June 12th, 2007
After a whirlwind few days, the dust has settled, all the booths are now packed away, and this year’s Book Expo Canada (BEC) is over. We were so busy in our own booth that I barely managed to find the time to walk the show floor. Personally, this was my favourite of all the expos I’ve attended, even though last year I met Kim Cattrall, and the year before that had a funny signing experience with Michael Winter. My one disappointment was not having time to go and introduce myself properly to Chantal Simmons, who signed on Sunday, right when our booth was cracking with appearances by Clive Barker (who is AMAZING), Susan Juby and James Rollins.
But the trade show proper aside, what I really want to talk about today is the now-annual online conference presented in part by Humber College called Devices and Desires. Despite some fairly interesting speakers, including the two Terrys (McBride and O’Reilly), and an exceptional presentation about Web 2.0 by Wayne MacPhail, which included real-world examples from the book universe, including our wiki, I found much of the conference both tiresome and uninspiring.
I think the trouble might be that much of the conference isn’t geared to people like me who work for books online already. And it’s hard, especially, to sit through question after question from people who either a) don’t respect blogs (Mary Lou Finlay, I’m looking at you) or b) are still labouring under the notion that blogging, facebook, delicious, flickr, myspace, etc., are simply passing fancies. My favourite part of Terry McBride’s very down-to-earth panel participation, was when he tried to make the point clear that you can’t legislate behaviour, you can only adapt, and if you don’t, you’ll become obscure or obsolete.
Having worked on or around the internet for the better part of a decade now, I can see that this simple piece of advice shows his own innate business acumen in a way. The music industry has been hit hard and, to an extent, books haven’t been hit the same way. Quite the opposite, I would argue. By discrediting or not opening yourself up to the world of books online, again, Mary Lou Finlay, I’m looking at you, you’re closing yourself off to a world of intelligent, readerly, writerly people who have now found the space to expound, in many ways, about the words closest to their hearts. And not even 24 hours later were my thoughts about all of this confirmed when I sat down with a bunch of Toronto book bloggers for a lovely afternoon of chatting about books, blogs, authors, families, husbands, boyfriends, libraries and more books. It was a brilliant afternoon which made the previous day’s conference seem even more redundant in terms of my actual real-life experience in the virtual world.
So much of what I hear at conferences like Devices and Desires stems from fear: fear about antiquated ideas of proprietary content, fear of changing tradition ways of doing business, fear of putting opinions out there that might rock the boat in terms of the book world. But mainly it’s hard when all kinds of people get up there and spout on about the problems without necessarily taking the time to investigate any kind of solution (Wayne MacPhail being the obvious exception to that statement).
Anyway, fingers crossed I get to skip the conference next year.