Why I Went to BookCamp Instead of Sleeping In

This was my second year attending BookCamp Toronto. I admit to having high expectations for this unconference ever since last year when I came away feeling ignited! Sadly I didn’t get the same fire started for me this time around. I’m not saying that BookCamp did not provide great discussion but that little extra something was missing. I think what it came down to was that I am exhausted!

Okay, that was a session that I attended but it did kinda sum up my state, my feeling of okay already I know the industry is going through change. Apparently there are these things called digital books and there are these things called ereaders and there is this thing called epub and there is this thing called workflow and underneath it all is this thing called disruption. Disruption leads to confusion and confusion leads to exhaustion and exhaustion leads to more conferences.

I sat in on the design talk and heard about designers not knowing what their role is anymore. There seemed to be some angst over what they do and how things are being consumed. I am convinced that having shelves of books as a means to express who you are will seem as quaint and archaic as keeping milk crates full of albums with their stunning album art, (am I the only one who kept albums in milk cratesdo they even know what milk crates are out west?). itunes has a nice interface for browsing your collection as do any number of social networks out there. Hey, I get to pick my cover, my fonts and more. But because I am so exhausted I will welcome the Age of Curation!

During the geolocation discussion I heard about a lot of fun “experiments”. Eventually the talk turned to concern over how to find out what people are reading now that you can’t just see the book in someone’s hands. From what I can tell from the twittersphere this was addressed earlier by Michael Tamblyn when he talked about Kobo’s ability to know when and where you are in a bookwhich prompted a homage tweet from me that Kobo’s servers do not belong in the bedrooms of the nation. Again may I direct your attention to itunes. On my commute to and from work I open itunes and low and behold there is someone’s music collection that I can start to play with. A complete stranger has let me into their passion. I’m pretty sure itunes has an answer for the problem of the public performance of the pbook, as well, I’m just waiting for the Canadian release of the ipad to find out how cover flow and shared libraries might work there.

The point is, it isn’t just the book industry that has gone digital or is really, f’n tired. Western culture has gone digital and there are apps for that. A while back The Agenda had an episode where they talked ebooks and one of the guests was Microsoft principle researcher Bill Buxton who opined that “in the future our wallpaper will be our bookshelves.” We won’t need obscure, angry, technologists to tell us how to string together some machine code in order to see what our peers are reading; frameworks are nice, standards are nice, device support is nice, hackingnot so nice.

Alright so maybe there wasn’t anything missing this year at bookcamp but what was I missing at bookcamp (well, wine tastings for one)? I know my exhaustion is getting in the way. I know lots of people got lots of ideas out of the unconference and I can’t discount that. Those people are heading back to their workplaces to talk amongst themselves. The grassroots efforts are ongoing. The executives seem to have abdicated their role in this discussion and now change is being made and they don’t care just as long as they get to keep making those gatekeeping decisions. Keep the presses running people, keep finding what people want. This disruption is upsetting more than just your sleep it is disrupting the whole big ark we call publishing. Hopefully we all get to take a holiday soon!