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The big 10... Canada Reads is set to celebrate

They grow up so fast these days. It seems like only yesterday (OK, a couple of years ago) that CBC folk started talking about doing a one-book campaign for a whole country.  That was back at the turn of the century. Now this unique national "big read" project is heading into double digits.

Canada Reads 2011, the 10th anniversary season, will be coming to a radio, TV, computer or hand-held device near you soon. We'll announce the five chosen books and their passionate defenders in a couple of months, and by next February there'll be a 10th book in the Canada Reads winners' circle. And yes, our anniversaries will always span two years. We launched the first shortlist in fall 2000 and aired the first debates in early 2001. The format was designed to give people time to read the books and to span those key midwinter gift-giving days.

What's changed in those 10 years? Not our delight in good stories well told, but certainly the ways Canadians read and talk about books.

When Canada Reads was conceived, one of the CBC Books team was in Grade 9. And when kids learned to read way back then, they graduated to hardcovers or paperbacks from torn pop-up books and chewed copies of Goodnight Moon board books. E-readers were a thing of the future for the reading public, e-ink and all those other technologies merely gleams in some inventors' eyes.

This year, we're hoping that all five Canada Reads books will be available as e-books for the first time. Not that we have anything against bound books and the joys of perusing real live bookshelves. (Note to booksellers and librarians: we love those Canada Reads displays, hand-selling and personal recommendations. Hey, thanks for all the support in the last 10 years!)

In 2001, the debates aired on CBC Radio One; now the shows are on both your kitchen radio and your computer. They're audio and video, they're streamable and downloadable. Ten years ago, when I recorded a reading of the first Canada Reads winner for Between the Covers, people could hear Michael Ondaatje's words at set times of the day or buy a CD. Now BTC is one of the CBC's most popular podcasts, available anytime from itunes and our site. So go ahead, take last year's winner, Nikolski, on your commute.     

Interactivity online and 2.0 book conversations - not happening in our kick-off year, but a big deal now. We were on cloud nine last year, what with our book-loving competition augmented by related campaigns like Canada Reads Independently, Canada Also Reads and Civilians Read elsewhere online.

What comes next?

Right now, the Canada Reads elves are polishing their radio- and web-making tools and getting ready to serve up something new. Producers are busy with "the chase," as we in the biz call the process of hunting down and trapping, er, booking guests. The calls go something like this: "Hey, wanna read five great books and go head-to-head with other passionate readers for intense hours of book battling? What, you'll be busy next February climbing the world's highest mountain/conquering space/rescuing endangered animals/treading a red carpet in Europe? Hmm, how about next year?"

But five of the calls will result in exuberant yes's, five publishers will be over the moon and five authors will learn they have a very public champion.   

And, as always, we'll count on you to animate the conversation and close the Canada Reads circle.

Watch this space.

Ann Jansen is the senior producer of Canada Reads.
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