So Long, Farewell, and Thanks for All the Data

When I first stepped into the BookNet office, it felt a little like I had the soft-footed and sneaky steps of a technology fugitive (albeit a sweaty one). Oh sure I’d been through publishing school, where I had the opportunity to dive into the world of tech and books galore, but that was … well, school. I wasn’t one of those tech and data people in real life, was I? With furtive, darting eyes I assumed my spot at the intern desk and tried to go about my business while not making anyone the wiser about my feared tech inadequacies.

It was with great glee then that I found I was not the Luddite I had feared myself to be. I jumped into pulling SalesData reports and helping with the BookNet website, as well as playing with the PubFight catalogue (throwing a few punches at the same time). The happy BookNet staff were there every step to help, and always willing to chat at length about the hot new titles and gaze openmouthed at the ongoing trouncing of the bestseller list by a certain saucy title.

But the big project for me (the one that still gives me palpitations of data happiness) was the upcoming BookNet consumer study, The Canadian Book Consumer. At first, I entered the world of pulling data and compiling frequency and crosstab reports with timidity, a little daunted by such terms as “sample size,” “respondent data,” and my personal favourite, “layered crosstab”. The hardest and most interesting moment in the data-sphere happened when I stopped looking for patterns I expected to see in the data and let it speak for itself (I’m telling you, there are a few surprises on the way…). By the end of the internship, I had morphed into that annoying party guest whose eye the others try to avoid on the dance floor. The one who, while cutting a mean rug and sipping a cocktail, bursts into enraptured monologues on percentage differences between demographics of print and ebook buyers. (Do I know how to party or what?!) Watching this project evolve from “which data to show?” to “how to get that data?” and finally to “how to show/present the data visually” was one of the most interesting projects I’ve ever had the opportunity to work on.

The internship experience at BookNet was one of the most interesting and fulfilling experiences I’ve ever been fortunate enough to participate in. The amazing staff showed me the ropes, fed me cookies (true story), and even embarked on a trip to a Blue Jays game.

It’s been a slice! Thanks for all the data.