Giving up a hard-earned Saturday isn't always easy, and I'm so glad that the experience of BookCamp TO made it worthwhile. Billed as an unconference, Book Camp TO brought together a wide variety of bookish folks, some from the big publishers like me, some from smaller publishers, some writers, some marketers, the list goes goes on, for a day of discussion around the future of book publishing. In a way, I think it would be worthwhile for us to move past the idea that the future is coming and just accept the fact that the future is here. It's not something we need to bemoan or begrudge, but look at and decide what we want to do in terms of what's right for any particular author or business.
The biggest takeaway for me from the day would be a point that @janinelaporte made early in the day: "content is content and it doesn't matter how you get it, just that you get it." I'm in a unique position, having come up through the ranks of online vs. general publishing, accepting the fact that content is malleable has never been an issue for me. The fact that people can read in so many different ways isn't a threat, it's an opportunity, and ensuring that we figure out the right way for everyone to get paid, the possibilities are limitless. We spend too much time as an industry (forgive me, but it's true) whining about the death of traditional publishing.
Again, maybe it's just my sunny personality (not, yawn) but I'm really tired of all the complaining. Book sales are up in Canada. Anyone who takes the TTC knows that there are at least 7-10 people in each car with an open book on their laps (I am usually the only one with a Sony Reader). Mobile devices and downloadable reading applications are the fastest growing segment in that industry. Sure, we don't have a Kindle yet, but even the hint of a story that Indigo intends to create their own device has me all atwitter. Never before in the history of the bricks and mortar business has such innovation made such evolution possible. We just need to get over the mindset that we're in the book industry and not in the business of creating content.
That doesn't mean that all of our authors are commodities, nor does it mean that books as they have existed will cease to exist, but simply that we need to explore the opportunities of doing things differently. Why can't we celebrate this fact? Why are we always focusing on what we're doing wrong and what we've lost (who actually misses that Globe stand-alone Books section please raise your hand?) instead of imagining all of the great stuff that's going to happen once we make that simple shift in conception? Authors are important. Books are important. None of that is going to change by the nature of how one gets their content, whether it's a mobile phone or a magazine. Whether they're listening to it via an iPod or whether they've cracked the spine on a freshly bought tome from Book City. I want it all to survive. In fact, I've staked my family's livelihood on that fact that it will -- or else what am I even doing in the business in the first place?
I had so many interesting conversations on Saturday that trying to dispel them into one singular blog post might not be helpful, but for me, the best part of the day was hanging out with smart, interesting, intelligent people who all feel passionately about the survival of books in general. And if anything, I learned that my unique position: as an author, as a blogger, as a person who works at a publishing company, has knowledge that's actually worth sharing. Funny thing, that.