Montreal BookCamp

On September 30, in the heart of the Plateau Mont-Royal, Montreal’s second annual BookCamp took place on The Main.

There have been several of these in different parts of the world (New York, Paris, London, Rimini, etc) and different parts of Canada (Vancouver, Halifax, Toronto); the first Montreal BookCamp took place in 2010.

Billing itself as an “anticonference,” a translation of “unconference,” which means (see here  or here) that there is no pre-set agenda, the Book Camp brings together publishers, writers, booksellers, librarians, programmers and a few academics for a day of dialogue and exchange.

Attending this just four months after the Forum on Literary Creation at the Grande bibliothèque this past spring, I was struck by the difference in approach to the digital revolution.

Forum participants – mostly writers – were hesitant, at best, and some of them in outright denial about the new realities in writing and publishing. Only one of the eight panels focused specifically on the challenges of this brave new world, and the main priority was increasing funding under existing programmes.

BookCamp participants are fully aware of current realities and future probabilities and some of them are in panic mode as a result.

Annabelle Moreau, Eve Pariseau, and other BookCamp participants

The morning session, ably facilitated by Patrick Lozeau, started off with a complaint that few electronic books are available in French. The students in his CEGEP are ready, a librarian said, but there aren’t enough e-books around for them. Another reported the huge popularity of the two tablet e-readers her public library has to lend out.

Questions about the future of bookstores and libraries soon resulted in bold statements to the effect that “Bookstores will die. It’s a pity, but that’s the reality.” Booksellers fared better in this imagined future, but not by much. To the suggestion that booksellers can continue to play a role in providing advice on books, one participant cracked, “you might have difficulty living on that.” Publishers came in for some dismissive comments, as well, and radio and television got it in the neck.

Gone the days when people openly lamented the dearth of literary programming on Radio-Canada. The chickens are coming home to roost, one participant suggested, and it looks like the public broadcaster that has reneged on it its literary mandate in recent years is finally going to get its comeuppance.

Besides, the man behind me added, The media have their limitations. “The books I’m interested in are not the books that can be reduced to a short sound bite. His term was “une phrase choc.”

There was some agreement that Facebook is the place to be, for that’s where the 16-18 year-olds are. Except, of course, that they’re on Facebook to hang out with their friends. They are not, as one realist reminded us, necessarily on Facebook to read literary criticism.

By lunchtime there was hardly a literary institution, organization, or profession left standing, and the baby of literature was in danger of being washed away with all the bathwater.

Some level of denial and panic may be inevitable at this juncture. More encouraging was the black humour that dominated the day, as in comments about the funny kind of economy we have nowadays, when money so rarely changes hands.

More encouraging? Did I really say that?

Text and photos by

Linda Leith

© Linda Leith 2011


Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

More articles

Irresistible Small Festivals II : Quebec City

The more our lives as writers and readers are spent online, the more we appreciate what the literary festival – of whatever size – has to offer: not only personal contact with other writers and readers, but also friendliness, warmth, and the kind of intimacy that conversations about good books bring out in people who love reading. When the festival is small, these priceless qualities are all the more concentrated. And when a superb setting is added to the mix, the small festival becomes irresistible.

The Reford Gardens: The Old, the New, the Secret and the Provocative

What interests me in these gardens is their design and imaginative daring, along with their thoughtful and often playful deconstruction of the garden into its constituent parts. As a writer, I am also intrigued by the power of the language used to describe them. Among the most provocative – perhaps especially for a writer -- is the Jardin de la connaissance, a “secret and strange library” of walls, benches and floors made up of used books exposed to wind and weather – and varieties of mushrooms cultivated within some of the books.

Here is a world première view of Louise Tanguay's new photograph of the controversial Jardin de la connaissance.

Photo: Louise Tanguay

Much outcry as Australian broadcaster kills popular radio book show
I will take this opportunity to point to the spectacular example that Australia’s Book Show has set in books coverage on radio – and to lament that fact that we don’t have anything that comes even close to daily books coverage here in Canada.
                                           Ramona Koval, presenter of
                                           The Book Show