New Rules of Engagement: Advent Books & Canada Also Reads

Natives are restless and have the tools to create the change that they want to see.

I have always read the Globe and Mail.  Still do.

In the morning with the first freshly brewed coffee of the day in hand, the G&M website is the first place that I go for news.

The quality of journalism and writing is quite high and I think that they’re weathering the sea change within traditional print media pretty well.  Generally, I believe that they do an excellent job and have earned my loyalty over the years for the good work that they publish.

Advent Book Blog: Digital Word of Mouth

So, it troubles me deeply how diminished and ineffectual the Globe Books section has become.

The truest evidence of this for me isn’t the tone and style that they’ve adopted in their digital incarnation but the inability for their writers to generate any kind of engagement or conversation among the readership.

The opportunity for healthy discussion often eludes them completely.

The casual reader might even be inclined to think that the choices made for their 100 Best Books feature is decided more based on preserving advertising revenues with the big publishing houses than finding the best books for any given year.

And book lovers, savvy, impatient and tired of the usual suspects in the usual places, have no limit of alternatives.

Enter the Advent Book Blog.

Real people, passionate about books and reading, recommending their favorite books in short bursts of enthusiasm with no strings attached.  Done out of love and a desire to share – bedrock fundamentals for a healthy book culture.

CBC's Jian Ghomeshi

Another alternative is the CBC’s Canada Reads competition, hosted by the affable and well-coiffed Jian Ghomeshi.

It’s essentially an opportunity to start a national conversation about Canadian books championed by celebrities and hosted in Toronto.

I am a fan of the competition and because of the CBC’s mandate to be all things to all people my expectations for the books selected every year is modest.

I’m just happy that we’re showcasing reading on a big stage and having some fun doing it.

But, of course, not everybody feels the same way.

This year there is palpable frustration over the selection of Ann Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees and Douglas Coupland’s Generation X.  Both hugely successful books have been devoured by countless readers all over the world.

Here in Canada, readers are apparently tired of being advised to read something that they’ve already read.  To have a conversation – evangelistic, enthusiastic or otherwise – that they’ve already had – 10 years ago!

Going through the motions isn’t good enough for them.

Enter the National Post’s Canada Also Reads.

Real books – that haven’t already been swaddled by Oprah or big literary awards – recommended by real people.

What a concept.

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The Advent Book Blog and the National Post’s Afterword book section succeed because they give their readership a voice, because they engage them in genuine conversation from the very beginning and because they’re not seen to be publicity vehicles for big publishing houses.

These two places understand the power of the digital environment to connect directly with their readers and to offer their readers a platform to express themselves and to become a part of a larger community and conversation.

That is power.  That creates genuine enthusiasm and loyalty.

The conversation about books in Canada is big enough to include all kinds of publications, platforms and competitions.

The best one’s in 2010 will be inclusive, generally transparent and engaging.  If the traditional book channels can not provide those things then readers will go elsewhere or build their own better alternative.

They have the technology.

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Please also check out my follow-up piece on this called Globe’s Book of the Decade: Zero Comments, Wrong Cover.

Sean Cranbury is the Executive Editor of Books on the Radio. He's also Founder and Creative Director of the Real Vancouver Writers' Series. Sean is General Manager at the legendary Storm Crow Tavern and consults with literary arts organizations on digital communications strategies.

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