Archive for January, 2011

Mystery Collection, Disc 21

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Cause for Alarm!, 1951, b&w. Tay Garnett (dir.), Loretta Young, Barry Sullivan, Bruce Cowling, Irving Bacon. 1:15.

Part near-real-time mystery, part melodrama, and more effective than I’d expect. Woman’s husband has some unstated but wholly debilitating heart disease—but he’s convinced that she and their doctor (who she was acquainted with before marriage) are trying to kill him. He sets up a frame (e.g., spilling most of his heart medicine so he can claim overdose), then writes a letter detailing it all to the DA… which she mails (not knowing it’s the DA, and of course she’s innocent). Then, increasingly crazed, he decides to shoot her—but has a fatal heart attack in the process.

Most of the movie has to do with whether or not she can retrieve the letter, since she’s convinced that (although innocent) she’ll fry if it gets to the DA. I won’t mention the ending. There’s a fair amount of tension, and the lovely Loretta Young is quite effective and Barry Sullivan is convincingly nuts—and Irving Bacon may be the world’s greatest whining postman. Not a great movie, but not bad at all. $1.25.

Woman on the Run, 1950, b&w. Norman Foster (dir.), Ann Sheridan, Dennis O’Keefe, Robert Keith, Ross Elliott. 1:17.

This one’s noir, San Francisco…and surprisingly effective. A man’s out walking the dog at night on one of SF’s many stair/street combinations; he sees a car above him pull to the side, hears a shot, sees a body come out of a door, hears another shot…and finds that somebody’s shooting at him. Cops arrive, identify the victim as a witness for a forthcoming trial of a mobster, spot two bullet holes indicating that the shooter must have aimed at the witness’s shadow, note that he saw the shooter directly under a street lamp.

Meanwhile, as they’re dealing with something else (and getting his semi-estranged wife from their nearby apartment), he decides he doesn’t want to get involved and disappears. That sets things in motion. The wife wants to find the husband—more so when she discovers that he really does still love her and has a heart condition requiring prescription medicine. The cops want to find both of them, since the husband’s the only real witness against the shooter. And a reporter teams up with the wife to get a big story…or is he a reporter?

Very well done, with excellent dialogue, a fair amount of tension and good use of SF atmospherics. Sheridan (the wife) and O’Keefe (the “reporter”) are both effective, as are most secondary players. Not quite a classic, but pretty close: I’ll give it $1.75.

A Life at Stake, 1954, b&w. Paul Guilfoyle (dir.), Angela Lansbury, Keith Andes, Douglass Dumbrille, Claudia Barrett. 1:18 [1:14]

A guy’s a little down on his luck: He was a successful house designer/builder, but his partner gambled away the firm’s funds—including $35,000 of life savings that friends invested in the company. So the guy keeps a framed $1,000 bill as an odd pledge to make things right. He’s visited by a lawyer who represents a couple interested in backing him in restarting the firm, to the tune of $500,000.

He meets with the wife, a young and hot Angela Lansbury (29 at the time), who explains the deal: She sold real estate for several years before getting married, so she’ll handle the real estate side while he handles the building side—and her husband will bankroll the whole thing. She also gives him every reason to believe that she’s a fringe benefit.

One little problem: The husband quite reasonably insists on key-man insurance for the builder, to the tune of $250,000 (which he talks down to $175,000)…and the builder’s become a little suspicious of motives. He also meets the wife’s younger sister, a 21-year-old charmer who makes her older sister seem like a conniving bitch.

Things progress from there. Are the couple trying to kill him to collect the insurance money—or is he paranoid? When he finds out that the family’s money is mostly from a life insurance policy on the woman’s first husband…well, that doesn’t help. I won’t give away the ending.

Nicely plotted and really quite well done and well acted. Good print, and I don’t sense much missing. $1.50.

Hell’s House, 1932, b&w, Howard Higgin (dir.), Bette Davis, Pat O’Brien, Junior Durkin. 1:12.

Previously viewed, in 50 Movie Hollywood Legends. What I said then:

Rural kid sees his mother get run over by a car (driver gets out, looks at victim, drives away; kid makes no move to remember license plate or, apparently, call authorities). Next scene: Kid shows up at urban home of aunt & uncle, who have a boarder who acts like a hotshot—and the uncle’s out of work. Next scene: Kid asks hotshot if he knows of a job; hotshot, who’s actually a bootlegger, hires kid to take phone calls but never say who he works for or where he lives. Next scene—this movie moves fast—cops show up, kid won’t talk, kid gets sent to reformatory for three years.

Then there’s a bunch of reformatory stuff, with a side plot of newspaper reporter trying to blow the lid off the terrible conditions there but not getting cooperation. Kid’s best buddy, another kid with a heart condition, tries to smuggle letter out for kid, gets caught, won’t snitch, goes to solitary, where the ticker goes worse. Kid knows this, busts out (in the outgoing garbage), pleads with hotshot to help. Despite hotshot’s not actually knowing anybody, he manages to get in to see the reporter, kid tells story—and, as the cops arrive, the bootlegger finally develops a heart and signs a confession. After which, of course, the reformatory gets cleaned up (the kid doesn’t go back). Oh, his friend dies.

Pat O’Brien’s the hotshot. Bette Davis is his girlfriend, who suspects he’s mostly a blowhard.

All a little too formulaic—and maybe it doesn’t matter in this case. While the print’s so-so visually, the soundtrack is so scratchy that I almost gave up on it several times. I can’t imagine most sane people would ever listen all the way through. Given that, it can’t earn more than $0.50.

Cites & Insights 11:2 (February 2011) available

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

Cites & Insights 11:2 (February 2011) is now available for downloading–at (if you’re not seeing the link).

The 28-page issue (in PDF form, but with each section available in crude HTML–noting that the first essay would require considerably more paper to print out than the whole PDF issue) includes:

Making it Work Perspective: Five Years Later: Library 2.0 and Balance (pp. 1-26)

It’s been five years since Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0” and this seemed like a good time to revisit some of these themes.

Bibs & Blather: Where’s Chapter 4? (pp. 26-28)

Why this issue does not include Chapter 4 of The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010.

Mortal Sins (Friday edition)

Friday, January 14th, 2011

First there was Farhad Manjoo, the Apple fanboi technology columnist for Slate and lots of other places. It increasingly makes me nervous to agree with Manjoo, but in this case…well, definitely overstating the case, but I agree.

As of now: 941 comments!

Some of them, naturally, saying there are more important issues, get a life, whatever.

One thing Manjoo gets absolutely, dare I say inarguably wrong:

He uses two spaces after every period. Which—for the record—is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.

I see several hundred comments in that stream making it clear that “inarguably” is laughably erroneous. And countless typing teachers and countable style manuals that emphasize the arguability, at least, of using two periods.

Then there was John Scalzi–who has the ability to be concise (an ability that Farhad Manjoo and certain other idiots seem to lack). Here’s his post, entitled “Farhad Manjoo is Right and I Will Go to This Barricade With Him,” in full:

The vile perniciousness that is the second space after a period. If you do this, you are everything that is wrong and bad in this world. That is all.

Only 88 comments–although, on a comments-per-word-in-original-post basis (a metric that I just created out of that orifice from which most good social science metrics emerge), he’s getting more comments than Manjoo. Well, why not? He’s a much better writer…

And now there’s me. Noting that it’s Friday, and we’re allowed to offer up silly posts on Friday. Heck, if we’re Farhad Manjoo, we even get paid for them.

Quick clarification: The “He uses…” in the quoted material is part of Manjoo’s text. It’s not that Manjoo uses two spaces after each period; that’s what he’s saying about someone else. Who? Not important.

Dear The Hamilton Collection

Monday, January 10th, 2011

I see your full-page back-cover color ad in Analog Science Fact/Science Fiction–the one for Poker Dragons Hold ‘Em or Fold ‘Em Collection.

Well, you know, my black velvet Elvis painting could use company–sure, there are the poker-playing dogs on one side, but there’s a shelf on the other that might be just right for these hand-crafted 4″-high poker-playing dragons.

Ooh, and I get a 4 3/4″-long table too!

Can’t argue with the price, which I read as “$28 each” (although the ad says $19.99* each, with the * leading to “Add $7.99 for shipping and service”). Of course, you don’t say just how many dragons it takes to complete the set–“and more” is nicely vague. Am I in for a low, low $132 (for four dragons) or $280 (for ten dragons–beyond which you really, truly need a second table).

“These intricately hand-crafted dragons are ready to play a fiery round of five-card stud and they have a seat open for you–if you’ve got the game!”

Um. Hmm. There’s a problem here. In that picture, each dragon is holding five “real miniature playing cards” cards in their claws.

So apparently dragons play a form of five-card stud that looks a lot like what’s called five-card draw among people. I think I’d be at a disadvantage in that game. So I guess I won’t order this after all.

Or maybe, just maybe, your copywriter should actually learn something about poker. I suppose it could be worse: It could say they were playing Texas Hold’Em.

Ah, but I love “collectibles”–not actually owning them, which I’d just as soon avoid, thank you, but the whole notion. “Each sculpture is limited to just 95 casting days.” Which means what? This set is apparently a “famous portrait.” I’m sure. Oh, and it comes with, not a measly 1-year guarantee but a 365-Day Guarantee. (Emphasis in the original.)

For the humor-impaired: My black velvet Elvis painting is also invisible…

Odd start to the weekend…and four days left

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

Yesterday afternoon, after finishing the rough draft of a monster perspective for C&I, I wasted a few minutes doing a focused egosearch (using Bing)–this time looking for items that directly referenced that five-year-old issue, that is, items containing “civ6i2.pdf”

Found 59. Including two or three from an LIS course. Looking at those, they were student papers…and it was interesting that all used precisely the same language about Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0”: they called it a rant. And, other than one stating how ignorant I was, that was about all they had to say.

Rant. Interesting choice of terms for that essay. Interesting coincidence of usage. I’m sure whoever taught the course didn’t bias the readers in any form. And I’m sure the students actually read the lengthy, multifaceted treatment–didn’t just glance at it and leap to judgment.

It’s a good thing I didn’t encounter those papers a couple of years ago, when impending loss of sponsorship and other situations encouraged me to rethink C&I (which I’m now doing again). If I assumed (which I don’t) that most downloads of that essay only serve to convince people that I’m an ignorant ranter…well, that would help me make a decision.

But hey, they were grad students in that notoriously difficult field of LIS, and maybe there were getting an early start on Hostile Reading, the real-world counterpart to charitable reading. ‘Cuz I think you had to be engaging in some damn Hostile Reading to turn that essay into a rant.

In other news: Only four days left for the 25% discount on The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 and the 20% discount on C&I print volumes. Of course, if some good friends (no, I’m not being snarky–only good friends would have told me this) are right about almost nobody really giving a damn about the book anyway, then this doesn’t matter.

Ah, but the Pleasanton farmer’s market is back after a two-week break, so it’s nearing time to shut down the computer and go hold the bags while the smart one in the household finds good fruit & vegetables & bread. And maybe the fog will eventually lift–although, even at 38F, I won’t complain about the weather, given the dismal state of other areas.

Cheers, and have a good weekend.

Going long the right way (maybe)

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Think of this as an odd sort of progress report on the February 2011 Cites & Insights (which won’t be out until at least January 17, and possibly not until significantly later)–and, as it turns out, on the March issue as well (assuming C&I continues).

Last week, amidst the various celebrations (including our 33rd anniversary, on January 1), I started preliminary work on a five-year followup essay–five years, that is, since the most widely-read Cites & Insights ever. Just a followup, not some full-scale history or retrospective: I’m neither that brave nor that foolish (well, at least not that brave).

This week was relatively clear: I’m waiting for a set of galleys (or the digital equivalent) but obviously can’t work on them until they arrive, and things post-New-Years tend to be a bit quiet, particularly since I’m not going to Midwinter this year.

About halfway through the set of source documents I was using (yes, Diigo has turned out to be a fine replacement for Delicious, maybe even better for my peculiar uses), it became clear that the essay was too long for a typical issue–and likely to be much too long.

When that’s happened in the past, and given that the source material is usually already split into several major sections (as it was this time), I’ve usually stopped at the end of the section I’m working on and saved the rest for a later continuation. Sometimes that happens (the series on reading began that way); sometimes the rest of the material sits for a rather long time.

This time, given the lack of competing time pressures and that I felt things were going fairly well, I did something different: I continued the essay until I was finished with the source material. Oh, it still needs editing (the actual editing that I’ll do–I’m sure devoted readers will think to themselves “what about the hardnosed editing that an outsider should do,” but that’s a whole different story), but the rough draft is done.

It’s just over 36,000 words. Editing will probably reduce that–but, based on past experience, probably not by more than 10% or so.

That’s the equivalent of two 24-page issues, with no other material. Or one 48-page issue, but I really don’t want to do issues longer than 30-32 pages unless there’s a compelling reason.

So what I plan to do is split this into two parts, using each part as the primary essay in an issue, possibly with some (relatively brief) additional material. The difference: I’m splitting the essay after writing it, rather than starting a separate essay that might not show any continuity at all from the first part. Not that you can expect that much continuity in any case: This is another BASP*–and, for that matter, each half will be a BASP.

It’s not the “right way” for every topic where I have a lot of source material. Some such topics already have obvious subtopics that stand well on their own. At least one has such a gargantuan heap of source material, and seems so far away from any conclusion, that I’m tempted to just delete the whole heap of stuff. (Hint: The initials are GBS, and so far I have 194 items tagged. Arggghhh…)

So now I’ll let the draft sit for a couple of days (doing the usual Saturday backup, and maybe a “once every few months” full disk image backup, since that 1TB portable drive is just sitting there on the shelf), read, think deep thoughts and watch shallow TV…then come back to it, choose a split point, and try to edit it so it’s more coherent and a little shorter–“it” being both portions. Then I’ll see what else makes sense for C&I 11.2.

The significance of this post on a scale of 1 to 10: 0.5. But hey, I felt like posting it anyway.

*BASP = Big-Ass Sprawling Perspective.

50 Movie Pack Comedy Kings Disc 2

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Hay Foot, 1942, b&w. Fred Guiol (dir.), William Tracy, Joe Sawyer, James Gleason, Noah Beery Jr., Elyse Knox. 0:48 [0:46]

This wartime B feature is a charmer—fast moving, funny and with a nice balance of logic and slapstick. Sgt. Doubleday (a very young Tracy), a young soldier who made Sergeant on the basis of his book learning (and apparent eidetic memory—for text, that is) is Colonel Barkley’s assistant, disliked by the blowhard marksmen (Sawyer and Beery) who don’t care much for that book stuff. Thanks to some plausible accidents, Barkley (Gleason) gets the idea that Doubleday, who’s gunshy, is an even better sharpshooter—while Doubleday’s enchanted by Barkley’s beautiful daughter. (This turns out to be the second in a series of six Hal Roach Studios short comedies starring Sgt. Doubleday.)

Lots of laughs as the two blowhards get themselves in trouble as they’re trying to bring down Doubleday. The print’s tonal range is excellent. The performances are all appropriate; Gleason is particularly good as the slightly pompous Colonel. There’s one big problem: Just enough print damage (in the form of missing frames) to make some of the dialogue hard to follow. Even with that defect and its short length, this one is an easy $1.00

Her Favorite Patient (orig. Bedside Manner), 1945, b&w. Andrew L. Stone (dir.), John Carroll, Ruth Hussey, Charles Ruggles, Ann Rutherford. 1:19

We start out with a beautiful young woman stopping to pick up a sailor who’s on his way to Chicago for 30-day leave…and then another sailor down the road and another. She needs to stop off at the little town she grew up in to say “Hi” to her uncle, one of the two doctors in town—but the town’s grown a lot and her uncle’s hoping she’ll stay—she’s also an MD—instead of taking on a research position in Chicago.

Before that happens, actually, she mistakes a test pilot for an old friend, much to his date’s dismay; this confusion plays out again over a couple of days. What follows is a series of happenstances and subterfuges with the overall effect of keeping her around…and I realized partway in that this is really an early romantic comedy with wartime overtones.

Quite good, all in all, with Charles Ruggles fine as a slightly bemused and very busy doctor and John Carroll (the pilot) and Ruth Hussey (the woman doctor) both good, as is a solid supporting cast. One review calls this “frothy” and I think that’s both right and a compliment. I would note that the IMDB listing shows this film as 1:12, presumably based on data contributed by someone who viewed a truncated release. In fact, as the original Variety review makes clear, the movie originated at the 1:19 of this print. Not great, but fun, a good print, and worth $1.50.

Affairs of Cappy Ricks, 1937, b&w. Ralph Staub (dir.), Walter Brennan, Mary Brian, Lyle Talbot, Frank Shields, Frank Melton, Georgia Cane, Phyllis Barry, William B. Davidson. 1:01 [0:56]

Here’s another short B movie with one great virtue for a comedy: it’s funny. Walter Brennan—playing a crusty 60-year-old although he was only 43 at the time—is head of a San Francisco shipbuilding company who’s been out of the country for a year or more. During that time, things have gone to hell in a handbasket in his home and his family—with his nemesis, head of an automation company, ready to take control of his company and become father-in-law to one of his daughters, while the other gets divorced.

To try to set things straight, he gets his kids and the soon-to-be exhusband, plus his former general manager and ex-fiancée of the daughter and bossy mother of the soon-to-be-ex (who’s taken over the household and bought enough of the company’s stock to assure a merger with the automation company) out on his yacht for a weekend sail…which turns into an 8-week adventure down to the Marquesas (incorrectly labeled “uninhabited,” but some of them are). At that point, feeling that he’s failed to get people to straighten up, he stages a shipwreck.

That’s just part of the plot, and there’s plenty of plot to keep things moving. This is a fast-paced little film with a fun cast. Lyle Talbot as the ex-fiancée is excellent, as is most of the cast. Apparently five minutes are missing, but I didn’t see any continuity gaps. I found it thoroughly enjoyable, but since it’s under an hour I can’t come up with more than $1.

All Over Town, 1937, b&w. James W. Horne (dir.), Ole Olsen, Chic Johnson, Mary Oward, Harry Stockwell, Franklin Pangborn, James Finlayson. 1:03 [1:01]

Another Olsen & Johnson flick, this time with the two playing Olsen & Johnson, a vaudeville team—one that’s trying to get a musical-seal act going while staying in a cheap vaudeville hotel. They get a tiny check and are overheard in a way that makes them sound like millionaires; this leads to Putting On a Show in a jinxed theater; which leads to problems. Eventually, there’s a murder and, well, lots of frantic farce.

Basically, this is an extended vaudeville act. I find the Olsen & Johnson shtick tiresome after a while, which makes the movie itself a little tiresome. Also, there’s one key scene where there’s enough missing footage to scramble the dialogue. All things considered, I give it $0.75.

Niagara Falls, 1941, b&w. Gordon Douglas (dir.), Marjorie Woodworth, Tom Brown, Zasu Pitts, Slim Summerville, Chester Clute. 0:43.

A shaggy dog story or curiously innocent bedroom farce, depending on how you look at it—the whole told as a flashback by a guy about to jump off Suicide Point at Niagara Falls to a peanut vendor (who apparently sells peanuts for those who get hungry on the way down…)

You see, this guy’d been dating a farmer’s daughter for 20 years and finally struck oil so he could afford to marry her. So they’re on their way to their honeymoon and encounter this apparent couple trying to fix a car alongside the road… Well, things go on from there. Let’s just say the guy’s a born meddler, the couple (who weren’t a couple, but become one) are charming and it’s all fluffy but fun, although with few real laughs. It’s also a long short subject, too short for even a B movie. The best I can do is $0.75.

ALA MW and learning from one another

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

I’m not on my way down to San Diego today–but in some ways I’d like to be. Meanwhile, I’ve been involved in another discussion on whether ALA should even hold Midwinter. That discussion has mostly been on Friendfeed…and, as it’s evolved, I’m sensing something that isn’t new but I always find a little distressing.

You can call it separatism; you can call it divergence; you can even call it a preferred future, if that’s your preference. “It” is a tendency for types of libraries to become less and less connected.

One proposal out there is to get rid of Midwinter…and allow divisions to hold divisional conferences every year (they’re only allowed to hold them every other year at the moment). (This comes up after it’s pointed out that members already vote with their presence: That Midwinter continues to be very well-attended, even though ALA dropped the “must be at both conferences” rule for committee membership years ago.)

Would that result in the ACRL and PLA and AASL conferences being even larger than they are now? Probably. Would that be a good thing? That’s an interesting question, and one I’m not going to deal with.

It would definitely weaken ALA’s finances (to the tune of about $700,000/year), unless ALA started taking a bigger chunk of divisional conference revenue as overhead.

It would also significantly weaken the weaker divisions within ALA, the type-of-activity divisions (LITA, LLAMA, RUSA, ALCTS)–none of which are big enough to hold true national conferences and all of which are smaller and less robust than the big type-of-library divisions.

More to the point, to me at least, it would weaken the synergy among libraries, and that’s already pretty weak. Academic librarians would find it even easier to treat public librarians (and public libraries) as irrelevant (as some already do, although many don’t); public librarians would find it even easier to dismiss academic librarians as living in ivory towers; both would find it even easier to ignore school librarians altogether (and vice-versa). I think that would be a bad thing. I think it’s unfortunate that most special librarians left ALA long ago, for that matter.

In my experience, the most exciting state library conference (of the 20-odd I’ve attended) is Texas Library Association. It’s also the world’s third largest library conference (after ALA and Midwinter). Oh, and one more thing: In Texas, the school librarians never left the state association. That’s a significant factor in the size and strength of the conference.

For that matter, I’ve consistently found that “multitype” conferences–where either the school librarians haven’t left or have rejoined (e.g., Colorado), or the various organizations have agreed to joint or overlapping conferences (e.g., COMO in Georgia, if I have that right) are stronger and more interesting than others, and that the rare cases where public and academic librarians have split are weaker than you’d expect.

I’m not the one to be making this case. I’m nearly out of the field entirely at this point; depending on what happens in the next two or three months, I might or might not be attending any more ALA conferences at all. I’ve already transitioned to lifelong/continuing ALA membership and, with some regrets, dropped out of LITA after 35 years.

But to me, there’s enormous strength in librarians of all types learning from one another, and the type-of-activity discussion groups, interest groups, and informal sessions at Midwinter have been particularly worthwhile.

Consider this the ramblings of a mostly-retired library person, one who always earned his living serving academic libraries but always had his heart largely within public libraries. And who remembers when California schools mostly had libraries with librarians, and regrets the present state…

Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 and C&I: An update

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

This is the last day of Lulu’s 25%-off discount, one that applies to The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010, disContent: The Complete Collection and my other C&I books. It looks as though three people have taken advantage of the discount–not one of them for the limited-edition hardcover.

I originally planned to publish chapters 2-11 of The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 in Cites & Insights, one chapter per issue, with Chapter 2 appearing in December 2010, Chapter 3 in January 2011 and so on through, possibly, September or October 2011. I hoped that I’d see enough parallel book sales to justify doing that and, with luck, to justify doing a five-year study of liblogs. Because these chapters contain graphs and other stuff, the “HTML separates” appear as PDFs with sets of book pages rather than in the usual HTML form.

But maybe not…

Fact is, as you can readily discover by clicking on “Liblog Profiles” as a category (since I pledged to do one post with four liblog profiles for each copy sold), only four copies of the book have been purchased–two downloads and two paperback.

That’s not as bad as disContent: The Complete Collection, which, halfway through the four-month offering, has sold exactly three (count them: 3) copies. I’ve accidentally extended that four-month offering to five months (through the end of March), but that’s as far as it goes. Sad to say, I’m confirming my suspicion about “freemium” offerings and my so-called audience–and it appears to be even worse than I thought.

I appreciate one colleague’s honesty: he doesn’t intend to pay for library literature, no matter who writes it. I’m getting the idea that this is a general opinion, just not usually stated so bluntly.

As to the liblog books, I had honestly hoped and expected that some or all of the library school libraries/collections would acquire these. But, you know, they’re not either from A Major Library Publisher or overpriced special studies from importantly-named research groups, so…

I don’t think it’s that nobody wants to read this stuff. I think it’s that nobody wants to pay for it.

Here’s the track record:

  • Public Library Blogs: Sold 80 copies, of which 28 are in libraries (according to Worldcat), including no more than three institutions with library schools. Meanwhile, the text portion of this has been downloaded more than 2,500 times in C&I (1,254 as an HTML separate plus 1,321 in the issue, through 12/31/10).
  • Academic Library Blogs: Sold 43 copies, of which 21 appear to be in libraries–including no more than nine institutions with library schools, and probably significantly fewer than that. (I’m including two Australian possibilities here.) More than 2,500 downloads of the text in C&I (1,225 as an HTML separate; the same 1,321 in the issue.)
  • The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008: Sold 66 copies, of which 13 appear to be in libraries–no more than nine of them library schools. So far, 1,600+ downloads in C&I (as a full issue), but it’s early yet.
  • But Still They Blog: Sold 19 copies, of which three (so far) are in libraries, at most one with a library school. So far, 1,053 C&I downloads–but it’s very early, since that issue came out in September 2010 and these stats only go through 12/31/10.
  • Chapter 2 of The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010: So far–and it was only out for seven weeks through the end of the year–127 separate downloads and 425  copies of the issue, for a total of 552. Four books sold.
  • Chapter 3 of The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010: This one was out for less than two weeks through the end of the year, so these are almost meaningless numbers: 48 separate downloads, 371 copies of the issue, for a total of 419 copies. Again, four books sold.
  • Going back: My 2006 study of the “great middle” of liblogs has been downloaded some 22,000 times, 13,000 of them as a separate–and the 2005 study has been downloaded more than 23,000 times, 14,000 as a separate.

So there’s a readership, as long as it’s free. Which, with any sort of institutional or corporate sponsorship, would be just fine with me.

A year ago, I wouldn’t have called 66 copies anything close to acceptable–but if I accept that the liblog studies are mostly a hobby, that’s at least enough to pay for software upgrades and the costs of getting the thing into print, even if it’s not much more than $1/hour for time spent.

Nineteen copies? Not so much. Four copies (so far)? I haven’t yet covered the direct cost of buying a proof copy.

Current plans

I’d planned to include Chapter 4–which starts to get into the meaty, interesting facts and figures–in the February issue of C&I. (No, you haven’t missed it: It won’t be out for at least two weeks, maybe three, maybe more.)

And I’d still love to do that…if there’s some evidence of at least modest sales for the book or download. Let’s call “at least modest sales” five copies per chapter, which would yield at least 55 copies of the book as a whole (Chapter 1 is never going to appear in C&I. But if more than 200 copies of the book are sold, I’ll change the PDF price to $0, which would make it freely available.)

So once fifteen copies have been sold, I’ll put Chapter 4 in the next issue of C&I. Twenty copies: Chapter 5. And so on.

This, of course, assumes that C&I itself continues for the long run…

If Chapter 3 never appears? Then I’ll almost certainly come to my senses regarding the five-year study. (I had a neat new idea about a slight extension of that study, one that could only appear online or as PDFs, since it would require multicolor output, but that neat new idea certainly won’t happen if the study doesn’t happen.) If neither library schools nor librarians are willing to provide any support for this stuff, then it’s clear that I really shouldn’t be doing it. Time spent helping out with the Friends store at my local library might be more productive for all concerned…

Sponsorship may, to be sure, change the picture, and firm up the picture for C&I itself. When I know something, so will you.

If not? Well, then let’s not waste any more language on alternative forms of publishing or new models or the role of independent researchers. Without the imprimatur of formal publishers and formal journals, the work is, apparently, effectively worthless. If I want to keep writing (other than blogs), I should find topics that publishers will buy rather than topics where I believe I have something special to offer. And that may be a lesson I should have learned a long time ago.

2010 Reading (or not)

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Seems like this is the time people are posting their reading accomplishments for 2010–lists of books or at least counts of books read.

Which seems like a good idea.

But I don’t have one, because that’s one of many areas of my life that just aren’t that organized. I have a teeny-tiny Books database, but it’s just for authors and series that I either want to follow but not check out more than once, or maybe want to avoid having read one of them.

Maybe that would be a 2011 Resolution, if I was given to Resolutions: Keep track of the books I’ve read.

My guess is that I read roughly 50-52 books last year, but it could have been slightly lower than that. The basis for the guess:

  • Livermore Public’s borrowing period is four weeks. I get three books at a time, so my goal for the year was, presumably, to read at least 39 books (13 four-week periods, three books each).
  • I’ve almost always gone back after three weeks, not four, but “almost” may mean that I’ve only taken out, say, 16×3 books, not 17×3. I did renew one book during the year, but made up for that.
  • I gave up on one book partway through. But I also read two books (other than my own) that didn’t come from the library.

Book equivalents? No idea. I currently take something like 22 magazines (18 subscriptions, four as a result of memberships), and that includes all three of the “major” science fiction magazines, two issues of which are at least the equivalent of a book–so those three alone account for 18 book-equivalents (actually, there are only 26 issues, but 10 of those are double issues, each of which has a book’s worth of content). The others aren’t quite as text-heavy.

Hmm. Worth keeping track of reading? Maybe. Maybe not: Laziness calls. Oh, if you care about the fiction/nonfiction breakdown, that’s easy: One-third nonfiction, one-third “genre fiction” (split between mysteries and SF), one-third “mainstream” fiction.

Incidentally, for anybody so bored that they’re still reading, the one time I gave up on a book (The Black Swan), it was because I found the author insufferable. Right now, I’m reading a nonfiction book where I disagree with the author on many counts and think he’s foolish on some–but he’s also engaging and writes reasonably well, so this one I’ll finish.

Enough idle posting. Back to reading other people’s online content…and working on The Next Big Essay.