Wish I was going Bookcamping today …

It’s Bookcamp day, and I’m stuck in an office in Canberra. Boo hoo.

Philosophers on the future of the book are congregating in Brisbane as I write, preparing to make their pitch for what the Bookcamp unconference will cover.

This year’s special guest is designer and writer Craig Mod. Mod is a former product designer at Flipboard and the author of four Kindle Singles about ebooks: Hack the cover, The digital-physical, Post-artifact books and publishing and Books in the age of the iPad. Lucky Bookcampers getting to hang out with one of the world’s biggest thinkers on “emerging technologies, people, ideas, and stories in the fast-changing business of connecting writers with readers”.
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I’m heading to If:Book Australia’s Bookcamp in a fortnight’s time (and yes, I realise that sounds like the publishing industry equivalent of ‘band camp’. It’s not, honest. It’s far less salacious and potentially happily even more nerdy).

Bookcamp’s actually an ‘unconference’ that’s designed to bring together creative, bookish people from a bunch of backgrounds to explore books’ future. It will be ‘bottom-up, grass-roots, and collaborative’, i.e. entirely outside the traditional conference model box.

The theme? The emerging future.

Hmm. Lots to ponder there.

I went to If:Book’s last unconference (at least, I think it was an unconference) entitled The Reader. It was a fantastic day organised by a fantastic organisation that ‘promotes new forms of digital literature and explores ways to boost connections between writers and audiences’. As a side note, I love its logo and website design (I hope the If:Book team don’t mind, but I’ve included a small screengrab of their design here for reference. You can visit it in full at www.futureofthebook.org.)

If:Book BookcampIf:Book Australia was set up by outgoing Queensland Writers Centre CEO/incoming Brisbane Writers Festival Director Kate Eltham. If you haven’t yet heard of her, I’d recommend you rectify that now, starting by following her on Twitter: @kate_eltham. The Australian newspaper named her one of 10 Emerging Leaders of Culture way back in 2009, something she’s well and truly proved in the three years since. Eltham’s not only one to watch, but one we’d all love to emulate.

In fact, ‘digital champion’ Eltham was one of the few people the industry who didn’t completely freak out about the ‘death’ of the physical book at the hands of the digital one. She correctly predicted that there’d always be room for physical books and that e-books were just joining the conversation. What mattered, and what we all fall in love with over and over again, are the stories themselves—the container in which they come now just involves more choice.

But I’m getting carried away. The above’s not gush—it’s meant to be useful-background-information segway. That is, an unconference organised by an organisation involving Eltham is the kind of conference writers, editors, designers, publishers, and readers ought to attend—it’s likely to yield some groundbreaking and inspiring results.

The thing about unconferences is that they don’t have pre-determined programs. Instead, the website tells us, we participants will get to suggest topics and then be responsible for leading discussions and brainstorming sessions around them.

Sounds great, except that I’m rubbish at thinking of topics. Which is why I’m writing this blog. If you were me and you had the opportunity to put forward some topics you’d like tackled at Bookcamp, what would you recommend?

To give you some ideas, the unconference will also have a guest speaker—independent writer, designer, and publisher, Craig Mod, who divides his time between Palo Alto, New York, and Tokyo, and who has created a stack of impressive projects and publications.

His interests and work, his website tells me, are about digital books, publishing, and start-ups—three areas that are increasingly, happily converging. Like Eltham, he’s a ‘technology optimist’ who sees a bunch of publishing opportunities awaiting us, best summed up as follows:

The old guard is crumbling. A new guard is awkwardly emerging. Together, we can affect the shape of the new guard.

Which returns me to my previous question: If you were me and you had the opportunity to suggest topics you’d like tackled along the theme of ‘the emerging future’ at Bookcamp, what would you recommend?