Robin Sloan, media inventor (more about that later) and author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Oct.), has established a secret society of booksellers—the Unbroken Spine—and will be recruiting new members throughout BEA. Smartphone users can join up by going to, where, after answering a series of questions, you’ll be rewarded with a password. Stop by the Macmillan booth (3358), give them your password, and you’ll receive an official Unbroken Spine badge and be entered in the grand-prize drawing for a $200 dinner-for-two gift certificate. And three lucky booksellers will win a free social media consultation for their bookstores from Sloan. Left home without a smartphone? Simply come by the Macmillan booth, and they’ll set you up.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is described by FSG as a gleeful, exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life—mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore. Not surprisingly for a book set in the land of all things high tech, it began with a Kindle and a tweet. “I saw the short stories people were doing on Kindle and really liked the idea of seeing something I’d written on that screen,” says Sloan, who was working as “a Web guy” in San Francisco. Inspiration for the story came from a friend’s tweet—“just misread ‘24hr bookdrop’ as ‘24hr bookshop’. The disappointment is beyond words.”

Sloan published Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (the short story version) on Kindle and his Web site ( in spring 2009, and it was an online hit, which Sloan modestly credits to a legion of blog and Twitter followers made up of just the right audience: “people who love books and writing, and people into design and San Francisco.” In fall 2009, Sloan, who was now working at Twitter, decided that it was (in Silicon Valley–speak) time to take the story “out of beta testing” and write a real book. The book was eventually sold to FSG executive editor Sean McDonald, who had been a fan since he first read the beta version on Sloan’s Web site.

Now a full-time writer and media inventor—someone primarily interested in content (words, pictures, ideas) who also experiments with new formats, new tools, and new technology—Sloan is accessing his writer side to work on a new book, while his media inventor persona is “creating iPhone apps that tell stories.”

Sloan will be a participant on the 7x20x21 panel today, at the Downtown Author Stage (DZ2000), 3–4 p.m., and tomorrow he will sign ARCs of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore in the FSG booth (3358) at 10:30 a.m.