Friday, September 11, 2015
Rare Book Cafe: A program for book lovers
The project is sponsored by the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair, and is intended to serve as an online meeting place for people in the rare book trade and people who can't get enough of antiquarian books, who thrive on absorbing as much information as possible about them. You know who you are.
There were some technical difficulties, of course. This new live streaming platform called Blab is still in beta, which means the folks who created it have a working model up and running but it still has quirks. Be that as it may, it was a delight to participate in conversation with Steven Eisenstein in Miami Beach and Thorne Donnelley in West Palm Beach. There were watchers as well, though none of them jumped into the available fourth chair. Apparently they only wanted to hear us swap stories, which we did.
Live streaming has been around for a long time (think video teleconferencing). What's different now is that this is free and accessible to people without a lot of special equipment, and it has a built-in mechanism for viewers to participate by sending text messages. To take part in the discussion or even just to watch and listen, all you need is a desktop computer and a decent wifi connection. Blab works on a Google Chrome browser or a Firefox browser. (That was one of the technical difficulties we had. We at first tried to log on with a Safari browser.) The Blab account and the Twitter account are both free, too, and take only a few minutes to set up.
What's intriguing about all this is the possibilities for connecting not only with book dealers around the world (assuming some of them want to stay up late to talk to us) but also with book lovers everywhere. Never before has such a possibility been so accessible to so many people.
This is an ongoing project. Rare Book Cafe will be on the air at least on Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m. EDT and Saturdays at 2:30 EDT. Also, Florida Antiquarian Book Fair is posting recorded episodes on the blog. It is an exciting time we live in. The irony of using a 21st century mechanism to bring together people who perpetually live in the 16th and 17th centuries is just too delicious.