Important, useful, used, interesting: Part 3

Continuing this brief series

Here’s a difficult case–one where I believe the work is useful and possibly important, where I found it interesting enough to do the first time around, and where I have no way of knowing whether it’s likely to be used enough to make a second go-round (improved in several ways) worthwhile:

Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13).

That’s the $9.99 Lulu ebook. You can also get it in paperback for $19.99 from Lulu or–the snazzy and durable version–in casewrap hardcover for $28.99.

Or, for that matter, if you need an ISBN or find it easier to buy from Amazon than from Lulu, there’s a Kindle version for $9.99 (which you can borrow free if you’re a Kindle Prime member) and a CreateSpace paperback edition (different cover), ISBN 978-1481279161, for $21.95 at Amazon.

Here’s the CreateSpace cover…

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And here’s the problem…

It’s not that nobody’s purchased it. Actually, more than 80 and fewer than 100 copies have been sold so far (almost all of them via Lulu).

I did a special Oregon/Washington edition in conjunction with a talk I gave at the two library associations’ joint conference a couple of weeks ago.

(You might want to look at the free PDF version of that special report, in case you’re part of an organization that might want a similar report done. It also gives some hints as to how I would change a new edition of the overall book.)

The problem is that I don’t know how useful the book actually is, how to get it to the people who I think could use it most, and how much it’s likely to be used. And, perhaps equally to the point, whether the concept is useful enough, to enough libraries, that it would be worth doing a revised, improved (graphs included!) 2014 edition when the 2011 IMLS public library data becomes available.

I’ve said before that if 150 copies of the book (in all forms) sell by the time the 2011 data emerges, I’ll probably do another edition–and if 300 copies sell, I’ll definitely do another one. And, of course, I’ll continue to invite feedback on how it could be done better.

Flesh, blood and bones

The book attempts to provide numeric evidence (“statistical,” but not so much, and that’s another installment…) to help public libraries tell their stories to funding agencies.

I would fully agree with anybody who says that the numbers–at least those gathered for the IMLS reports–don’t really tell the story of a public library’s value to its community. That story is made up of other stories: The children learning to read and love books, the unemployed using library computers to find work and library resources to improve themselves, etc., etc.

I think of those stories as the flesh and blood of a library’s essential value to its community.

But a library also needs the bones–and that’s where the numbers come in, especially for the more hardnosed city councils, county supervisors and other funding agencies.

Does my book help provide the bones? I hope so; I can’t be sure without feedback.

Funding methods and reality

I could mount a Kickstarter campaign to underwrite the 2011 version–possibly with the ebook edition being free for the taking.

That makes no sense unless there’s obvious evidence that the book (as revised) would be both useful and used. (Not that it’s at all clear I could succeed with a Kickstarter campaign…)

I’m acutely aware that, in thousands of cases where I believe the book could be most valuable–libraries too small to have their own numbers experts or marketing groups–it’s not only unlikely that the librarian (or perhaps the Friends group, if there is one) would hear about the book, it’s not even clear they’d ever have time to read it, even if it was free. (“Thousands” is never hyperbole where public libraries are concerned…)

So that’s the quandary. I don’t have answers. There’s another tough case where I could actually have more options (in the case of Give Us a Dollar, I think the timelag of using a traditional publisher pretty much rules out that option). Maybe in the next installment, whenever that happens…

As always, feedback welcome. And in case you missed it and you’re an academic librarian (or library school faculty member or…), yesterday’s post (“It Didn’t Work for Phil Ochs, It Doesn’t Work for Jeffrey Beall“) is partly about the possible crowdsourcing of a free ebook edition of The Big Deal and the Damage Done, and requests feedback on the possibility (using unglue.it) and what sorts of premiums would make crowdsourcing appealing.

I could really use feedback on those issues!

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