How do we feed everyone? Will they fit? Well, we had some 350 sign up, and about 225 show up (good stats for a free event). Some sessions might have been a touch too big, but all the sessions I attended were full of lively discussion, and I think everyone who wanted to talk and engage were able to do so. We had just enough lunch, and everything worked out just fine.

5. No powerpoint
One of the best decisions we made was to discourage powerpoint presentations. If you are planning a discussion-centric event, I urge you to not provide any powerpoint capabilities. Powerpoint is so often a conversation killer.

on the grass

6. Great session moderation
We gave some guidelines to session moderators: 1. focus should be discussion, 2. no power point, 3. 15-20 mins of intro, then open up the floor to discuss. This model was embraced in all the sessions I attended, and worked swimmingly I think.

bedford7. Kick-ass organizing team
It truly was a pleasure to be a member of the team who put this together. Mark Bertils did so much work to make sure the on-the-ground set up was in good shape, and to keep the wiki up to date and information flowing well to attendees. Alexa Clark took care of the food, and it all worked out perfectly. Erin Balser organized all the volunteers, and info management on the day of the event. And a special thanks to Mitch Joel, who when I asked him: “Should we do a BookCamp Toronto,” answered, without blinking: “Let’s do it.” Also: Judy Dunn and UofT’s iSchool were perfect hosts. And Morgan & Michael at BookNet Canada were brilliant and understanding sponsors for the lunch.

8. Venue
U of T iSchool was a great place to hold the event.

9. Post-event Party
That was fun at the Bedford Academy, even if we got there before they were ready for us.

10. The Americans!
It was nice to see so many of our colleagues make the trip from south of the border, and contribute so much to the event.


So thanks again to: all the attendees for being so amazing, my co-organizers for being so on the ball, the session moderators for being so wonderful, and for everyone else who helped make this such a success.

For more BookCampTO posts, see Mark’s list.

Photo credits: Sniffles, Fiacre1, LexnGer.

Time, Love, Books

This is my presentation at the BookNetCanada Tech Forum in March, titled: Time, Love & Books. Sorry, there is 1 slide only, for you Powerpoint buffs.

I talk about audiobooks, time acquisition, LibriVox, Google, the link, and the digital archaeology of love. And Hinton, Alberta.

Link to the vid.

Layar: Superimposing the Future on the Present

O, present, we hardly knew ye.

More here: layar via here: Martin Bryant.

The Dead

One of the reasons I started LibriVox, I think, was so that I could make an audio recording of “The Dead,” by James Joyce, from his collection Dubliners.

It is a story of such grace and skill; the build up slow and good-humoured and banal, but when that last section finally comes, it contains so much nostalgia, so much melancholy, so much revelation. All of us have had those moments, when what we thought we knew got thrown on its head, our own tiny place in the world gently exposed, and the wide, huge and lonely universe – of which we still remain a part – becomes clear and cold and expansive for just that brief moment.

Almost four years after LibriVox was born, I finally got the courage to record the Dead. I don’t think it’s catalogued quite yet, but here are the mp3s for those who want to listen to an audio version of one of the most beautiful-sad short stories ever written.

Happy Bloomsday.

[Thanks to Kayray for the editing, and to Gesine for making sure I finished on time].

Those Darned Kids

Kids boycott classroom with CCTV cameras. People call them brats. Kids respond with an op-ed that every adult should read.

Many users suggested that cameras were a good idea because they could be used to keep an eye on bullying and student behaviour, we were accused of been “narcissistic megalomaniacs” angry at “being nabbed for our churlish troublemaking”. This stereotypical and frankly ignorant view ignores the fact that Davenant Foundation School produces some of the best exam results in Essex. Violent behaviour among pupils is simply not an issue, making the justification for putting cameras in our classrooms more surprising…

Eroding standards in schools and deteriorating discipline are down to a broken society and the failure of the education system. The truth is that we are whatever the generation before us has created. If you criticise us, we are your failures; and if you applaud us we are your successes, and we reflect the imperfections of society and of human life. [more…]

[via boing]

Interview with CBC about the Future of Books

nora young - spark One of my favourite podcasts/radio shows is CBC’s Spark, with the lovely Nora Young. Spark covers technology and society, and Nora is a wonderful interviewer of wonderful guests. So I was thrilled when Nora asked me to talk with her about the future of books in the digital age, after our experience of putting on BookCamp Toronto, which happened June 6 at UofT’s iSchool.

Here is the full interview.

Math Joke

From xkcd:


BookCamp in National Post

There’s a nice article, and some goofy pictures of me, about BookCampToronto in the National Post:

While some may bristle at a group of outsiders spearheading discussion on the future of books, the industry response has been positive.

“I really think I’m going to get in trouble for saying this, but book publishing needs to stop being so insular. We need to stop just looking at our own industry for inspiration,” says Deanna McFadden, marketing manager, online content and strategy for HarperCollins. “The people who are doing BookCamp in Toronto are all smart people who understand where the industry is and where we need to go, and are really looking at innovative ways for us to keep book publishing alive and healthy.”

That seems to be at the root of Book-Camp Toronto — not a hostile takeover, a rejection of traditional books for e-books or putting big publishers out of business.

“I care deeply about books and literature and the publishing business,” McGuire says, “and I’d like to see a thriving future for writers and readers and people in between.” – Check back in two weeks for our letter from BookCamp. And check The Afterword and Twitter for live coverage. [more…]

For some reason the article is posted twice, with different pics.

BookExpo America Panel

I’ve been invited by Mike Shatzkin to join a panel at BookExpo Amercia the details of which are as follows:

Digital Debut Tool Time
An insider’s presentation of new and soon-to-be-mainstreamed web-based entities providing innovative digital services and tools to authors, publishers and readers.

Moderator: Mike Shatzkin – Founder & CEO, Idea Logical Co, Inc
Peter Clifton – President & Ceo, FiledBy, Inc.
Mark Coker – founder & CEO, Smashwords, Inc.
Hugh McGuire – co-founder, BookOven
Neil Jones – founder, Cooler Reader

You can catch us pontificating between 9:30AM and10:30AM on Friday morning, May 29, 2009 at the Jacob Javitz Centre in New York City.

Apple Doesn’t Want You Reading Kama Sutra

Ug. Apple iPhone App store rejects Eucalyptus ereader app … because you can read erotic texts from the public domain. As we say in Quebec, QQF? I presume this will get sorted out, but still …

If you’re wondering why Eucalyptus is not yet available, it’s currently in the state of being ‘rejected’ for distribution on the iPhone App Store. This is due to the fact that it’s possible, after explicitly searching for them, to find, download from the Internet, and then read texts that Apple deems ‘objectionable’. The example they have given me is a Victorian text-only translation of the Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana. For the full background, a log of my communications with Apple is below. [more…]

The round and round email thread with the app store is a treat to read.

(For the record, I downloaded Fanny Hill on Stanza on my iPhone.)