Saturday, June 7, 2014

Kidnapping the #Bookaday Brainchild: Shame on @HarperCollins and @BoroughPress

I teach my students not to use someone else's idea without proper attribution, so when a top-five publishing house, via it's imprint, co-opted the #bookaday hashtag coined by Donalyn Miller--author of The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild, and co-founder of The Nerdy Book Club blog--that got my dander up.
Donalyn Miller wearing
The Original #Bookaday Pic Badge
I learned about HC's and Borough Press's egregious kidnapping of Donalynn's #bookaday brainchild via Donalyn's facebook status update. Curious, I followed a link to Borough Press's blog "#Bookaday--a heaving shelf of bookish delights" and found a non-apology from BP: 

It’s come to our attention that there’s an amazing project in the US aimed primarily at librarians and teachers and run by Donalyn Miller, from Nerdy Book Club. She has been using #bookaday for several years. We were totally unaware of the project when we launched our #bookaday campaign – and we have been very open that we nicked the idea from #recordaday –  so we wanted to say sorry if it has caused any confusion for readers. 

Duh! Hate to break it to you, BP, but ignorance is no excuse for taking someone else's idea and claiming it as your own--even if Twitter says it isn't possible to own or copyright a hashtag. 

So up is my dander that I decided to post a comment on the Borough Press post. Here's my comment, which at this time is "awaiting moderation":

The difference between Donalyn Miller’s use of #bookaday and your co-opting of the hashtag is this: Donalyn, the Nerdy Book Club community, teachers, and librarians who use the hashtag do so in service of our students; in contrast, your use of the hashtag is in service of making a profit selling books. I find it difficult to fathom that you did not know the #bookaday hashtag was being used already since such lack of knowledge would suggest problems in your marketing plan. Rather, I suspect using the hashtag was a deliberate ploy designed to advance your market. I’m cynical like that.
As Paul St. John Mackintosh says in his post "Harper Collins imprint tries to go all Tweety and communal--with someone else's hashtag?":

Yes, it looks like #bookaday belongs to someone else. Someone who has been using it for years to build "a social event connecting readers who share book recommendations and celebrate reading."

Mackintosh goes on to say this:

See, social media has this wee little issue for marketing professionals--it's called authenticity. To quote one Huffington Post savant, "authenticity (personal truth) and sincerity (caring about and connecting with others) are required to build the kind of social media brand customers and clients are looking for these days." Sounds  like Donalyn Miller to me. But both values appear completely absent from this Borough Press initiative.

My advice to Harper Collins and to Borough Press regarding the #bookaday hashtag scandal is this: Give it back and say you're sorry. Otherwise, your just what my friend Karen labels in the new hashtag she created to describe HC's and BP's actions: #bookadaybullies. 

*Update via Donalyn on Monday, June 9, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. MST: Celebrating the news that Borough Press changed their event hashtag to @bookadayUK this morning. Thanks to everyone who supports the real‪#‎bookaday‬ challenge!


  1. seriously knickers and twist spring to mind.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. "Twitter says it isn't possible to own or copyright a hashtag."

    This statement undermines your entire argument for "kidnapping." Hashtags are universal descriptors that nobody owns.

    In this case, the phrase is a logical, if uncommon one. Borough Press points to #recordaday as inspiration. I don't find it hard to believe a publishing house employee saw that tag and said "let's do it with books!"

    I hope you'd agree nobody would try to claim ownership of #appleaday, #Iraq, #thinklikeamantoo, or #butts?

    And yet, from what I've seen (firsthand since I received a tweet) Donalyn and others who feel ownership of #bookaday have been the only bullies. Borough Press switched to #bookadayuk pretty quick, despite legions of Twitter users asking what the deal was and if they could still participate in the US.

    I received a terse message from Donalyn telling me how I was in the wrong and my "community" had moved over to #bookadayuk to honor the prior users of #bookaday. I replied that I didn't mind, wasn't trying to honor anyone (this being Twitter for chris'sakes), and would continue to use the hashtag as I saw fit. She replied again saying my tweets won't get read.

    I feel like that was harsher than anything I've seen from BP!

    Why can't we all coexist? Does others' use of #bookaday ruin yours? You may feel it's inauthentic, but they're still pictures of books. Aren't teachers and librarians interested in promoting EVERYONE's reading and sharing of books?

    I guess if we can't all set a good example, maybe next time y'all could do #bookaday2015 or #bookaday7, and Borough Press could do #bpbookaday.

    But I hope both parties can just chill out and share #bookaday.

    1. BP's use of #bookaday usurps the intent of #bookaday as Donalynn envisioned it, which is educators sharing and recommending books. Many of the books recommended by those who began using #bookaday years ago are picture books and/or YA novels. It's an opportunity to promote the books of authors who visit schools, who support teachers, etc.

      You seem to think BP's marketing gurus aren't very savvy but are rather naive. Seriously, I find it nearly impossible to think someone didn't check the hashtag. To suggest no one did is to suggest a level of naïveté I can't imagine in a successful business. It seems such an easy thing to do; it's certainly something I would do if I were creating a hashtag, and I'm not a heavy Twitter uses.

      Calling someone trying to protect something she created and began using years ago a bully is pretty strong language. It took quite a lot of pressure to get BP to change its hashtag. Wouldn't it have been simpler for BP to have simply changed the hashtag once it realized the overlap than to have pushed aside concerns as it did?

      Regarding my post's title: The language is figurative and meant to elicit attention and traffic for the post. Originality of ideas isn't the same as copyright ownership, which I suspect you know. So while Donalyn can't literally own the hashtag, being a good sport on the Twitter playground doesn't mean the big kid takes the ball from the little one, especially when there are more toys available.

      You ask why the hashtag can't be shared. The issue isn't that it can't but that to do so undermines the purpose and muddles the audience. I'm not interested in book recommendations from certain segments of the population, for example. When I search #bookaday, I'm specifically looking for teacher and librarian book recommendations. I don't want that clouded.

      As you know, hashtags direct Twitter users attention to specific conversations. When an entity ignores the established decorum, they put all hashtags on a slippery slope that threatens the effective use of the social network.

      I'm not Donalyn's spokesperson, but I fully understand her anxiety and her position. Of course teachers and librarians are interested in promoting reading among all people, but our primary responsibility is to encourage reading among our students and colleagues. We are not responsible for the reading lives of the general population and to imply that we are is simply ridiculous. Aren't publishers suppose to be interested in not alienating a segment of the population that works tirelessly w/ out remuneration to promote books and that spends lots of money on books?

      Teachers have tried to coexist and have been passive about many things over the years. I suspect many of my virtual colleagues are like me in that we're not willing to sit idly by and be pushed around anymore.