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Saturday 18 April 2009

2009 BookCrossing Convention

The BookCrossing Convention was held in Christchurch this year. I've been involved in BookCrossing for a few years, though only casually, so it was great to be invited to give a talk. I didn't attend any of the release or social events but went along to the afternoon sessions today:

Patrick Evans talked about the research he's done for a biography on Janet Frame, and about the different stories surrounding her life: the autobiography in her fiction and the fiction in her autobiography, the protectiveness of her friends and family for her privacy and the eagerness of strangers to recount legends about her. Janet Frame has been called "New Zealand's greatest unread author" and I have to admit I haven't read anything by her - I was surprised to hear she wrote some books that sound like science fiction, so I'll have to keep an eye out.

We viewed an episode of The Lost Book (and were encouraged to follow the link to be involved in the fourth episode which will be set in Christchurch) and CPIT's documentary on BookCrossing.

Bruce from BookCrossing Head Office skyped in (after a few technical difficulties) and showed us a preview of the Facebook application which will launch hopefully May/June. They're also working on an iPhone application and snazzing up the main website to make it friendlier to newbies. Bruce solicited feedback on the user interface - some people talked about the mobile interface not being good, which is something important to BookCrossers. There was also discussion about the store. I was struck when Bruce said that the best selling items are those that make the activity of BookCrossing easier/more successful (eg stickers to make the books stand out, plastic bags to protect them from the weather, etc): it's obvious in hindsight, but it seems a key thing to bear in mind for any institution trying to provide products or services to its customers.

The Netherlands contingent showed off photos of their country to encourage us to come to the 2010 convention there, and it was unanimously voted that the 2011 convention should be held in Washington DC.

My presentation on Books Unchained: A History covered the chaining of books, bookmobiles, e-texts, and the release of books through BookCrossing.

And of course I came away with several books including a couple of childhood memories, which I'll have to (re)read and release in strategic locations!