Friday was the second annual BookCamp Vancouver and it was a great day with a diverse crowd and thought-provoking discussions. BookCamp is an unconference where attendees pitch ideas for presentations and discussions. If you’re at a session and decide you’d like to check something else out, you’re encouraged to do so. Or perhaps you have a question/suggestion or something to add, you’re also encouraged to speak up and share your thoughts.

The morning began with just a short address from the BookCamp Vancouver organizers and acknowledgments for the sponsors and supporters. What I like about BookCamp compared to other conferences is that there isn’t a keynote speaker. Sometimes the keynote speaker can be less than expected and/or the acoustics can suck and/or it just doesn’t interest you. At least an unconference it’s not rude to leave a session — which is something I wouldn’t do to a keynote speaker.

Anyway, on to the sessions! Grab a cuppa something good and settle in for a loooong post.

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The first session I attended was Feeding the Social Beast Without Getting Bitten. It wasn’t what I expected, but it was still a good session. It was moderated by Sean Cranbury and we skyped in Kimberly Walsh and Hannah Classen, both of CBC Books. The conversation tended towards encouraging online communities — hints, tips, and what’s important. Kimberly and Hannah spoke from their experiences with the CBC Books website, Facebook, twitter and blog. They said the number one way to get people involved was to offer contests and it was crucial to have a conversation not just broadcast your messages.

Preaching to the choir, they told us that social media isn’t instant, that it takes time and you need to invest enough and eventually the users get involved that it grows and manages itself more easily. They had suggestions for theme discussions, genre suggestions, as well as book picks. They would get to know users and let users get to know the people behind CBC Books. One of the ways they did that was to sign off their tweets with their initials, and get to know followers’ interests.

We finally got onto the conversation I was expecting: how to balance personal and work within social media. Speaking solely from experience, Kim and Hannah recommended time management and finding useful tools. They suggested to practice multi-tasking, getting used to technology, and separating personal and professional accounts.

Someone asked the question: what works and what doesn’t? Again, speaking from experience (which I think was valuable), Kim and Hannah said that they’d tried different forms of an online book club and found that encouraging discussion worked better than pure broadcasting. They recommended hosting your events and activities on your own website (as opposed to Facebook, etc.) because then you’d have full control of it. They said that they mainly use social media to spread the message and as an additional way to interact with users. They offer exclusive content to different subscribers — Facebook fans, Twitter followers and for live discussions they suggested an app called Cover It Live.

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After the break, I decided to attend Monique Trottier’s session titled Tools, Tips and Technology for Content Creation and Curation. I was divided between this session and one abut growing online book communities, but after the community discussion in the first session, I am glad I went to Monique’s session. Lots and lots of applications, websites, and tools were suggested for a variety of uses.

TEXT — creation and management

  • writeboards (within Basecamp) for collaboration
  • GoogleDocs—includes calendars, appls, etc.
  • pbwiki
  • WordPress
  • Evernote—cross-platform, stores info via online, can export
  • mindmap & jumpchart — thought organization

AUDIO / VIDEO — creating and editing

  • iPhone — can record audio
  • Skype — can record calls
  • Pamela, vodPod — add-on software for Skype to record video
  • audacity — opensource, free audio editor
  • protools — high quality audio editing
  • iMovie and GarageBand — automatically installed on Mac
  • audioBoo
  • animoto — royalty-free clips
  • iPhoto — can turn still photos into a video

PHOTOS — organizing and sharing

  • flipbook — create photo albums
  • slideshare — upload powerpoint, videos, slideshows, etc.
  • Flickr
  • Picnic
  • Lulu — $, print a text and photo book
  • Blurb — $, import images from Flickr and add captions
  • Applebook — $, print via iPhoto
  • iUniverse — reviews are mediocre
  • issuu.com — upload and convert to flash slideshow

PRINT BOOKS ON DEMAND

  • Lightning Source
  • Book Expresso — machine at Oscar’s Art Books
  • Smashwords
  • Leanpub — need single file
  • BookRiff — pull a bunch of sources into one book

DESIGN (we didn’t spend much time on this)

  • Adobe Creative Suite — $, Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, etc.
  • More Adobe — InCopy (offline InDesign), Cool Edit Pro, Soundbooth
  • ConceptShare

WEBSITE ADD-ONS (we didn’t spend much time on this)

  • GoogleDocs can export forms
  • wufoo — good for contest forms
  • unbounce — landing page

CONTENT SHARING

  • addictomatic — aggregates content
  • delicious — share bookmarks
  • tags — tag everything so there is good metadata so that others can find it
  • Yahoo! Pipes — aggregates content
  • Google Reader — fave, star, “post to reader”
  • Feedly — makes feeds into magazine format
  • StumbleUpon — the new way to ‘browse’ the internet

MANAGING / MONITORING

  • Social Mention — finds any keywords
  • trackur — $, save searches, automatically searches for you to monitor trends
  • Social Oomph (formerly TweetLater) — keyword email digest
  • GoogleAlerts — can set up keywords and strings of words
  • Radian6 — $, all in social media monitoring
  • Tweetdeck
  • Seesmic
  • HootSuite
  • Alterian — $

Woah. That’s a lot of tools! I don’t have the time to link them all, but hopefully you can just Google them. Next session: Lunch! I got to catch up with Kim Werker and saw a few familiar faces before hitting the next session. Oh! And thanks to BookNet for sponsoring lunch, provided by Out To Lunch Catering.

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After lunch, I went to The State of the Electronic Book with Brendan J. Wilson. Brendan presented an extremely popular session last year about the business of ebooks and where the industry was at. This was sort of a follow-up session to the session last year. I didn’t attend the session last year so I was interested to attend the session on ebooks.

Brendon started by chatting about the features and developments of the different devices. It is now standard to have multi-use devices, not just a dedicated reader. The topics of tethering, syncing, and sharing ebooks are all up in the air. Sony eReader does have a “lending” feature but it is (ridiculously) time sensitive and aparently screwed up.

According to Brendon, last year’s developments were all about different sizes, backlit vs. eink, touchscreens, colours, external storage, apps, WiFi vs. 3G, battery life, social features, and single vs. multi-purpose devices. But of course it is all very subjective to what kind of user/reader you are. Are you a tech geek? You’ll want more features. Are you a beach/vacation reader? You’ll want a long battery life. Are you unsure or want something inexpensive? Maybe you’ll just be using the eReader apps for your current device. In fact, Blackberry PlayBook and the new Samsung Galaxy both come pre-loaded with Kobo. Kindle becoming a multi-use device and they’re looking into gaming support.

We then discussed the purpose/use of stores. Someone remarked that people used the store just to browse and then bought the book on their eReader. In the USA, Barnes & Noble (creators of the Nook) have Nook displays in store and you can get special features if you’re in-store with your Nook and “check in”. Amazon has now started to do in-store displays with partners such as Staples, Best Buy, and Target (USA). Unfortunately for Chapters/Indigo, the in-store displays for the Kobo all have an error with the display device.

Brendon then brought up the battle for talent as well as end users. Some authors are signing exclusive deals with one device while other authors are being screwed by publishers over e-rights battles for backlist titles. Then the publisher also has to produce for a variety of formats and the buyer can’t even move their files between devices.

We also examined the price race — the cost of an eReader is dropping dramatically. $259 for the small Kindle was the beginning, now $189 for Sony eReader, recently Kobo dropped their price to $139, and there are rumours that the Nook will be at $99 before the holiday season. Most people ask, “Am I going to use it enough to make value of the cost of the device?” Well, as Brendon pointed out, a $99 Nook is about the price of three hardcover books.

Brendon also presented some information about market shares in North America and the number of devices shipped. He also presented information about the sales of electronic books in the past year — it has more than quadrupled. However, this could be larger considering it doesn’t look at libraries, independent PDF sales, free ebooks. But, to put it in perspective, for 2010 ebook sales only make up about 5% of total book sales (compared to 1% in 2009).

Once we got on the techy sales track, Brendon presented some more figures. I really appreciated this summary of information put into perspective because it just feels like the digital world is out of control at the moment. Brendon showed us some graphs on sales trends. The top 10 titles make up 18% of the revenue for books, and the top 20% of titles make up 70% of the revenue. There is a whole lost market of the rest of the 80% of books that have additional potential for ebooks. The top time for buying seems to be Tuesdays and weekends, while the worst day is Thursday.

Then Brendon took some Q&A — images supported by ebooks? Probably not any time soon, unless iPad/tablet. ISBNs for ebooks? Good idea, not required, free from the Canadian National Library. I didn’t make any other notes from the Q&A but I really liked Brendon’s presentation, he was funny and engaging and informative.

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The final scheduled session (before the unconference BaseCamp part) that I attended was Everything You Ever Wanted To Know … About Working In Publishing. The session was presented by Kevin Williams of Talonbooks. Kevin was certainly animated and has had a long career of experience to draw from. I enjoyed the session but would have preferred more of a panel and Q&A session and/or Kevin to introduce himself and give a bit of his background/history.

Kevin first addressed that your personality and talents will affect how you do — whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you should find a position that suits you. He then went on more of a tangent about publishing in general, as opposed to working in publishing. Although it was informative. He went over the traditional process and then talked about how it has changed over the years (lots is now outsourced).

Kevin did talk about the different positions and made some interesting comments on the type of people that thrive in those positions. Publishers are the mediator between the author and the reader and need charisma. They need to be able to sell the book and get people excited about the titles. He also talked about working (in a more general sense). He said the three steps of a career are Master, Innovate, and Improve (move forward / more responsibility). He stressed that if you’re always giving 110%, your employer will value you.

Kevin got very animated when he hit on a subject he was passionate about. He stressed that publishing was a value-added process and each book should be treated as a single business unit (SBU). At the end of the session, he made some predictions on how he thought the publishing process was going to go with ebooks but he stressed that he didn’t think there was a replacement for text, writing, or ideas. He stressed that we’re still unsure of how ebooks are going to change/affect print books.

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After the final coffee break, we all gathered in the auditorium to pitch ideas for the final session. I ended up choosing to attend The Future of the Physical Book (not the ‘fate’, as Abby kept saying). The session was mainly a discussion about where print books were headed and how their value was changing. We also talked about the downsides of ebooks and what the internet couldn’t provide. We all agreed that we didn’t want the book to go the way of the music industry when mp3s took off: ignore, fight against, then sue the fans.

It was a fantastic and informative day. Well-organized and well-attended, BookCamp Vancouver 2010 was quite the success! Thank you to all the organizers and volunteers who helped create and run BookCamp. I truly enjoyed myself and strongly value the ideas shared and information I learned during the day.

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