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”.

You can follow Bookcamp live – and join in the conversation – on Twitter using the hashtag #bookcampaus.

I attended last year’s event, at the Melbourne Writers Festival, and loved the community-driven nature of the unconference format. The day started with attendees and special guests writing their suggestions for sessions on bits of paper, which were posted on a board up the front of the room. Just like that, the series of discussion topics was decided.

If I was there, I’d be suggesting and attending sessions on the book cover in the digital age (are large point sized titles and author names the way to go?), social reading and virtual libraries (what can be done to make these cross-platform so that we don’t lose all our highlights and comments and libraries if start-ups go under – and to ensure we can chat with EVERYONE about what we’re reading?) and the future of publishers in all of this (do they have one, given how well self-publishing authors are doing at building audiences for themselves?).

My views on those three topics? Yes, pretty covers with small text are a waste of time online; sadly not much while giants like Amazon and Apple dominate the market and choose not to play nicely; and yes, if they’re adaptable and passionate about their authors and readers.

From memory, some of these topics were discussed last year, but the whole day was a bit of a blur for me, having been up since 3.30am to catch a flight from Canberra. In late September 2012, with only seven weeks to go till baby number two comes along, I decided to have a relative sleep in instead.

I’ll be tuning in to the Twitter feed, though, and look forward to reading blog posts from those who are there.

Organisers if:book Australia reckon they’ll be playing host to “writers, readers, typographers, designers, technologists, gamers, booksellers, literary agents, publishers and geeks – all those with a stake in the future of books” today. I love those people!

The thing about this new digital age is that many of us fit into more than one of those categories. I’ve been a geek and a reader ever since I can remember, and a writer (journalist first, then author and more recently blogger) since uni newspaper days in the early 1990s.

Now that I’ve launched my own digital first publishing business, Editia (our first title is Crowdfund it! by fellow digital traveller Anna Maguire is available from Booku.com here for $7), I can call myself a publisher too.

Given we’re a small start-up, I’ve been involved in every step of book production, from selecting fonts for the cover and marketing material to ePub creation and image placement using lots of lovely html in PressBooks and Sigil. Am I a designer and typographer? I wish. Luckily, I have some experts to keep me on the straight and narrow there. Then there’s bookselling (Crowdfund it! is also available from Editia.com, though I would like to see it selling many more copies via indies like Booku and partner stores with ReadCloud and Booki.sh).

That’s another big topic for today. How can the smaller booksellers, who we love and desperately want to help thrive in the digital future, compete with the gorillas like Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google and Kobo?

Happy camping, unconferencers.

Published by

Charlotte Harper

Charlotte Harper is a Canberra journalist, blogger, editor and publisher who has worked in newspapers, magazines, books and online. She runs digital-first non-fiction publisher Editia and covered book industry developments at ebookish.com.au before joining Booku.com. A former literary editor of The South China Morning Post, Charlotte has also written about books and technology for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times. She once edited a mobile phone and gadget magazine, and is a published author, of a book about digital publishing – Weird Wild Web (Penguin Australia 1999).