I love my moochers!

June 20, 2007


I just got back from 9 weeks of lots of traveling, most recently from Croatia and am now back in my Berkeley, California house and going through my mail, including a pile of mooches.

Leala, a BookMooch member that I mooched a book from, very kindly included this wonderful drawing and note on the outside of the package. I *love* it! The thing is, about 1/3rd of the time when I mooch a book, someone includes a nice hand-written note. I’ve asked others, and apparently I’m not alone, lots of nice notes are included with books.

This makes me happy, because my inspiration for BookMooch was visiting a Norwich, UK community center, as I said in this interview:

The idea for BookMooch came when I was in Norwich, UK, at a local community center, and they had a “leave a book, take a book” area with bookshelves and couches. The shelves were filled and people were chatting about the books, asking for advice, flirting as well as reading. It was a healthy and natural thing. Reading books can be a very social act, but someone has to provide the meeting place.

I saw this great book-share spot in the UK, and thought “this could be done on the Internet”, and it shocked me that no-one had done it yet, at least not in the way I thought it should.

and when I get notes like this with my mooched books, I hope that maybe I’ve achieved something of that wonderful feeling I felt in Norwich.

Thanks again to Leala and to all the wonderful moochers!

On another topic, I know that BookMooch has been slow lately, and I now have a big chunk of time to work on that. I think it’s because the catalog is getting so big (800,000 books in wishlists+listed books). If you’re finding it slow, trying using BookMooch at a different time.

Here’s a chart showing how busy the BookMooch server is over a one week period. The taller the line, the slower the server is to respond. You can see that the past two days have been really busy, but also that there are lots of times when the server is really fast. In a few weeks, I hope to have it fast all the time again.

I presented BookMooch during a 5 minute micropresentation at the Reboot 9.0 conference in Copenhagen last week. This is a presentation style where each slide automatically advances every 20 seconds, and you stop talking at 5 minutes exactly.

Henrik Fohnz video recorded my presentation and put it up on his blog. I uploaded it to youtube (it’s on a CC license) and you can see it today.

I was pretty happy with how the presentation was received, as the audience interrupted me at one point to applause in appreciation, which has never happened to me in any other presentation. I’ll be studying what I did here to see if I can reproduce the “secret sauce”.

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A few weeks ago, I received a friendly email about Magnatune from Peter Cox, a literary agent in London. We met, and really hit it off, becoming instant friends (he didn’t know I dabbled in the book world with BookMooch). I offered to do a set of portrait photos of Peter, for his own promotional purposes, and because I enjoy playing “amateur photographer” now and then, which is why we met today.

Peter is really Internet savvy, a rarety among book people, and tries all sorts of interesting ideas. He became an agent, because he used to be a writer, most famously writing several of Linda McCartney’s best-selling meat-less cookbooks and was frustrated with the quality of the literary agents in the business available to him as a writer.

His most interesting Internet project is Litopia Writer’s Colony, a web site where talented career-writers read and criticize each other’s works, as well as being able to ask serious business-of-books questions of Peter. You have to submit a writing sample to be let in, and thus the writing caliber is quite high.

Peter launched Litopia five years ago, after he had hired someone to read through a massive stack of unsolicited manuscripts and finding virtually nothing good among them. He thought that there must be a better way to locate great unknown writers, as well as to incubate great-writers-to-be. That’s what drives Litopia.

Some of the best photos I made today of him are on the right. I was especially happy with the two-color wall photos, which Peter said “is an idea that shouldn’t work but does anyway”

Peter took me to lunch at the Reform Club, which is a spectacular setting, next door to the Athenaeum. Those two are the most famous private clubs in London. To be allowed in, I had to drag out the one tie I own, purchased for a dinner-with-Bill-Clinton several years ago, as the Reform Club has a Dress Code that I wouldn’t normally pass.

I’ve been asked to Guest Blog on the OpenBusiness.cc site.

My entry for today is reprinted below, or you can read it at the OpenBusiness site.

On a different topic, J.C. Hall wrote an extensive review of BookMooch that’s really excellent.

Buckman HeadshotI’m John Buckman, and I’ll be guest blogging for a bit on OpenBusiness.

I’m the founder/owner of “Open Music” record label Magnatune. I also run the peer-to-peer book exchange (real, dead-tree, books) BookMooch. And I started, ran for 12 years, and sold an Internet software company called Lyris, that makes email list server software (ie, email discussion groups).

I’m also a member of the Board of Directors at Creative Commons and on the advisory board of the Open Rights Group. More about me on my wikipedia bio page.

I live in two places, alternating between a house in London and Berkeley, California.

I just got back yesterday from a marathon run of conference presentation, with unreliable Internet access, so here are a host of various links to my very recent past:

Allevolve– This past friday, I gave two talks at the Reboot 9.0 conference in Copenhagen. Reboot is an interesting mostly-commercial-free conference about humanity, society, connectedness and technology. My main presentation was on “Lessons Learned from a Social Entrepreneur” and the slides are available but I suspect are unenlightening without the video, which should appear in a few days. This was a touch presentation to give, because a) I wasn’t supposed to sound like a salesperson pitching my projects and b) it was supposed to be all about insights, yet not sound either egotistical or numbingly boring. I think I succeeded on not the not-egostistical side, but I’m not so sure about the not-being-boring part. Reboot also had “Lightning” 5 minute presentations, of 15 slides, 30 seconds per slide, and the slides advanced mercilessly regardless of where you are in your presentation. I did a 5 minute presentation on BookMooch, and it is available on Youtube as a hand-held video. What got the crowd excited was the “mooch” toolbar shortcut, so you can shop at Amazon, but instead of clicking “buy it now” you click the “mooch” button and get the same book for free instead of paying for it.

31408931 4Fe1817E0E– A few days before that, I was in Aarhus, Denmark at the “Knock, Knock – the Future of Music” conference (interview with me there about Magnatune and the topic of my presentation, about Piracy vs Permission Society). While “The Future of Music” may sound like an unpromising title for a conference, it turned out to be excellent as they invited the people who run The Pirate Bay, as well as The Pirate Group to come speak. Major label representatives refused to attend because of this, but the pro-Piracy Perspective was fascinating. Also present was formerly-really-damned-evil music Attorney Steve Gordon but now fully reformed and very wise. The conference was next door to Aarhus’ extremely impressive new modern art museum, and everyone in Copenhagen had been telling me to see the “Big Boy” (photo on right)

Picture 1– And a few days before that, I was in Zurich, Switzerland, for the launch of Creative Commons Switzerland, where I gave the keynote (Larry Lessig and Joi Ito were unavailable [grin]). My presentation about Creative Commons is downloadable. I was really nervous about this gig, because it’s only the 2nd time I’ve presented about Creative Commons, and Larry Lessig, our fearless leader, is one of the best presenters in the world, often leaving audiences stunned. That’s a hard act to follow. I think my presentation was well received, since I showed up and didn’t botch it, but the audience there was far more educated about CC than I had anticipated, so I suspect it wasn’t all that interesting. This was, however, a LOT easier than a presentation a few months back I made in French (my 2nd language) to a room full of bankers.

Mom-1– And before that I was in Antwerp and the “Meeting of Minds: The User is The Content” roundtable. They asked us to present what we thought the Internet would look like in 2020. My presentation is available as slides and as an mp3 of the presentation itself (and my blog of the trip). The photo at right has me talking to the fabulous, hyper-kinetic, #1 blogger in France Loic Lemeur.

For all these presentations, I usually make a from-scratch set of slides and talk, based on the goals of the conference. That’s somewhat unique, as most people give their standard speech, and I think this may be the main reason I get invited to so many places. Unfortunately, sometimes I break into my salesperson persona, aka “the pushy American”, a style appropriate to the USA but totally inappropriate in Europe and wife is there to let me know I botched it.

ToastmFor anyone thinking “John must be a natural public speaker” I can tell you that when I started this 10 years ago, I could barely get words out when I stood up in front of people, and would stutter, get dizzy and lose my place. I attended a year of a 1h weekly meetings run by the non-profit, all-volunteer speaking club called Toastmasters and I recommend it to everyone. There are clubs of all levels, from pitifully bad (where I started) to great (where I got to admire other speakers) and the cost is very low (I think it was $50 a year when I joined). Click the “find a club” link on the top left of the home page link: they are a very, very global group. They’ll teach anyone to be a decent speaker and it’s just a 1h weekly time commitment.