Archive for 2012

Kindle Fire HD 8.9 as a newspaper substitute

Posted in Media, Technology and software on December 23rd, 2012

Consider this both an informal review and some sort of groundbreaking post, at least for me.

Prelude: The Use Case

I love a good print newspaper. I’ve subscribed to the San Francisco Chronicle for decades. The broadsheet format gives me a way to scan a lot of stuff at once, I almost always read something at least twice a week that I would never have thought to look for–call it serendipity, call it broadening my horizons, call it being involved in the broader world.

But…two things happened over the past few years. Well, in addition to the paper getting thinner, due to lost ads and the need to cut pages.

  • The management–now Hearst, which bought out the family that had always published the Chron because the latest generation wasn’t interested–decided that subscribers/readers needed to pay 40% of the cost of the paper, not the 10%-20% we had been paying. They dropped outlying areas entirely and raised subscription costs. A lot. Enough so that, with our current lack of earned income, it’s a serious factor.
  • Due to carrier problems, the arrival of the paper has become irregular (although it’s getting better now). I count on it being there by 6:45 a.m. (and, except for Sundays, you can call if it’s not there by 6:30)–and too often it wasn’t. (They have until 8 to deliver it on Sundays. Of course, I still want to start reading it at around 6:45 a.m.)

So…we decided to look into alternatives. Not “taking the local paper instead”–the so-called “local” daily (really a slightly modified version of a San Jose paper) isn’t all that good. (The local weekly is just fine, but it’s a weekly.)

I knew that the Chronicle had an iPad version for $60 a year (with or without a print Sunday paper thrown in). I knew there was a Kindle version, although I hadn’t heard much about it. And the paper was starting to promote an e-edition (as with the iPad version, free if you’re a print subscriber; in this case, $100/year if you’re not).

We considered whether we could reasonably switch to some sort of tablet to read the paper over breakfast and lunch. Neither of us have ever owned an e-reader or tablet, for the same reason we don’t own smartphones: We haven’t felt the need, and we’re not interested in spending money for something we don’t feel a need for.

I’ve always said that, if and when I had a good use case for an e-reader, a tablet or a netbook, I’d probably get one. For some time, I’ve said that if I was still doing six or more speaking trips a year, I’d probably get a netbook or something else…but I’m not, and I haven’t.

Here was a use case: Given that the print Chronicle is up to $559/year, and certainly not likely to get cheaper any time soon, we could even pay for a current-generation iPad in a little over a year. My brother and sister-in-law both have iPads (one not currently in use, one first-generation, I think, one current/Retina); we’ve certainly seen them in use and played with them. Neither my wife nor I is especially anxious to become part of the iTunes hegemony, but if that was the way to proceed, fine.

Interlude

So there we were, a few weeks ago, deciding that we really couldn’t afford the print Chron any more but weren’t willing to lose the paper. Which way to go? Well, the web-based e-edition was/is a very good rendition of the print paper in small (using Olive software); if that would work on a tablet, that would be a possibility–but it would clearly need to be a large-screen tablet. The pictures we’d seen of the iPad version made it seem like a somewhat cruder “reimagining” of the print paper, but it might be OK too. We hadn’t seen the Kindle app.

We knew we wanted high resolution–after all, reading the paper involves a lot of reading, easily 10,000-30,000 words a day, maybe more on Sunday.

We shopped around. The obvious choices seemed to be the current iPad, the Nook HD+, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9, the Microsoft Surface, and whatever the best Android 9″-10″ high-rez tablets are called.

The obvious choices that we could actually see were the iPad, the Nook HD+ and the smaller Kindle Fire HD (the 8.9 wasn’t in the stores we frequent yet).

There’s an obvious and substantial price difference between the two “HD” units and the others: they’re around $300, the others are $500+ (as far as I could see).

We were pretty sure what we wanted and didn’t want:

  • High-quality, easy-to-read renditions of all the stories (and preferably more) from the San Francisco Chronicle–the primary use case.
  • When we do start traveling again, the ability to check email once in a while (Gmail for both of us, with separate accounts).
  • Maybe, when we start traveling again, the ability to play a couple of games (e.g. video poker) and probably to read stuff, either stuff we already have or free books and the like.

We didn’t want to pay more than we needed to: Especially given the Fed’s insistence on punishing retired folks who don’t like to gamble with their savings (by making it impossible to get decent CD rates), we’re not throwing the dollars around.

We didn’t plan to do a lot of video streaming or music purchasing–our broadband’s not fast enough for video streaming to work well, and we’re not vidiots anyway. As for music, we seem to have enough CDs for now. We’re not hotshot gamers: video poker does not make big demands on a system, and my wife almost never games at home anyway.

We concluded that if the Nook HD+ or the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 would do the job, they’d be good, economical choices. My wife was, however, worried about the Nook–mostly the lack of market share and recognition for the HD+ and its implications for the future of the device and support.

Then things got more interesting in two ways: Target was offering $50 back as a giftcard with iPad purchases (and we get 5% off for using a store charge card)…and Amazon had a one-day sale on the Fire HD 8.9, selling for $249 instead of $299, thus making it still $200 cheaper than the iPad. So, since we also knew that Amazon (and Target) allowed return on these items until the end of January, thanks to the holidays, we decided to order a Fire HD 8.9 and see whether it would do the job. (Yes, we also ordered the “$10 discounted from $20″ fast charger that really should be included with the device. Let’s talk about nickel-and-diming.)

We ordered the unit on December 10, the day of the one-day sale. It was shipped on December 15, apparently using a special via-mule-train USPS option reserved for super saver shipping (which usually gets stuff to us two days after it’s shipped, sometimes the next day). It arrived on December 22, yesterday.

This isn’t a full review, and it’s not quite final–but I thought I’d give my impressions.

Act 1

Amazon did a nice job of minimalist packaging once inside the not-too-large shipping box: a black angled cardboard box with a tear strip that opens nicely and has very minimalist instructions, including the one touch gesture that’s neither obvious nor optional (unlocking the screen).

Unpacked the charger, plugged the device in to finish charging (it had about a 50% charge).

While it took 15 minutes to connect to our wifi, that was partly due to the long passphrase we use–it involved a lot of shifting back and forth between the virtual keyboard’s modes and backing up from accidental doublestrokes–and partly due to our router’s deciding to be grumpy: After the third try to validate, I finally unplugged the router, plugged it back in and, voila: We had wifi. (Good antennas, by the way: It spotted three or four networks in all, all secure, and at least one not in our house.)

The high quality of the display was immediately obvious. As was the ease of adding fingerprints and smudges to the GorillaGlass.

Once fully charged, I decided to try the e-edition of the newspaper, which is on their website (after all, it’s free since we still have the print subscription). Silk, the Kindle browser, is sometimes leisurely, and the virtual keyboard is finicky (more so for my wife, who has a low body temperature or something else that makes it generally difficult to use touch-sensitive devices), but I eventually managed to get there and log in and say I wanted today’s (Saturday’s) e-edition. It said it was loading the Olive software.

And loading. And loading. And loading… After eight minutes, I gave up. Best guess: Olive simply isn’t compatible with Silk or the device, but Silk isn’t smart enough to tell me that. Since Olive takes at most 5-10 seconds to load on a 5-year-old notebook on the same network, I find it impossible to believe it was ever going to successfully load.

Let’s see. So far:

  • Packaging and startup: A-
  • Screen: A
  • Virtual keyboard: B-
  • Wifi performance: A
  • Web browser performance: C
  • Web compatibility with newspaper software: F

That last was a disappointment–although we weren’t sure how well that full mockup of newspaper pages would work on a 9″ screen anyway.

We looked at reviews of the newspaper’s Kindle app. They were mixed–but we noticed that most of the negative ones were a couple of years old. And it came with a 14-day free trial. So…after I turned on 1-click ordering at Amazon (which seems to be mandatory to get anything at the Kindle store, even if it’s free):

Act 2

Went to the Kindle store, newspaper section, found the San Francisco Chronicle, verified the 14-day free trial, clicked on it.

About 15 seconds later–this being Saturday, December 22–we had a screen full of story headlines and brief excerpts, not in any way trying to emulate an actual newspaper, with a “Sections” option above. The page all in boring sans serif, and that type is not changeable (as far as I can tell), but it was easy enough to navigate. Touching any story summary brought up the whole story–and the full stories, frequently with one (but only one) photo each–were very easy to read. I’m guessing they use the standard Kindle book-reading method–or something very much like it. I could change the type (to any of three serif faces, all of them very good; I mostly left it at the default Georgia), change the type size (but the default “4” was extremely readable), even change the background color. I probably should reduce the brightness somewhat, but didn’t yet.

Reading the stories was immediately just fine, and it didn’t take long to figure out navigation back to the set of stories and sections. In practice, the Fire HD 8.9 is much more readable than a daily paper: that’s hardly surprising, given that the paper is in small type on the cheapest paper stock available.

On the other hand, the Chronicle does a good job with color photos, especially in two slick-paper Sunday sections, and the little pictures in the Kindle version don’t compare. But that’s minor.

Going through Saturday’s paper, I found that all the stories were there–but the obituaries, weather page, lottery summary and TV listings weren’t. Neither were the comic strips and surrounding games and horoscope. What? No comic strips? Boo!

We were both wondering how much of the Sunday paper would be included…and when it would arrive (since some reviews had said the paper wasn’t there early enough, and late physical delivery was one reason we were considering switching)…

For this act:

  • Overall interface for the paper: B (I’d like a choice of typeface for the overall interface)
  • Story reading quality and navigation: A+ (crystal-clear type, intuitive navigation)
  • Battery life: A- (It was looking as though 10 hours was a good estimate.)

Ah, but we also tried Gmail. It worked–once I was able to log in–and Gmail recognized it as a mobile device and simplified the interface, perhaps a little too much so. (No, I didn’t try the email app, at least not yet: After all, two of us would be using it if we’re on vacation, and I don’t see any way to set up separate email accounts for the two of us.) I found it clunky to use Gmail, partly because Silk’s a little clunky, partly because the virtual keyboard is, well, a virtual keyboard. But it worked. We also looked at one of the two built-in books, a dictionary. Text quality was great there as well, and finding worked more than well enough. I’ll stick with the A/A+.

  • Gmail via the web: B

Act 3

This morning (“this” being Sunday, December 23), after getting up and feeding the cats and putting on coffee, I checked for the paper at 6:45 a.m.

It wasn’t there.

I turned on the Kindle, clicked on the SF Chronicle picture on the home page–and noticed that it changed from December 22 to December 23 as soon as it was live. Waited 15-20 seconds for it to load (I’d had the Kindle fully off, not in sleep mode, overnight: figure 5 seconds to start up in the morning). By 6:47 a.m., I was reading the paper.

At 7:45 a.m., the physical paper arrived–on the light side for a Sunday paper, especially in ads (there aren’t a lot of flyers on the last weekend before Christmas), but still a pretty big hunk. And by that time, I’d already read the whole thing–probably more stories than I usually read in the physical Sunday paper, and looking at summaries for every story.

After doing the usual Sunday shuffle to segregate ads we don’t care about, ads we do care about, and paper sections in some workable order, I checked the physical paper against the Kindle paper.

Missing: The obituaries, the comics, the ads, the weather two-pager (on Sunday), TV listings, real estate listings and houses sold, etc. Oh, and Parade Magazine, for what that’s worth.

There: Everything else. Every story in every section, including sections we thought might not be included.

Just for fun, I tried going into airplane mode–turning off wifi to save battery life. It worked for a little while, but as soon as I tried to change sections, it said it needed wifi: It doesn’t download the whole paper, at least not the whole Sunday paper. That’s minor.

I realized that I’d been reading stories for a solid hour, without fatigue, and that I’d almost certainly read more of the paper than I usually wood (in 90 minutes or so). I still needed to skim through the ads and read the comics, but that was OK.

And, to be sure, I could read the paper as soon as I got up, not have to wait until it arrived. On an inclement day, not having to brave the rain for the paper also helped.

My wife’s now read it as well–but, unlike the daily paper, she reads very little of the Sunday paper other than actual news. She’s happy enough.

I’ve now checked the comics carried in the paper. About one-third of the ones we care about are on SFGate, in a separately-bookmarkable comics section with lots of other comics, although that’s still a separate step on the computer (or, I suppose, very clumsily on the Kindle). The others are on GoComics, and for $12 I can set it up to get the ones I want all show up as a daily email… Again, not as clean as having them over breakfast, but workable. (And I might add some other comics, and can ignore certain gems that neither of us read anyway.)

I’m guessing–although I don’t know–that the iPad version would have the comics. I’m also guessing, given the lower price, that it would have the ads. I know it would be on a much more expensive device. Just for comics, it’s not even close to being worth it.

I also tested a couple of other things. For example, my assumption has been that a 6×9 PDF would look pretty good on a 9″ or 10″ tablet. Was that assumption correct? Let’s go to cical.info (the shorter URL for C&I), click through to the one-column version, and see…

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the C&I home page looks and works great on the device. I knew it didn’t use fixed coding (I hand-coded the page), but it flowed into the smaller space more effectively than I’d actually expected. (On most webpages, including that one, the apparently standard spread-and-pinch zoom-and-unzoom gestures work just fine. I still don’t know where or whether Kindle has an actual touch tutorial, but I think I’ve picked up enough to get by pretty well.)

As for the one-column PDF…I touched the link. Nothing seemed to happen. Then I touched it and noticed the URL in the address bar changing…but immediately changing back again. I tried this three or four times (well, seven, apparently), saying “What the hell?” I’d already checked: The Kindle Fire HD has a built-in PDF reader. Why wasn’t it displaying?

Because, it turns out, Silk doesn’t display PDF. It downloads the PDF. Silently. When you go to the menu, there’s a “Downloads” option. Touch that, you get a list of all downloads–oops, eight of them, with Kindle-supplied differentiators. Touch one of them and…

Yes! The 6×9 PDF looks great on the Kindle screen. No need to mess with settings: It just looks great as is. That’s what I was hoping, and it’s clearly the case. That should also be true for any 9″ or larger tablet with PDF-reading capabilities (which, I believe, is almost all of them).

The HTML separates: Not so much, because Silk doesn’t pick up “serif” or “Palatino Linotype” from the CSS in such a way as to render serif type: It’s all in sans. Otherwise, fine.

Oh: We haven’t purchased any books yet. We did go to the Kindle store looking for free books. There’s no easy way to browse free offerings, but if you look for a book (e.g., Pride and Prejudice), free versions do show up. I guess I can’t fault Amazon for preferring to sell stuff, as long as they do offer the freebies.

Also haven’t downloaded any other apps yet, but will be checking the Free App of the Day. And a couple of quick searches suggest that there are a lot of free apps for games and the like, and probably for other things. Not as much as the Android Store or Google Store or iStore (or whatever it’s called), but enough for what we need. [Skype is builtin, as is an office viewer of some sort. Haven't tried either one.]

  • Completeness of Sunday paper: A- (no worse than daily, also no better)
  • Promptness of paper: A+. It was there when I wanted it.
  • PDF quality: A
  • Browser transparency: C. It really should let me know that it did, in fact, download something. You could use up a whole heap of disk space trying to download something when it’s already there…especially because it just silently keeps appending new numbers to keep copies unique.
  • Battery life: Still A-/A: I was reading and using wifi for at least a full hour, and it showed 90% at the end of that time. That translates to 10 hours life as far as I can calculate.
  • Overall impression: B as a web device, A as a reader.
  • But as a newspaper replacement? Probably B+/A-

Which is to say: We haven’t entirely made up our minds. We’ll try it for another day or two. Then, unless something big makes it look bad, I’ll cancel the print Chronicle subscription, see whether there’s a cheaper annual Kindle subscription, set up GoComics and SFGate/comics accounts/favorite lists, make sure I have the stores bookmarked where I do want to check the weekly ads (yes, ads do count)… If the Chron was $100/year or even $200/year and I could count on consistent early delivery, we’d probably keep the print paper. As it is: Times do change.

I’d say the odds of that happening are between 95% and 99%. The use case was there, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 seems to satisfy the use case, and that makes it a good purchase. See note below: The odds of that happening are now 100%, since I just canceled the print newspaper.

Can I emphasize again that the high-resolution display really is a joy? Even as I probably should turn down the brightness. (I think it’s a *little* on the bright side;l my wife thinks it’s more than a little brighter than it needs to be.)

One oddity along the way: Every newspaper story has a word count. I never thought about the actual length of news stories…today’s feature restaurant review, for example, was just under 1,800 words (or about 1.5 newsprint pages). And this non-review is just about 3,450 words.

Another oddity that I hadn’t thought about: Front page stories don’t have cutovers on the Kindle. That means it’s far more likely that I’ll read them in full and without interruption. That’s a good thing.

Followup, Monday, December 24

So today I assumed that the Kindle was the newspaper–I didn’t check for the print paper until I’d finished breakfast. And it was fine, but with an unexpected twist: I read more stories, and I was done by 7:30, where I usually leave part of the paper for the afternoon. Maybe because it’s Monday (a slender paper); maybe it’s because the screen (now on auto-brightness) really is easier to read than newsprint–not a high bar.

Oh, and SuperLotto results are there now (but badly formatted; since other tables are now showing up well-formatted, that’s probably a matter of time).

So: We’ll set up ways to get the comics we want (from two sources), and I’ll probably cancel the print newspaper today or tomorrow. But I’m still a daily newspaper reader–maybe more so, if reading the actual stories is what counts.


Final update (I think), 8:50 a.m.: I’ve cancelled the print newspaper. I’ll get around to setting up GoComics and sfgate.comics for the comic strips we want.

The Last Day(s)

Posted in $4, Cites & Insights on December 21st, 2012

No, not that grotesque misreading of Mayan calendar systems, that insult to a great civilization and to thinking people everywhere.

But it is the last day to get Graphing Public Library Benefits for a ridiculously low $1.99 (PDF, no DRM, feel free to pass it along to others). (For some reason, the link at the bottom of the page–and in earlier posts–may not have worked right. It’s fixed now: I’ve tried it.)

It is also one of the last days to take part in a brief survey on format and content preferences for Cites & Insights (ending 12/24/12), to help me decide how (and whether) to continue C&I in 2013. [If you feel strongly about it, a donation from the C&I home page wouldn't hurt: Reaching at least three digits for total support in 2012 would be nice.]

Oh, and for some of you, it’s very much the last days for holiday shopping. Good luck.

Delaware public libraries

Posted in $4 on December 19th, 2012

Another post commenting on Chapter 20 of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)–now available as a $9.99 Kindle ebook or $21.95 paperback, with ISBN 978-1481279161, on Amazon, along with the usual Lulu options.

Only 21 libraries (none omitted)—but eight of the ten expenditure categories are represented (the top and bottom are missing). A few things stand out even with the small group of libraries—e.g., the best-funded library (the only one with at least $53 spending per capita, and just barely above that mark) has nearly twice the circulation of the median for any other expenditure category and two-thirds more than the next-best 75%ile. That library isn’t highest for any of the other metrics.

Libraries by legal service area

LSA Count %
5,300-6,799

5

23.8%

6,800-8,699

1

4.8%

11,100-14,099

5

23.8%

14,100-18,499

2

9.5%

18,500-24,999

2

9.5%

25,000-34,499

1

4.8%

34,500-53,999

2

9.5%

54,000-104,999

2

9.5%

105,000-4.1 mill.

1

4.8%

Circulation per capita and spending per capita

Circulation per capita correlates strongly (0.70) with spending per capita.

Circulation per capita plotted against spending per capita

While the graph above is fairly clear and meaningful, the graph below is possibly the most useless graph I’ve prepared to date, although that’s a tough competition. Even rounding circulation to the nearest 5, it has little to show; if I didn’t do that, the graph would have two rows (1 and 2). As you may note, there are no libraries in the $5 and $73 categories.

Circulation per capita (rounded to five) occurrence by spending category

Give Us a Dollar… Kindle edition now available

Posted in $4 on December 18th, 2012

Kindle users out there can now buy Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13for $9.99–and if you’re eligible for the Kindle Library, you can borrow it for free.

So there are now five options to acquire Give Us a Dollar..., to help your public library tell its value story or to help you understand the diversity of America’s public libraries:

Why do the Amazon and Lulu versions have different cover designs? Because I used “canned” cover designs in both cases instead of designing my own photo-based covers, and CreateSpace (Amazon’s PoD service) has very different covers from those at Lulu.

Neither the Kindle edition nor the PDF have DRM, or at least they’re not supposed to.

And don’t forget…

Graphing Public Library Benefits, a supplement to Give Us a Dollar... that’s just chock-full of graphs (scatterplots and multicolor line graphs) to illustrate the numbers in Chapters 2-19 of Give Us a Dollar. It’s only available as a PDF (no DRM). Normally $11.99 (and a bargain at that price), it’s available at an absurd $1.99 through December 21, 2012.

Give Us a Dollar… now on Amazon, coming on Kindle

Posted in $4 on December 17th, 2012

buck4fy10amcvrIf your library has an Amazon account but has difficulty ordering from Lulu, or if you just prefer Amazon for various reasons–free shipping, whatever–you’ll be pleased to hear that there’s now a CreateSpace edition of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13) at Amazon.

Same price: $21.95 paperback.

As you can see from the image here, the cover is entirely different (other than the author and title, and even there the typography’s wildly different): This is one of CreateSpace’s stock covers, very different from Lulu’s stock covers.

There’s even an ISBN for this edition: 978-1481279161 (or for traditionalists, 1481279165).

The interior is absolutely identical: It’s the same PDF file.

But wait! There’s more!

Coming soon (probably Tuesday, 12/18)

Want to have the book for your Kindle?

You can–as soon as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Program makes it public. That’s supposed to be in the next eight hours in the U.S., within three days overseas.

At that point, a search for “Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give” should bring up both editions.

The Kindle edition is $9.99 (the KDP program offers very strong incentives not to charge more than $9.99).

It looks pretty good. If you have a 7″ Kindle, you’ll probably need to go landscape for some tables, but for the DX or Fire HD 8.9, it should work fine as is. Yes, there’s a live table of contents. Some day soon, I’ll do another mini-tutorial for the Micropublishing book, describing what’s now a pretty straightforward process to turn a fully-formatted Word book into something Kindle’s happy with.

Cites & Insights survey: One week left

Posted in Cites & Insights on December 17th, 2012

If you read Cites & Insights, go take the survey. Now. It’ll only take a couple of minutes.

This is the final week in which you can take the survey. The results of the survey will–along with, hint hint, any contributions to Cites & Insights itself, maybe to bring the annual total up into the three-digit range–influence both the format options and the content for 2013.

So, while you’re thinking about it, go take the survey. If links give you trouble, here’s the URL:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CPWRWTQ

Right now, C&I appears in three forms. If there are in fact only nine people who care enough about C&I to take the survey, then that’s at least one too many–and maybe three too many. The three, in case you’ve forgotten:

  • Two-column 8.5×11″ pages, PDF, optimized for printing, always an even number of pages: The “real” C&I.
  • Single-column 6×9″ pages, PDF, optimized for online viewing and intended for large-screen e-stuff (any of the 8.9″-10″ tablets and ebook readers, notebooks, desktops, and it shouldn’t be too bad on 7″ devices): The “eC&I.”
  • Individual articles (when the article isn’t heavy on stuff that doesn’t work well this way) in HTML form, single column, generated using Word “Save as Filtered HTML” from a template designed for web use.

The first has been around since December 2000, although there have been several changes in typography and layout over the years. It’s the only version that gets copyfitting: it is, essentially, the fully laid out version.

The second has been around since March 2012. It gets a modified Table of Contents to suit the vastly increased number of pages. It’s normally saved to PDF directly from Word, yielding a PDF with bookmarks for articles and sections.

The third has been around since January 2004, more consistently (except for one section) since Midwinter 2005, although certain single-topic issues have not appeared in HTML form.

Take the survey. I will pay attention to the results. I will read any comments you include.

Connecticut public libraries

Posted in $4 on December 17th, 2012

The seventh of 49 notes on Chapter 20 of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13), this time on the public libraries of Connecticut.

Connecticut has 178 libraries in the tables and 17 omitted libraries. Funding is generally good, with roughly 16% in each of the top four brackets ($36 and up) and less than 8% in the bottom three combined (under $21). Adjusted for Connecticut’s cost of living, the median benefit ratio for every bracket exceeds four.

Circulation is “bulgy,” with very few libraries in the highest and lowest activity brackets and quite a few in the middle brackets, but still on the high side, with 62% circulating at least eight items per capita (compared to 50% overall). There’s consistent correlation between expenditures and circulation. Visits per capita are also slightly bulgy (few libraries at either extreme). Program attendance is better than average: nearly half the libraries (46%) have at least 0.5 attendance per capita, compared to exactly one-third overall. (Expenditures correlate nicely with program success here as well.) On the other hand, PC use is on the low side: Only 8% show at least 2.25 uses per capita (compared to 19% overall) and only 46% have at least one use per capita (compared to 57% overall). Even for the best-funded libraries, the median is no more than 1.6 uses per capita.

Libraries by legal service area

LSA Count % Outliers
700-1,149

2

1.1%

1,150-1,649

4

2.2%

1,650-2,249

6

3.4%

1

2,250-2,999

6

3.4%

3,000-3,999

9

5.1%

4,000-5,299

11

6.2%

5,300-6,799

13

7.3%

6,800-8,699

9

5.1%

5

8,700-11,099

17

9.6%

11,100-14,099

15

8.4%

14,100-18,499

19

10.7%

1

18,500-24,999

18

10.1%

5

25,000-34,499

17

9.6%

2

34,500-53,999

13

7.3%

1

54,000-104,999

14

7.9%

2

105,000-4.1 mill.

5

2.8%

Circulation per capita and spending per capita

Circulation per capita correlates very strongly (0.76) with spending per capita

Circulation per capita plotted against spending per capita

Circulation per capita (rounded) occurrence by spending category

Colorado public libraries

Posted in $4 on December 14th, 2012

The sixth of 49 notes on Chapter 20 of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13), this time on the public libraries of California  Colorado.

Colorado’s 112 profiled libraries (with two others omitted) tend to be reasonably well funded, with 59 (53%) evenly distributed among the top three expenditure brackets (compared to 30% overall). Circulation is also on the high side, with slightly over half the libraries circulating at least 10 items per capita (compared to 38% overall) and only 12% of the libraries circulating fewer than 4 (compared to 21% overall). Visits per capita are distinctly on the high side, with 42% at nine or more visits per capita and 79% at five or more (compared to 20% and 54% respectively). Actually, all of the reported metrics are on the high side: 70% of the libraries had at least 0.3 program attendance per capita (54% overall) and 56% of the libraries had at least 1.7 PC uses per capita (30% overall).

Correlation between spending and circulation is good for the upper two-thirds of spending brackets, but the half-dozen libraries spending $21 to $25.99 have higher circulation than you’d expect (and also have the highest Benefit Ratio of any group). The same correlation and exception appear for program attendance.

Libraries by Legal Service Area

LSA Count % Outliers
<700 5 4.5%
700-1,149 8 7.1%
1,150-1,649 7 6.3%
1,650-2,249 7 6.3%
2,250-2,999 5 4.5%
3,000-3,999 10 8.9%
4,000-5,299 5 4.5%
5,300-6,799 9 8.0% 1
6,800-8,699 7 6.3%
8,700-11,099 5 4.5%
11,100-14,099 7 6.3%
14,100-18,499 8 7.1%
18,500-24,999 4 3.6%
25,000-34,499 3 2.7% 1
34,500-53,999 5 4.5%
54,000-104,999 5 4.5%
105,000-4.1 mill. 12 10.7%

Circulation Per Capita and Spending Per Capita

There’s a strong correlation (0.64) between circulation per capita and spending per capita.

Circulation per capita plotted against spending per capita

Circulation per capita (rounded) occurrence by spending category

California public libraries

Posted in $4 on December 12th, 2012

The fifth of 49 notes on Chapter 20 of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13), this time on the public libraries of California.

California has relatively few libraries for its population—176 libraries and systems in the tables (with five omitted, including one very large system). Unusual expenditure levels are at the top (17.6% spending $73 to $399.99, compared to 9.8% overall) and lower middle (15.3% in the $21 to $25.99 bracket, compared to 10.9% overall). Adjusted for California’s high cost of living, the median adjusted benefit ratio is always at least 4.00. Circulation is on the low side, with half the libraries circulating fewer than 6 items per capita (36% overall). Patron visits are also slightly on the low side, with 46% of libraries having at least 5 visits (54% overall). Program attendance is considerably worse: 48% have less than 0.2 attendance per capita, compared to 30% overall. Similarly, 55% have less than one PC use per capita, compared to 43% overall.

On the budget side, circulation per capita correlates well with spending (except for a small step down at $26 to $30.99) and visits per capita correlate fairly well (except for a small step down at $17 to $20.99).

Libraries by legal service area

LSA Count % Outliers
<700 0.00% 1
1,150-1,649 1 0.6%
1,650-2,249 2 1.1%
4,000-5,299 1 0.6%
5,300-6,799 1 0.6%
6,800-8,699 1 0.6%
8,700-11,099 2 1.1%
11,100-14,099 7 4.0% 2
14,100-18,499 8 4.6%
18,500-24,999 5 2.8%
25,000-34,499 12 6.8%
34,500-53,999 18 10.2% 1
54,000-104,999 45 25.6%
105,000-4.1 mill. 73 41.5% 1

Tables

I used California as an example of the tables that could have been included in Graphing Public Library Benefits—but would have added 250 pages or so to an already-long ebook. Since that content is already handy, here it is: More than I’m providing for other states. This section covers 176 libraries and is copied unmodified from Chapter 20 of GPLB.

Figure 20.1 Spending per capita (rounded) occurrence

Circulation Per Capita

Circulation per capita correlates very strongly (0.75) with spending per capita. Figure 20.2 omits one library that circulates 54.33 items per capita and spends $195 per capita.

Figure 20.2 Circulation per capita plotted against spending per capita

Figure 20.3 Circulation per capita (rounded) occurrence by spending category, part 1

Figure 20.4 Circulation per capita (rounded) occurrence by spending category, part 2

Patron Visits Per Capita

Patron visits per capita correlate extremely strongly (0.87) with spending per capita.

Figure 20.5 Patron visits per capita plotted against spending per capita

Figure 20.6 Patron visits per capita (rounded, horizontal) occurrence by spending category, part 1

Figure 20.7 Patron visits per capita (rounded, horizontal) occurrence by spending category, part 2

Program Attendance Per Capita

Program attendance per capita correlates moderately (0.41) with spending per capita. Figure 20.8 omits one library with 6.32 program attendance per capita and $51 spending per capita.

Figure 20.8 Program attendance per capita plotted against spending per capita

Figure 20.9 Program attendance (to nearest 10th) occurrence by spending category, part 1

Figure 20.10 Program attendance (to nearest 10th) occurrence by spending category, part 2

Personal Computer Use Per Capita

Personal computer use per capita correlates strongly (0.65) with spending per capita.

Figure 20.11 Personal computer use per capita plotted against spending per capita

Figure 20.12 PC use per capita (rounded to 10ths) occurrence by spending category, part 1

Figure 20.13 PC use per capita (rounded to 10ths) occurrence by spending category, part 2

 

The Public Library project and 20%: A reminder

Posted in $4 on December 10th, 2012

Personally, I believe that Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13) can be valuable to many public libraries in making their case for sustained or improved funding–and that Graphic Public Library Benefits is worth a look as a graphic supplement to the book. (Both links are to non-DRM PDF ebooks, as the cheapest versions available–and the only version for GPLB.)

Now through December 14, 2012, they’re both really cheap: the two together will cost less than $20, given Lulu’s one-shot 20% off deal (use FELICITAS in all capital letters as a coupon code: one use per customer but for any number of books).

But, you know, that first sentence above is only my opinion, and I don’t work in a public library. Nor am I a consultant to public libraries. I’d guess that the two books together would be cheaper than half an hour of consulting and might be a useful supplement to a consultant’s efforts–but what do I know?

Future iterations

In some ways, this post is really about the possible future of the project (probably in simplified and modified form–e.g., I’d probably drop Open Hours and PCs as metrics).

I’d love to keep doing it, but it’s absurd to spend that much time if nobody or almost nobody finds it useful or informative.

Here’s the deal:

  • If actual and equivalent sales for both books total at least 300 copies by the time the next IMLS dataset comes out (presumably late July 2013), I will do another iteration of one or both, barring unforeseen circumstances.
  • If actual and equivalent sales total at least 150 copies, I might do another iteration.
  • If I can’t even reach 150 copies, that will tell me that my opinion of the project’s value isn’t shared by any significant number of readers and libraries. Which could very well be the case.

What’s an “equivalent copy”? If states or groups of states or associations want custom analyses done, I’d consider half the cost of those custom analyses to be “virtual copies” (at $10 a copy). The same would go for the honorarium portion of speaking engagements related to this project, if the engagement is acceptable in other regards.

So far, there’s one such speaking engagement, involving three speeches, only one of them related to this.

We’re nowhere near either target yet. But it’s still quite a ways to July 2013.

By the way, the easiest way to buy both books at once–getting the 20% discount for both–is probably to go to my bookstore and select those and other books you might find worthwhile from the bookstore. (If you want to add the hardcover Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing, that’s not in my bookstore, but a search will show it readily enough.)

 


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