Publishers, Here's a Case Study: The Book Party as Live, Interactive Show

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

To celebrate the release of his first novel, Robin Sloan hosted a 24-hour web show about books, technology, and more -- all streaming live via Google Hangout. The self-proclaimed "media inventor" spent a full 24 hours holed up at the historic Center for Fiction in Manhattan, inspired by the eponymous enterprise in his book, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. Sloan invited me to drop in and chat about web video (we worked together at Current TV a couple years ago) so I brought a camera and shot a short behind-the-scenes video while I as there. Chilling at the Center for Fiction felt like attending a micro conference -- like South by Southwest Interactive scaled down to short conversations over coffee and scones.  

Mr. Penumbra is "a rollicking neo-Borgesian tale about an unemployed San Francisco Web designer who takes a job in a mysterious bookshop," writes The New York Times, tracing the future-forward evolution of Sloan's career in "Robin Sloan, Digital Guru, Takes a Journey Into Print." The book is full of tech-world references that will be familiar to a certain slice of the creative class: tweeting, designing fonts, and crashing the Google campus (for the free food, obviously). Appropriately, the Penumbra Live guest lineup drew from a cast of Twitterati, book futurists, and other media nerds.  

The New York Times' Jenna Wortham talked about her evolving approach to Twitter, Daniel Reetz described the genesis of his DIY book scanner project, and Jason Kottke reflected on what it's like to run the illustrious Kottke.org for over a decade. I think I spent the bulk of it chatting about animated GIFs -- good stuff! Sloan lists the full cast of guests on his site and has all the videos up on his YouTube channel. The four-hour chunks of recorded video are unwiedly but he says he plans to chop them up into more manageable segments. Unfortunately the Hangout video quality isn't great and the first few guests had some audio difficulties, but there are fun sections if you have the patience to dig around. Robin Sloan's 24-Hour Book Launch was not just a series of peace talks between books and digital technology (though that was a central theme) but a promising experiment in creating a multimedia, multichannel, global event around ideas and storytelling. With a webcam, a laptop, and a big dusty chalkboard. 

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http://www.theatlantic.com/video/archive/2012/10/publishers-heres-a-case-study-the-book-party-as-live-interactive-show/263502/