December 01, 2021 TOPICS

Interview with the Creator of Biblio Battle:A New Way to Enjoy Reading

Have you heard of Biblio Battle? Biblio Battle is a new style of book review competition that incorporates a game-like element. Each participant has five minutes to give a presentation on a book they would like to recommend, and then together they hold a discussion and choose a "Champion Book." This event is not only for book lovers; it is now spreading to elementary and junior high schools, universities, and training sessions and study groups at companies. How did Biblio Battle come about? What is its appeal? And what are some hints for "winning"? To answer these questions, we spoke to Professor Tadahiro Taniguchi of Ritsumeikan University's College of Information Science and Engineering, the creator of Biblio Battle.

[Key Points of this Article]
● Explanation of the rules of Biblio Battle
● Slides and handouts are prohibited! The reasons for choosing a Champion Book.
● It's okay if your presentation is stilted.
● Using people and communities as "filtering devices.”
● Professor Taniguchi's three recommended books.

You can do it right away! Let’s check the rules of Biblio Battle!

First of all, for those readers who may be wondering what Biblio Battle is, let’s take a look at the official rules.

Official Rules of Biblio Battle
1. Participants get together with books they have read and found interesting.
2. Each participant takes turns introducing a book. They have five minutes to give a presentation.
3. After each presentation, the participants hold a discussion for two or three minutes.
4. After all the presentations are done, the participants vote on which book they would like to read the most. The book with the most votes is declared the "Champion Book".

The rules are very simple, but there is an important point that must be mentioned here. When you give your five-minute book presentation, you should not use slides or other materials. According to Professor Taniguchi, the true form of the Biblio Battle is when each participant recommends a book to the others in their own thoughts and words.

The reason for choosing a winner with the Champion Book

In a normal book review or reading session, each person expresses his or her thoughts and feelings, but there is no element of deciding on “a winner.” This is what makes Biblio Battle unique, but how did the Champion Book rule come about? Professor Taniguchi explains:

“The origin of the Biblio Battle is a study group I used to attend with the other members of a laboratory at Kyoto University. At the study group, the teacher would often select books on a theme, but as the learners, we decided that we should select the books ourselves. At first, I was in charge of selecting the books, but when it came time to choose, I hit a wall. I couldn’t choose a good book that was just right for everyone. (haha)
We flipped the original concept on its head and created a system where participants could choose their own books. This is how Biblio Battle came about. Since we needed to decide on the book that everyone should read, we set a rule that one book would be chosen as the Champion Book.”

According to Professor Taniguchi, there was some resistance from older people in the group who had a traditional view of books and reading. They said it was outrageous to bring the concept of competition into reading. However, the very reason to hold a Biblio Battle is to select the Champion Book, so if the rules are changed to not declare a winner, then the expected effect of the Biblio Battle disappears.

Professor Tadahiro Taniguchi (Ritsumeikan University College of Information Science and Engineering)

“The original purpose of Biblio Battle is not to decide who wins and who loses. However, the point of turning book reviewing into a game is to determine the Champion Book. The existence of the Champion book gives the participants an indescribably mysterious motivation. This also makes the participants more enthusiastic when they are communicating orally without supporting materials, and it is the reason why Biblio Battles are so exciting,” says Professor Taniguchi.

Remember: The original idea behind Biblio Battle was to decide which book everyone should read. It is highly likely that all the books presented by the participants, including the Champion Book, are new books that everyone is encountering for the first time. It is precisely because of this element of “battle” (i.e., victory or defeat) that participants can encounter books with a vividness that cannot be found in typical reading groups.

Advice from the creator: It’s okay to give a stilted presentation

As long as there are winners and losers, it is human nature to want to win. So, let's ask Professor Taniguchi, the creator of Biblio Battle, for some tips and tricks on how to win.

“First of all, don't think too much about it. (haha) Sometimes I see websites on how to win a Biblio Battle, but I feel that some of the teachers are misleading the students a bit by making it a homework assignment to write a good manuscript.
Don’t worry about trying to give a polished presentation. Just try to speak in a way that everyone around you can understand. You should be happy if someone really likes the book you recommended and ends up reading it, even if your explanation is not very good. Creating a place where everyone can share is what I think is important for Biblio Battle.
When I give lectures, I always tell people to just give it a try and see what happens. It’s okay to give a stilted presentation. (haha)
There is no particular way to win a Biblio Battle, but there is a trick to choosing the right book. The choice of books depends on the kind of community you are in. For example, when you choose a Christmas gift, what you choose will differ depending on whether it is a gift for your girlfriend or a family member. When you are choosing a book, it's important to think to yourself ‘The others are sure to enjoy this book.’”

Some students may start to feel down before their Biblio Battle presentations, but just remember what the creator of the event has to say. You don't need to memorize everything. It is okay to give a stilted presentation. Go out and give it your best shot!

Biblio Battle is a system for recommending books by getting to know books through other people

Did you know Biblio Battles are held on a variety of scales? Those that are broadcasted on YouTube, for example, are often the finals of a tournament, and the participants (i.e., viewers) are just there to listen. These are event-style Biblio Battles.
Professor Taniguchi advises not to hold a Biblio Battle with too many people, especially in classrooms or workshops with a considerable number of people. He explains:

“In an event-style battle, even if 100 people gather, only the presenters have read a book. Although this is a spectacle, I don't think it promotes reading.
When schools use Biblio Battles, they often end up being event-style battles. For example, if the instructor says, ‘This week, five students from Group A will give presentations,’ it would take about two months for everyone to give a presentation. If you do this once a month, the students would only be reading one book a year. That's why I recommend a workshop-style Biblio Battle.”

In the workshop method, the class is divided into groups of about five people, and each group has its own Biblio Battle. This way, even if the class meets only once a month, the students have the opportunity to introduce their books every month.

Professor Taniguchi continues: “One effect of a Biblio Battle is to filter information through a community. Typically, when we use various online services, we receive recommendations based on our past order history or viewing history. Also, when we use social media, the information we are exposed to is filtered based on the groups to which our followers belong or their interests.
Likewise, a Biblio Battle serves to filter information through the members of the community that gather for the event. In this sense, Biblio Battle is a system for recommending books by getting to know books through other people, and conversely, it is a communication tool for getting to know people through books.

Three books recommended by Professor Taniguchi, the creator of Biblio Battle

When Professor Taniguchi tells people he is the creator of Biblio Battle, they think he must be a humanities professor, but in fact, he works in the hard sciences. His areas of expertise are artificial intelligence, emergent systems, and intelligent robotics. We asked Professor Taniguchi what three books he would recommend to businesspeople.

“People are not just a bunch of individual ‘grains of sand’ interacting with each other. Their interactions create an overarching order and that order is what forms a society. That order is not an order designed by someone else, but an order that is born. It is spontaneous order. This is a great book that sheds light on this concept, which also underpins Biblio Battle, through the lens of the market economy. Today's young people were born after the end of the Cold War, so they don't really have a sense of what makes a socialist economy bad. In this sense, I think this book is one that we should refocus our attention on”.

“I think everyone is probably fed up with how long meetings can be. (haha) This book, which is written like a novel, teaches you the know-how for running meetings. The main point: it’s time to put an end to wasteful meetings.”

“This book introduces new perspectives on communication ranging from Biblio Battles to artificial intelligence, which is my area of expertise. I’ve written it in the form of a light novel, so I would like to recommend it to young people. By the way, if you recommend your own book in a Biblio Battle, you probably won’t win (haha)!”

With his recommendations, Professor Taniguchi seems to have matched the running theme of this interview, and these books on communication and meetings are sure to be useful to many people. He also made sure to promote his own book.
Professor Taniguchi's latest book, Komyunikeshon-ba no Mekanizumu Dezain ("Communication Field Mechanism Design"), which he co-authored with economist Professor Ryuichiro Ishikawa and others, will go on sale on October 15, 2021. The book is a must-read for Biblio Battle fans, so be sure to check it out.

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