Michael Bryant is the Future of the Book Business


Michael Bryant's aborted attempts to leverage social media to argue that he was innocent after an altercation that led to death of cyclist Darcy Alan Sheppard two years ago failed to gain him much sympathy — despite the best efforts of PR firm Navigator — but Penguin Canada seem confident that the tale of the former Ontario attorney general's confrontation will make a few bucks in book form.

Confidence in the best-seller status of 28 Seconds next fall — if not the need to reassure critics of Bryant's sincerity — has already been reflected in the pledge to donate a portion of the profits to a foundation that treats adolescent mental health and substance abuse, factors that presumably played a role in the incident.

Nonetheless, much like how the initial attempts to refute reports that Bryant played no role in Sheppard's death were refuted online by cycling advocates, the memoir about the incident and surrounding media circus will no doubt be held to similar scrutiny.

Footage of the incident on YouTube won't hamper interest in Bryant's story, of course. Books remain the preferred storytelling format of any public figure who has come under fire — no doubt because a notorious name can command a healthy advance.

Public Libraries and the Expectation of the 'Third Place'

Margaret Atwood has accepted an invitation to visit the newly renovated central library in Hamilton, whose mayor has capitalized on her vocal opposition to prospective branch closures at the Toronto Public Library — even if most Toronto city councillors aren't fond of the idea, either.

Still, the bookshelves that continue to dominate each library branch, at a time when the consumption of words has gone increasingly electronic, have provided a symbolic argument for systematic inefficiencies.

Whatever the preferred format for reading, though, the debate should really be drawing attention to the increasingly essential expectations we have for the "third place."

Starbucks has built its reputation around the concept of being a benevolent business whose locations could serve an entirely separate function from either home or work. And, last summer, totally free unlimited Wi-Fi was switched on in all its stores.

A year later, some locations started covering up power outlets, to discourage laptop hobos. Starbucks was forced to confirm the decision was deliberate, based on response from customers who couldn't find a place to sit for the sake of consuming the latte and pastry, which they paid for.

So, the desire of business to provide that "third place" can be fickle, no matter what it currently claims.

Indigo and Chapters locations have re-installed some of the seating that disappeared after the superstores merged a decade ago. Encouraging customers to look through books they don't pay for — even if the aisles now contain fewer of them — was presumably never bad business to begin with.

Besides, the retail chain was quick to capitalize on Atwood's fight by offering her books at a 30 per cent discount to anyone with a library card. Which is still 70 per cent more than they cost at the library.