Hugh McGuire

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

Richard Nash on Publishing

Richard Nash is an advisor to Book Oven, a good friend, and the most entertaining guy to talk to about the “future of books” I can think of. Here he is at the BookNet Canada Tech Forum, talking about just that and so much more.

Anyone interested in media should watch and listen:


LibriVox on Final Draft

There was some LibriVoxiness on Australian Radio recently … the “Final Draft” show on Radio 2SER FM, Sydney. It’s up on the web:

This week, we’re stepping outside the confines of the printed page and devoting our entire show to the phenomenon of audiobooks. First, we speak to Hugh McGuire, the founder of Librivox, a volunteer-run website that provides readers free recordings of books in the public domain. Then we take a close look at Nick Cave’s The Death of Bunny Munro, which broke new ground when it was released as an audiobook earlier this year. And finally we speak to the Chair of the Australian Braille Authority, Bruce Maguire, about how the growing popularity of audiobooks and speech technology may pose a threat to Braille literacy.

Hugh McGuire, founder of; Linda Ferguson and Timothy Ferguson, Librivox volunteers – interviewed by Paul Kildea

Nick Cave, The Death of Bunny Munro, Text Publishing – reviewed by Rochelle Fernandez
Bruce Maguire, Australian Braille Authority – interviewed by Ella O’Keefe


Ten Thoughts about Social Media Marketing

I gave a workshop at the annual YES Montreal Entrepreneurship Conference about social media & marketing. Here it is:

Here are my ten thoughts:

Marketing isn’t convincing people to buy your stuff.
Marketing is making sure that the people who want your stuff will find it.

Social media is not a tool.
It’s a strategy.

If you are using social media for business or marketing you have to know:
a. who you want to connect with
b. why you want to connect with them …
…then you have to figure out what you can do to give them value.

Don’t blog to be known.
Blog to be knowable.

Figure out who the influencers are.
And who they are influenced by.
Interact with them.

Don’t be a social media douchebag.

Blogging effectively requires discipline.

When other people talk about you, Google hears them.
And Google smiles upon those who are talked about.


Spread the love.
Link out, retweet, show appreciation.

Social media works when you give value to others, so:
a. publish good content
b. show appreciation for others
c. point to great stuff on the web
d. interact with your readers
c. care about your readers

BookCampToronto – Tentative Schedule

I just sent this out to the world: the tentative schedule for BookCampToronto, May 15 (and for more detailed session info: here).

Follow us on Twitter: @bookcampto
Hashtag: #bcto2010
Web site:



9:30 Launching a Digital Business from Inside a Print Business
* Sulemaan Ahmed (Director of Digital Marketing, Harlequin)
* Jenny Bullough (Manager, Digital Content Harlequin)

10:30 Reading is Everywhere
* Michael Serbinis (CEO, Kobo)

11:30 Distribution for Everyone
* Allen Lau (CEO, Wattpad)

2:00 When CanLit Becomes GlobalLit
* Sarah MacLachlan (Publisher, Anansi)
* Michael Tamblyn (EVP Content, Sales & Merchandising, Kobo)

3:00 Data-geek Extravaganza! Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Bibliographic Metadata.
* Julia Horel-O’Brien (General Manager, LitDistCo)
* Meghan MacDonald (Project Coordinator, BookNet Canada).

4:00 Building Communities
* Tan Light (Coordinator, Digital Sales and Marketing, Random House)
* Meg Mathur (Online Merchandising Manager, Indigo)


9:30 The (Shifting) Role of Design in Publishing
* Ingrid Paulson (Ingrid Paulson Design)

10:30 But Is It Art?
* Kelsey Blackwell (StudioBlackwell)

11:30 Obscure Objects of Desire
* Neil Stewart (Anstey Book Binding)
* Aurelie Collings (Folded&Gathered Books)

2:00 From Letterpress to XHTML
* Scott Boms (Principal, Wishingline)
* Joe Clark (journalist, author, and web accessibility consultant)

3:00 The Book of MPub
* John Maxwell (et al.), SFU/Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing

4:00 Venturing Beyond the Text
* Ian Barker (CEO, Symtext) & TBA


9:30 eBooks in Education and Academia — the glacial revolution
* John Dupuis (York University)
* Evan Leibovitch (York University)

10:30 Writing about Writing
* Stuart Woods (Editor, Quill & Quire)
* Amy Logan-Holmes (Executive Director, OpenBook Toronto)
* Conan Tobias (Taddle Creek)

11:30 Where are you at? Geolocating Lit
* Ashleigh Gardener, (Digital Manager, Dundurn Press)

2:00 Leaping off the Page: Transmedia Storytelling
* Mark Leslie Lefebvre (Titles Bookstore)
* Jill Golick (consultant, screenwriter, creative producer)

3:00 Unleashing Your Inner Reader
* Marichka Melnyk (CBC Radio, CanadaReads)

4:00 The sBook
* Bob Logan, Greg Van Alstyne, Peter Jones and friends -sLab at OCAD


9:30 Literate Video Games
* Tim Maly (Founder, Capybara Games) & TBA

10:30 What Does the Writer Want?
* Nichole McGill (author)

11:30 A Bucket of Cold Water – a Digital Reality Check
* Denise Bukowski (The Bukowski Agency)

2:00 Writers from the sidelines: challenges and successes
* Khadija I

3:00 The Onset of Exhaustion: Publishing in 2010
* Alana Wilcox (Editor-in-Chief, Coach House Books)

4:00 Going Alone: Educating the Market
* K Sawyer Paul (Gredunza Press)
* Eisee Sylvester (Gredunza Press)


9:30 Digital Do-Dads: Digital Reading Devices
* Mark Pavlidis & TBA

10:30 Making Books into Audio
* Miette (

11:30 Video and Books
* Ian Daffern (IDFACTORY)

2:00 Print-on-Demand Workshop
* Rob Clements, Lightning Source Inc.

3:00 Pimping Your Book
* Ian Paul Marshall (Book Marketing & Toronto Writers Mastermind)

Why Instapaper Is Amazing

Instapaper on the iphone is the best reading medium for long articles of non-fiction. It’s always been that way, but Matt Forsythe just revealed one reason why it’s so amazing. Because years of experimentation has settled on a standard magazine/newsprint column-size and font size, optimized for reading.

And, lo, Instapaper replicates that column and font arrangement almost exactly. See:

Think the iPhone isn't big enough to read a magazine?

[Photo by Matt]


The only way I can read web sites these days is either using the Readability bookmarklet, or Instapaper. The rest of “web design” (mostly) strikes me as a distraction from what I want: the text.

I’ve been meaning to update the theme on this blog for some time, along with sprucing up some of the aboutish stuff too (still in process).

I played around a bit with some other minimalist WordPress themes, but this one – Manifest, by Jim Barraud – seemed to most closely match what I want these days out of a web page. Namely, to get the hell out of the way, and leave the text to do what it’s supposed to do.

I’ll likely be doing some little tweaks and fiddles over the next while. Though the beauty of this Theme is its constraints: there’s not much fiddling to be done, without a bit more than my rudimentary html skills.

In any case I like the look.

Now I just need to write a bit more.

Why “Talk” Culture Ruins Everything

In the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani takes on the Internet, remix culture, post-modernism and the technology-induced Decline of Western Civilization. She quotes the usual suspects: Jaron Lanier, Andrew Keen, Nicholas Carr as well as Cass Sunstein, Farhad Manjoo.

Picking on traditional media has become a tiresome sport. Much more interesting to explore successful new models than complain about the old gang aren’t getting it right.

Still, it’s hard to swallow an article made up almost exclusively of quotes from various other thinkers, about how dangerous mash-ups are. If “cherry picking” ideas and mixing them into a shortened digital version, quotable at the water-cooler, or on Twitter, is such a terrible thing, what is Kakutani doing writing a mash-up of cherry-picked ideas and mixing them into a shortened digital version, quotable at the water-cooler or on Twitter?

The “problem,” I think, is humans themselves. Unfortunately, this is what we like to do with information: we absorb it, process it, shorten it, and reassemble it… and then share and comment and talk about it.

It always surprises me that there aren’t more articles about the dangers of one-on-one conversations: after all – shouldn’t we be worried about, “the fragmentation of data that the conversations produce, as news articles, novels and record albums are broken down into verbal words and sentences shared between people at cafes everywhere; the growing emphasis on immediacy and real-time responses of the person in front of you; the rising tide of data and information that permeates our discussions; and the emphasis that conversation places on subjectivity.”

The real danger to the future of humanity is not the web, it’s much deeper: it’s is lurking in every conversation over a coffee or beer that anyone has ever enjoyed. The real danger isn’t bits and bytes, it’s our desire to talk about the things that interest us. God help us all.

If Kakutani & her sources can figure out how to eradicate our urge to communicate, they’ll solve the lesser problem presented by technologies that let us communicate as we always have.

There are many reasons that we should carefully consider technology, and figure out how to use it to do more interesting things. But finding ways to stop people talking about things they care about, and making art out of things they love, or contextualizing information with commentary and curation, is not high on my list.

LibriVox Needs Your Help

Dearest LibriVox listeners, volunteers, & supporters:

For four-and-a-half years, LibriVox volunteers have been making audiobooks for the world to enjoy, and giving them away for free. We’ve made thousands of free audiobooks that have been downloaded by millions of people; our site gets 400,000 visitors every month. To date, all our costs have been borne by a few individuals, with some generous donations from partners. However, these costs have become too big.
See below to FIND OUT HOW TO DONATE (Or, keep reading!).

LibriVox needs your help.

We’re asking for donations for the following:
to cover hosting costs for our website (about $5,000/year), which includes: the site you are reading now; the forum; the wiki; the catalog; but does NOT include hosting audio files which is done by
to redesign the site and improve its accessibility
to make the LibriVox catalog easier for listeners to use
to make the management software easier for admins to use

We expect this fund-raising drive to sustain us for three years at least.

For more info, and how to donate.

Bite-Size Goes Social

A recent study done by Roger Bohn of UC San Diego, estimates that the average American consumes about 36,000 words of text per day, during leisure hours. That number includes print, email, the web, and text messaging. That’s a lot of text. At that rate the average American could read Moby Dick every week.

The question you might ask yourself is: who is creating all that text? Well, if you are reading this, there’s a good chance that you are.

You might ask another question: who’s going to edit all that text? And if you are reading this, we’re hoping you’ll help with some of it.

Connecting Writers, Readers, and Word-lovers

That’s why we built Bite-Size Edits: so that people who write text can connect with people who can improve it. Usually that implies a vice versa.

Last month, we announced that we’d split Bite-Size Edits out of Book Oven, but it was a very barebones affair: text in, editing, text out. But while editing is the reason for the existence of Bite-Size Edits, the real power lies in connecting writers, readers, editors and people who love words.

We’ve just released a whole host of new social features: contacts, random editing, privacy controls on texts, and much more. We’ve built in some gamish stuff too – everything you do in Bite-Size Edits will win you points, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Try It, It’s Fun!

So, we invite you to come take a look at the new Bite-Size Edits, to add some text for editing, and even better, to do some editing yourself.

Bite-Size Edits is a work-in-progress, and we’d love to get your feedback, suggestions, as well as your complaints.

You can tell us what you think by:

* sending us an email at: contact AT bitesizeedits DOT com

* @’ing us on Twitter at: @bookoven or @bitesizeedits

* submitting bug reports or user feedback at:

How to Turn off Buzz

If you are worried about privacy and Google Buzz (you should be), here’s how you can turn it off.

1. Log into Gmail
2. Scroll down to bottom of the page
3. Click: “Turn off Buzz”

UPDATE: See here (Thanks Karl!):

You can follow the Google Blog for more information.