Friday, 25 March 2011

and in other news

I'm off to TOC Bologna and looking forward to it. Back in time for Portable Bookshop's next outing on Wednesday at Devonshire pub and Thurs at the Library Cafe Crouch End.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

history of the library

Professor Richard Gameson delivers a fascinating talk on the history of libraries at the Cubitt Gallery event I spoke at last weekend. He's a is a riveting speaker and deeply knowledgeable about all things book. It was a pleasure to see and hear him again. His view of the evolution of reading has proved hugely inspiring to if:book in exploring where books go next.

Richard Gameson is Professor of the History of the Book at Durham University. He specialises in the history of the book from Antiquity to the Renaissance, and in medieval art. He has published some seventy studies on medieval manuscripts, book collections, art and cultural history, including The Old Library (1988), The Early Medieval Bible (1994), The Role of Art in the late Anglo-Saxon Church (1995), The study of the Bayeux Tapestry (1997) The Manuscripts of Early Norman England (1999), Augustine of Canterbury and the Conversion of England (1999), The Scribe Speaks: colophons in early English Manuscripts (2002), and Codex Aureus: an eighth-century gospel book (2001-2). He has recently completed a catalogue and study of the earliest books of Canterbury Cathedral, and is editing The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, vol I. He would welcome enquiries from anyone wishing to pursue advanced work in the fields of manuscripts and books, libraries and collections, illumination and decoration.


An Accommodation (A Simon Armitage Poem) from Frank Pescod on Vimeo.

I can just about claim Dave Pescod as an ex-student of mine given that I met him when I was tutoring a digital writing course at the Arvon in Lumb Bank, but actually he's a very experienced writer, designer and film maker. This film wot he sent me the link to is lovely, and Simon A's poem sad in the best way. I like this combination a lot.

Monday, 21 March 2011

portable bookshop lifts off

Well, this Sunday Robin Stevenson, 18th century anachronist and now bookseller, launched if:book's Portable Bookshop in Kiss The Sky, a bar in Crouch End, selling a range of books sourced by the wonderful Big Green Bookshop and including local authors, local themes and plenty of bestselling and brilliant books recommended by notable locals. It was wonderful to see real books being sold in such a characterful, conversational way. The response was wonderful and trade brisk, though providing clear evidence of how hard it is to sell in quantities that would sustain all the overheads of a permanent shop.
We're excited to be working to ensure the future of bookshopping in forms that take account of changing trends in how we spend our money and experience literature.

For now, here's a lovely blogpost from SIMON of the BIG GREEN, and
evidence of our first up-pop and some of the supply chain:

Thursday, 17 March 2011

how power corrupts. may 10th - 13th, the free word centre

if:book UK is collaborating with Palgrave Macmillan, the Roundhouse journal, the Free Word Centre and the University of Westminster to present a curation around HOW POWER CORRUPTS, a book by Dr Ricardo Blaug.

Events during the week include a talk by Dr Ricardo Blaug which will be available in pamphlet form and online as a film animated by artist Toni Le Busque who will also be making a giant drawing documenting what happens; a Theatre of the Oppressed workshop; Dr Blaug in conversation with a major political figure tbc ; an Unlibrary and Portable Bookshop where How Power Corrupts will be for sale alongside other related material to browse and buy. Discussions between the Roundhouse Group and visitors to the Free Word Centre will all feed into the making of a website and newspaper, created during the week.

On friday May 13th in the morning morning we're holding a roundtable discussion on THE POWER OF LOCAL, an event bringing together community activists and literature organisations. Does the Big Society means stripping away bureaucracy and redtape to hand power to the people or cutting funds to leave the weak to sink or swim? How does it relate to libertarian community politics – and what opportunities do social media provide to disrupt power relations and create radical new forms of community publishing, from the hyperlocal to the global?

In the afternoon we'll hold a second roundtable discussion which will bring together publishers, academics, writers, students and digital creators to debate the future of academic publishing in the digital age.

The curation will offer a unique exploration into how an academic text can spark a wider discussion on a topical theme, pushing its contents into the public domain. In an attempt to break down the research silo and bring the conversations surrounding a book to the fore, these events seek to bridge a gap between theory and practice – asking academe to inform the day-to-day.

What are the implications of digital platforms for academic publishing?
And how does power in politics, relationships and work, change the way we act?

We'll be publishing more details shortly. To register interest go to



In the future we will smile all the time and tap on things and go to meetings about our media companies and all shall be wipe-clean with no sticky stains and bland music playing playing

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

merci facebook

Journalist, writer and one of this year's Jerwood mentees at the Arvon Foundation, 
Lin Noueihed sent us this photo she took in Tunis a few weeks ago, testament 
to the influence of social media on recent uprisings.    

Monday, 7 March 2011

night things

Diana Edmonds, Assistant Director of Culture, Libraries and Learning at Haringey Council, talking about the libraries of her dreams at the All-Nighter. The debate took place at 10.30 pm on Saturday night. There was a good sized audience and also plenty of users simply milling around browsing the shelves, reading and working quietly. 

And at midnight we watched 

and at 4.00 in the morning...

and all the while Kati Rynne gathered in and edited the dreams of library users in the 
Unlibrary Book of Dreams and Nightmares

Thanks to all those who participated in and helped to organise our All-Nighter, and especially to all the staff at Hornsey Library who were so positive and welcoming. 
More documentation to follow at

Saturday, 5 March 2011


Today's the day we've promised to keep Hornsey Library open all night. Last night I dreamt of sleeplessness and so feel shattered already, but I'm looking forward to watching Wings of Desire at 4.00 in the morning and much more.

And now I'm in the Unlibrary with if:book associate Kati Rynne trying to find the simplest words to describe the concept of the Unlibrary to visitors tonight, and also the idea of the Portable Booksop we're planning. SO.. here's the copy we've come up with so far. All comments welcome. And apologies in advance if I've been saying the same thing slightly differently too much lately.

What is the Unlibrary?

> Everything we love about libraries, reshaped for the digital age.
> A community of local people prepared to help each other define their goals and achieve them
> An online network of users keen to support local enterprise and creativity
> A hub for co-working and collaboration
> A place to work, think, learn, write, read, meet and dream

The Unlibrary is a room on the first floor of Hornsey Library. It is open to all.
It has wi-fi, workspace and a sofa.
You can work quietly or chat to other users, hold meetings, make phonecalls.
There’s tea and coffee available next door in the library cafĂ©.

THE UNLIBRARY works like a REAL social network

1) You can create your own ‘personal profile’ on the shelves of the Unlibrary including contact details – email or Twitter name, information on who you are and what your current aims are.     

“I wrote the second draft of my novel in the Unlibrary and logged in each session. When it was done I awarded myself a star. My profile includes business cards, a jar of coffee promoting the media company I work for, some favourite books and some pictures that inspire me to write. I’ve pinned up my website address and Twitter name so that people can get in touch. Making this profile was a great way to focus on what I wanted to write and think about.” – Kati Rynne

2) You can make contact with others by attending our Tuesday morning drop-ins, (11.00 – 12.00),  leaving a message on the Unlibrary wall or in our regular e-newsletter. 
You can follow @theunlibrary on Twitter.

Look out for courses and events curated and run by THE   UNLIBRARIANS: social networking coach Anke Holst and Chris Meade, director of if:book, a think and do tank exploring the future of the book.

THE UNLIBRARY is a collaboration between if:book & Haringey Council

The Unlibrary
Book of Dreams

What are the dreams and nightmares of visitors to Hornsey Library and their friends around the world? Please tell us!

Tonight, March 5th, World Book Night, Hornsey Library, Crouch End, London is staying open all night for music, films, food, debate, reading and writing to celebrate World Book Night and the power of public libraries.

Throughout the night we'll be making an online book of dreams.

Write a recent dream or nightmare, real or imaginary.
Draw a picture and/or write a poem or description or story about a dream or nightmare…

To contribute online you can write a comment below, Tweet us at @ifbook, #worldbooknightce,
or email

To contribute if you're in the library, write on a neon star and pin it to the board or hand it to an Unlibrarians OR you can write collaboratively using Googledocs on the library computers



The Portable Bookshop

Popping up in cafes, shops and bars around Crouch End
With a stock of around 100 titles supplied by the Big Green Bookshop, recommended by notable locals, constantly refreshed with new choices


Write your choices and a line or two about yourself,
Then post them here. 


                                   Chris @ifbook and Robin @raliel

Friday, 4 March 2011

young poets network

The Young Poets Network is launched on Facebook. 
Aimed at young people from 13 to 18 it will provide a lasting infrastructure for those beginning to read and write poetry. if:book is working with the Poetry Society on the project, focusing on poets as amplified authors, with lots of new means to develop and distribute their work.
I've already been interviewing a number of poets and experts including poets Benjamin Zephaniah, Ross Sutherland, Joelle Taylor; Holly Damizio, game-designer in chief at Hide & Seek, and many more.
Films, articles and writing challenges will be appearing on the site over the weeks and months ahead.

and if you'd like an invitation to join the Cloud Chamber, a closed on-line discussion around 
poetry and young people run by the Poetry Society, 
please let me know.

You can follow us on Twitter @youngpoetsnet 

Here's my latest post for the Cloud Chamber. 

It could be argued that digitisation is making mainstream publishing operate in the kind of way that poetry has operated for years.

Poets are used to a continuum of publishing possibilities from photocopied pamphlets to big print runs of full length collections, they've long been responsible for selling their own books at readings and  workshops, and know that ancillary poetic activity such as teaching and reviewing is actually a far bigger source of income than, for most poets, royalties for books sold. Poets have always engaged in interaction with an opinionated circle of readers most of whom write poetry themselves - these are some of the features of the poetry world which echo the new reality for all writers.

We're all amplified authors now, at our laptops, communicating directly with, hopefully, an ever expanding circle of readers via Twitter, blogs, on and offline journals, books either self published through print on demand or made by publishers in all sorts of forms, from downloads to traditional pageturners. And of course poetry has always been a multimedia art; the experience of live readings is as essential as poems on the page. Texts illuminated with pictures and interpreted in other media have been part of the poetry scene for centuries.
The Young Poets' Network aims to provide a toolkit for newcomers to poetry which starts from now. Let's clear away our assumptions about what 'Real Poets' do and look at what poets need: great poetry to read; an appropriate readership for their own work; a community of fellows; constructive criticism; sources of inspiration; opportunities to show their work in performance, on the page and in other public forms, possibly even some income though poets know that's hard to come by.

How best can they do these things with the digital tools that now exist? And what are the issues they need to address in the digital age.

Once the problem was how to be accepted by the guardians of the canon and allowed into print. Now we can all put what we like on the global bookshelf of the web and see who finds it. How do serious writers hone their craft in this new context? How do they define their aims? And what are the new poetic forms and creative constraints thrown up by the web?

I've been talking to poets, film makers, an immersive game designer, teachers, poets who work with digital arts, architects and new collaborative forms, plus young people themselves to create a series of resources and challenges for young writers. We'll be rolling these out over the next few months.

I welcome your comments on what should be included and what issues we should explore with the poets of tomorrow.  

Thursday, 3 March 2011

big green

The Big Green Bookshop Birthday Benefit
The Big Green Bookshop
March 31st, 6.30-10pm

with the Society of Young Publishers
The name says it all really. This event will be a big, probably green, birthday party. That's also a benefit, because if you haven't already heard, the boys at the Big Green Bookshop are struggling. Just read their blog. They've got nine months to pay off their bank loans in order to secure their finances; without it, the business they've worked so hard to build up may face closure.
But it's just a bookshop, I hear you cry. Well, no, not really. This particular bookshop is the hub of its community, providing a space for local events and for local people to come together. They hold book launches, author signings, book groups, knitting groups, boardgame groups, film nights, quizzes. The list, frankly, is endless. Plus, during the three years they've been open, they've visited well over 300 schools to promote literacy and inspire local children with a love of reading.
So after everything they've done for us, their community, it's our turn to give something back. In holding this party we hope not just to raise lots of money and give them the injection of cash they need in the short-term, but to raise their profile to a whole new group of booklovers who can continue to support the shop in the long-term.
While this is a benefit, it's also a birthday party. We want to celebrate the work that the boys have done over the last three years and thank them for their contribution to the community so we're bringing together as many booklovers and authors as possible for an evening of wine and cake. Please come!

on love and floods

Kate Eltham of if:book Australia on floods and social media

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

collaborative consumption

Rachel Botsman talks about Collaborative Consumption from NESTA UK on Vimeo.

I heard Rachel Botsman speak at NESTA - very inspiring for Unlibrary, the Portable Bookshop, pop up bookspaces of all kinds.