A Canadian book blog: Publishing, marketing, books and technology from a Canadian perspective

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Launch Party

Duane Storey has a great Flickr set of tech folks at the most recent Launch Party event.

2008 BC Award for Canadian Non-Fiction

The 2008 winner of Canada’s largest literary non-fiction prize, the BC Award for Canadian Non-Fiction, will be announced in a special ceremony in Vancouver on February 7, 2008.

In the running for the $40,000 prize are Donald Harman Akenson, Lorna Goodison, and Jacques Poitras.

Why is this cool?

It is the only national book prize to originate in BC, and the non-fiction counterpart to other major awards such as the Giller Prize for fiction and the Griffin Poetry Prize.

Turner-Riggs has 5 great reasons on why you should care about this fantastic prize and some ideas on how to participate in the prize announcement. My favourites are

1) Tune in to CBC Radio 1’s Almanac at noon to 1:00 pm PST February 4, 5, and 6 for interviews with the finalists, and to North by Northwest the following weekend for their interview with the award winner


2) Enter to win the three finalists’ books by writing to Turner-Riggs at {knockknock@turner-riggs.com} and telling them your favourite Canadian non-fiction book from the past year. Your email will automatically enter you in the contest.

I’m raising a glass to Canadian non-fiction books!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Trashing the Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

imageLet’s take out the trash.

1. Reveries.com has a post on trash-bin, book scavengers. These are men (and some women) in Manhattan, who eke out a living by sifting through trash bins looking for books that people have discarded.

2. Fast Company has an article in the February magazine, “Is the Tipping Point Toast?”, which is stirring up the internet marketing industry. The article positions Duncan Watts against Malcolm Gladwell.

Watts posits that marketers spending billions of dollars a year targeting influentials are wasting their money. Gladwell, in The Tipping Point, postulates that trends are established when connectors and mavens come into contact with ideas that can be easily disseminated.

It’s a good article, but I don’t understand what the fuss is about.

I agree with Watts that Gladwell’s Tipping Point taps into the ego of advertisers/marketers—the ego that allows them to believe that if only they can get the cool kids to like their product then the rest of the world will follow. But that’s not the full argument Gladwell is making.

The article positions these two as opposing forces, but I think there is logic to both arguments.

If someone (who I trust) tells me about something (that I’m interested in), I am likely to follow their advice, buy the product they are suggesting, think positively about a service, etc. If I have a first hand experience that is positive, then I am likely to promote that service or product.

Both the Gladwell hypothesis and the Watts hypothesis are flawed because they don’t look closely enough at these two key ingredients: trusted source, something of interest to me.

I don’t have fancy computer models like Watts or well-known brand stories like Gladwell, but here’s my small anecdote.

Darren Barefoot was doing some work for Brother Printers. Brother had a new line of printers it was interested in promoting and they wanted some bloggers to test the printers.

I had a good time test driving the HL-4070CDW.

In internet land, my blog post is a very small blip in the Brother Printer landscape. Although SoMisguided is the first result for the search “brother printer wireless”. But down on Earth, everyone who comes into our office comments on our fancy printer and I mention it’s a Brother Printer and that I like it very much. It does an excellent print job. I also comment that I wish it did more. There are multi-function centres that print, scan, fax, do the dishes and photocopy. Ok, no dishes. I have even gone to Future Shop to check out the other models, and I had a conversation with the sales guy, who provided favourable feedback on the Brother line in comparison to other brands. Since then I have recommended Brother Printers to 2 friends who were looking for new printers. Both bought Brothers. (There’s some fun alliteration.)

So was it a waste of money for Brother Printers to hire Darren and to get a bunch of bloggers test driving their printers? I don’t think so.

Again, it comes down to trusted sources and timely feedback on something people were interested in.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

5 Star Rating: Is it a Recommendation or an Advertisement in Disguise

Slate.com has an interesting piece on Amazon’s top reviewers. (Reviewers are the regular joes who post customer reviews on Amazon.) It seems that the top reviewers, who do get a certain amount of perks (in particular free books), are perhaps more influenced by those perks than by the actual value or literary merit of what they are reading.

There are two ways to spin this story.

1) The top reviewers are all hard working, random people, who love to read books and have figured out how to make the system work for them. Who doesn’t want more free stuff?

2) The top reviewers are all hard working, random people, who propel themselves to the top using any means possible so that they can gain fame, small fortune (in the form of free stuff) and Amazon status.

Brilliant or dodgey?

From Slate: This is not to say that a Top 10 ranking doesn’t come with some sub rosa incentives for the reviewer. Free books, first and foremost; in an e-mail, Grady Harp told me he was “inundated with books from new writers and from publishers who know I love to read first works.” This fall, when it invited select Top Reviewers to join its Vine program—an initiative, still in beta-testing, to generate content about new and prerelease products—Amazon extended the range of perks. “Vine Voices” like Mitchell and Harp can elect to receive items ranging from electronics to appliances to laundry soap. As long as they keep reviewing the products, Amazon’s suppliers will keep sending them.

Why does any of this matter? Because this breaks the illusion that the reviewers are impartial customers who review a book because they liked/disliked it.

This is the thing: books on tables in a store; book at the end of an aisle; books reviewed in newspapers, magazines and blogs; books tagged in Shelfari; books “recommended” in any form are open to placement (i.e., someone has paid or done something in exchange for that book to be there).

I’m a top 500 reviewer on Amazon.ca and I review books on my site. But I only review books that I have actually read. I only review books that I think are worth talking about. And apparently, I’ve only reviewed 24 books on Amazon.ca. I’ve certainly read and reviewed more than 24 books here so I could add some type of review to Amazon, bump up my rank and perhaps establish greater credibility for myself, thereby gaining the interest of more publishers and more reviewers so that I could get more speaking engagements and more books and maybe more business helping publishers promote their books.


So where’s the line between building your credibility as a reviewer and saying “this space is for sale”?

What do you think?

(Source: Thanks to Darren Barefoot for sending this over the Slate article.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Prediction 1: Poetry Will Rise Again

Poetry Ready

The Year 2008 is going to be one of predictions.

My first public prediction is that poetry is making a resurgence.

I’ve just returned from Alexis Kienlen’s poetry reading for She Dreams in Red and I’m most certain that poetry is on the rise.

Alexis, She Dreams in Red

Here’s the thing: Poetry needs to be read aloud. People miss out on poetry because they try to read it silently to themselves. There’s no poetry in that method. Find your voice.

Here’s the next thing I re-discovered tonight: Poetry can be made by 3 year olds. By the time we’re 18, we forget that we can use words to do more than order fries.

My follow up thought was that publishers are going out of business. Poetry has never sold well, unless you count 500-1000 copies as spectacular. BUT, micropresses are coming back into fashion.

I received a Miranda July book as a birthday present. It’s spectacular. I love it. A friend showed me Actualities by Monica Kidd from Gaspereau Press. This is a beautifully crafted book.

Book as objet really works with poetry.

I’m in the middle of reading Alison Cader’s book of poetry Wolf Tree from Coteau Books. It’s brilliant.

John Maxwell at SFU told me 2008 is his year for rediscovering poetry.

Something is happening.

Poetry is on the rise. 

David Scollard, publisher of Frontenac HouseShe Dreams in Red is published by Frontenac House, which has a great, new website (fairly new, last year). David Scollard, publisher of Frontenac House, gave Alexis an incredible introduction. I wish he’d publish it. He said something about why they publish poetry and that it is the pursuit of higher intelligence driving them. He seems like a man entirely clear on why he’s publishing books.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Pixton: Create a Cartoon


I am digging Pixton.

Create cartoons on Pixton. Cool interface, fun to play with. Give it a try. I’m going to do a series on Sam.

Here’s my first one:
“Sam Goes on Holiday”

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

700 Hobo Names

I kid you not.

Listen to Hobo_Names.mp3

John Hodgson, PC in the Mac and PC ads. Lists 700 hobo names.
Listen to Hobo_Names.mp3

His website is equally hilarious:

(Source: James Sherrett)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Apple Unveils New Laptop: How Thin Is Your Laptop?

Just this morning I was complaining to James. “How heavy do you think my laptop is?”

He said, “About 6 pounds.”

Six pounds doesn’t sound like a lot, but after you’ve lugged it around on business trips and several blocks, 6 pounds feels like 60.

Then this morning Kiley send me this email with the quip: Can you handle it? This is going to push you two over the top ...

TECHNOLOGY   | January 15, 2008
Jobs Reveals Tiny New Laptop
Apple chief executive Steve Jobs took the wraps off a super-slim new laptop, unveiling a personal computer less than an inch thick that turns on the moment it’s opened.

It’s 3 pounds, man!

From the Apple site:
MacBook Air is ultrathin, ultraportable, and ultra unlike anything else. But you don’t lose inches and pounds overnight. It’s the result of rethinking conventions. Of multiple wireless innovations. And of breakthrough design. With MacBook Air, mobile computing suddenly has a new standard.

Here are the features. It recognizes movements like the swish used on the iPhone.

Salivating ...

New Book Blog: Tea Time at Annick Press

The Annick Press house is a very cute house in Toronto. And in that house are two very smart women named Lisa and Alicia. In fact, there are many smart people in that house. And every day around 3:30 in the afternoon they get together and have tea and talk about their books and the interesting things that are going on with their authors, friends and other animals in the publishing world.

On what was surely a bright and sunny day in December, Lisa and Alicia launched a blog.

A blog!

It’s true. A very fine blog indeed.

The end.

(But not really the end because you can keep up with the story on the Tea Time at Annick Press blog.)


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Online Marketing from Publishers—works for you or no?

If you’re a book blogger or someone who is on the receiving end of publishers’ online marketing campaigns, this survey is for you.

GalleyCat posted yesterday that Publishing Trends is conducting the survey to find out more about how people are approached by publishers, if it is something that people enjoy and whether publishers should keep competing for attention this way or not.

I’m skeptical about how they are going to assess this but I haven’t taken the survey yet. 

Give them more data. Take the survey.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Raincoast Books Closes Its Publishing Program

I heard very sad news yesterday. Raincoast Books, a Canadian publisher here in Vancouver, has closed its publishing department and laid off several staff members. Raincoast is continuing its distribution and wholesale services.

For a small industry, it is really disappointing to lose a Canadian-owned and operated program and my heart goes out to the staff laid off and to those still working in the company.

I wish Raincoast better finances for 2008, and I wish personal happiness and good fortunes to those incredible people let go.

Friday, January 04, 2008

W00t Is the Number 1 Word for 2007

According to Merriam-Webster’s online audience, w00t is the top word of 2007.

1. w00t (interjection)
expressing joy (it could be after a triumph, or for no reason at all); similar in use to the word “yay”

Facebook is in at #2.

See what else made the list.

(Blog was the #1 word for 2004.)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

E-book Readers at a Glance

Wired magazine did an interesting round-up of e-book readers (old crappy ones not included).

Wired blog: e-book readers

The list includes:
Amazon Kindle
HanLin eReader V3
Sony Reader PRS-505
iRex Iliad
Bookeen Cybook Gen3

Sony Reader apparently looks the nicest. iRex is powerful and practically an e-ink Tablet PC ($700). Bookeen, which I’d never heard of but was recently introduced to by Bruce Batchelor (thanks Bruce), is noted as the lightest and thinnest. Watch the Bookeen video to see how lithe it is. And the Seiko-Epson, Fujitsu and NUUT are not currently available in North America.

I predict that 2008 or early 2009, I’ll be using some device that lets me read ebooks and more. Maybe iPhone will come to Canada. Maybe there will be a fab new device developed that does everything I want. Maybe I’m crazy.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Decline in Reading: The World After Books

Fascinating article in The New Yorker on reading habits.

Twilight of the Books: What will life be like if people stop reading? by Caleb Crain (December 24, 2007)

A recent study has shown a steep decline in literary reading among schoolchildren. No surprise. How do you fit reading into a busy schedule that involves TV, the internet, soccer practice, video games, homework and general nonchalance towards books?

Crain’s article starts with National Endowment Fund reports on the decline in reading, moves to neuroscience and a short history of the printed word and ends with the conclusion that a limited amount of tv can help academic scores but that overuse (and the general turn away from books and towards tv) will change (has already changed) the cultural landscape significantly and will alter our understanding of our world and each other.

It’s a long article but fascinating.

From “Twilight of the Books”

There’s no reason to think that reading and writing are about to become extinct, but some sociologists speculate that reading books for pleasure will one day be the province of a special “reading class,” much as it was before the arrival of mass literacy, in the second half of the nineteenth century. They warn that it probably won’t regain the prestige of exclusivity; it may just become “an increasingly arcane hobby.” Such a shift would change the texture of society. If one person decides to watch “The Sopranos” rather than to read Leonardo Sciascia’s novella “To Each His Own,” the culture goes on largely as before—both viewer and reader are entertaining themselves while learning something about the Mafia in the bargain. But if, over time, many people choose television over books, then a nation’s conversation with itself is likely to change. A reader learns about the world and imagines it differently from the way a viewer does; according to some experimental psychologists, a reader and a viewer even think differently. If the eclipse of reading continues, the alteration is likely to matter in ways that aren’t foreseeable.

More bad news on the reading frontlines. “Canadian book readers fall behind U.S.: poll” by Misty Harris, CanWest News Service, published: Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Read the article.

According to a new Ipsos Reid survey, which was commissioned by CanWest News Service and Global Television, nearly a third of adults (31 per cent) across the country didn’t read a single book for pleasure in all of 2007. The discouraging figure puts Canadians four points behind the U.S., where an identical poll last August showed 27 per cent of Americans hadn’t picked up a book in the previous 12 months.

The good news is that the 69 per cent of Canadians who were reading in 2007 did so voraciously, with the average person in that group having dug into 20 books over the course of the year. The same number was true for Americans who had read at least one title in the previous 12 months.

I know I shouldn’t doubt this but are 69% really (on average) reading 20 books? That seems really high.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Golden Compass Daemon

I took the personality quiz on The Golden Compass site to determine my daemon. A daemon is your spirit protector. Mine is Elleron, a tiger.

You can determine whether this is a good daemon for me or not.

What do you think? Vote for whether this is a good match.