Archive for May, 2013

Important, useful, used, interesting: Part 4 (and last, I think)

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books on May 13th, 2013

I believe this is the final post–at least for the moment–in this brief series.

It’s probably not obvious, but those last three words have three separate links, not one long link. And, realistically, there’s a fourth post in that series, just without the name.

This is a project–or maybe it’s two projects–that I’ve been thinking about for a while, that I’ve even posted about once or twice. Or maybe even three times, indirectly.

It’s a project that could be published by a traditional publisher, which would make it slower, but would provide cachet–and provide the marketing and publicity that I’m so woefully bad at providing.

And, if done as two books, it’s actually a project that could be useful far outside of librarianship. If, that is, I had any plausible way of reaching people outside librarianship.

Here’s the new working title, for the general part if it’s two parts:

Mostly Numbers: Coping with Everyday Statistics

Here’s the current very rough outline of the project (both parts)–to be written in my most straightforward style with lots of examples and absolutely no equations.

Mostly Numbers: Coping with Everyday Statistics

1.       Introduction

Part 1. Tricky Numbers, Trickier Statistics

2.       Coping with Averages: The Four-Apple Approach

3.       Why Everyday Statistics are Mostly Numbers

Part 2. Problems with Statistics and Graphs

4         Misleading Graphs

5         Misleading Samples: When 30 is Not Enough

6         Exaggerated Exactness

7         When Normal Distribution Doesn’t Work

8         Doing it Right: Transparency and Ethics

9         Fair Presentations and Coping with Outliers

Part 3. The Basics of Real-World Number-Handling

10     The Terms You Need to Know

11     The Other Terms You’ll Encounter

12     The Tests You Can Probably Ignore

13     The Tools I’m Using for This Book

14     Mostly Numbers, Not Really Statistics

15     Beyond Numbers: When You Really Need Statistics

[Librarian’s Extension: Part 4. The Real Complexity of Library Numbers]

16     Public Libraries

17     Academic Libraries

[Librarian’s Extension: Part 5. How-To: Getting the Most out of Public Datasets]

18     Using Excel to Expand Your Public Library Awareness

19     Using Excel to Expand Your Academic Library Awareness

Backmatter

Intended length: <200 pages. If done as two parts, <150 pages for general part, <100 pages for librarian supplement.

To be made available as an ebook (at least PDF, probably Kindle, maybe EPUB) and print book; prices set at $8 above costs.

Important, useful, used, interesting?

I suppose I’m asking for more feedback. Now that I’m learning more about crowdsourcing models, I don’t know that I’m likely to make such a suggestion (and I’ll probably have “on the other hand” posts related to some previous ones soon).

I think the book would be (mildly) important.

I’m 100% certain it would be useful.

I’m 99% certain I can make it interesting.

And I have not an idea in the world whether the potential market–that is, whether it would be used–is:

  • Half a dozen (basically those who’ve already said “what a great idea!”)
  • Sixty (assuming those who’ve already responded are about 10% of the market.
  • Six hundred (see above but 1%)
  • Six thousand (yeah, right).

I suspect the right number–for me, as a self-publisher using Lulu and with my so-called network of professional acquaintances, is somewhere between the second and third bullets. If it’s closer to the second bullet, it’s not worth doing–to do it right will involve a fair amount of effort. If it’s very close to (or below) the third bullet, it may be worth self-publishing (but probably wouldn’t be worthwhile for a “real” publisher).

So: I haven’t entirely given up on the idea. I also haven’t actually started writing it.

Meanwhile, I’m pondering those other situations. And coming to some tentative conclusions. Maybe.

Comments, as always, welcome.

 

 

Important, useful, used, interesting: Part 3

Posted in $4, C&I Books on May 10th, 2013

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…

buck4fy10amcvr

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!

It Didn’t Work for Phil Ochs, It Doesn’t Work for Jeffrey Beall

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries on May 8th, 2013

I had read a few items recently attempting to argue that the serials crisis was over, thanks to the Big Deal and other publisher “discounts” from the early late 20th and early 21st centuries. Indeed, reading those items (or in one case an apparently-accurate comment on an article behind a paywall) was part of what convinced me to do something outrageous:

Look at the facts

Looking at the facts–actual academic library serials expenditures and the apparent effects on library book budgets and everything else academic libraries need to spend money on–was a lot more sobering than I expected.

Thus the book, The Big Deal and the Damage Done. (Read more about that here, download the ebook for a mere $9.99 here, or buy the paperback for a modest $16.50 here.)

The Big Deal and the Damage Done

The Big Deal and the Damage Done

I wasn’t planning a sales pitch, and this really isn’t one, but very recent events encouraged this brief post.

To wit:

  • Jeffrey Beall’s absurd pronouncement that “The Serials Crisis is Over” and his even more absurd suggestion that the only reason for OA is the serials crisis, and thus that OA should go away. (At this point, naming Beall’s blog “Scholarly Open Access” is, I guess, a kind of joke. Not a very good joke, to be sure.)
  • His absurd and offensive response to Karen Coyle’s note on my book (thanks, Karen!), where he said “He should have read the sources I cite first.” As I noted, I had read most of the sources–but I didn’t take their publisher-oriented claims as The Word, when I also had facts available.
  • Mike Taylor’s post at SV-POW (I’ve typed out the full name WAY too often already), “Of course the serials crisis is not over, what the heck are you talking about?”
  • And, perhaps tangential but not entirely unrelated, some suggestions at LSW-FF that I might consider trying to unglue.it the ebook version of this book, so that library school students and every academic librarian might have ready access to it. (It’s off to a plausible start, but that start still doesn’t represent much more than 0.5% of American academic libraries, especially since several of the sales have been to Canada and the UK.)

Phil Ochs?

The first line of the chorus of his song “The War is Over”–”I declare the war is over.” It wasn’t; he knew that; but it was a valiant attempt at showing the power of song.

Beall’s post, on the other hand, appears to be a valiant attempt at showing the power of nonsense.

I declare that the serials crisis, the event that gave birth to the open-access movement, is over.

That’s the first sentence of the post, and the only portion of it that squares with the facts is that Beall is making a declaration.

Fact: The serials crisis did not give birth to the OA movement, or at least it certainly wasn’t the only causative factor. There are several important reasons to support OA, only one of which is the serials crisis. (Solving the affordability crises for academic libraries–if that had happened, which it clearly has not–does NOTHING to provide access to all of us unaffiliated types: independent scholars, patients, everybody else, just to name one issue.)

Fact: The serials crisis is not over in any real-world sense. Even Harvard can’t afford the serials it wants–and other academic libraries can’t afford to keep being libraries and keep up with serials prices.

Of course, my book isn’t part of the “scholarly literature.” It’s entirely fact-based, the facts are entirely reproducible, I was entirely transparent about my methodology, and I believe it’s in the best traditions of scholarship (except that there’s no literature review and I didn’t actually begin with a hypothesis)…but I’m not a scholar and didn’t submit it to a refereed journal.

Crowdsourcing?

Now comes the tough part (for me, at least): It’s been suggested that it would be nice if everybody could have access to my study–which is book-length, although it’s a relatively short book–at no charge.

Those who have suggested it do recognize that I put a fair amount of work into it, and that nobody is sponsoring my work (nor is it something I do in my “spare” time after an actual paid job). What they’re suggesting is crowdsourcing a reasonable payment to make the ebook version free (and maybe get it into EPUB rather than only the current non-DRM PDF form). That means unglue.it (or some other crowdsourcing system, but unglue.it seems most appropriate here).

I’m thinking about it. I’m not much of a promoter, and I shudder at the thought of creating a little video on the book, but…well…

Here’s how you can help (other than buying the book, which encourages me to keep going):

  • What sorts of premiums–preferably ones that don’t involve actual cash, since that sort of undoes the purpose of the crowdsourcing–would you find worthwhile?
  • Do you think this is a good idea?

I can think of some possibilities (e.g., custom analyses for single campuses or groups of campuses) but would be interested in your ideas.

One note about this: If I do it, there will be three goals–

  1. A minimal level at which I’d agree to make the ebook freely available (and maybe provide an epub version)
  2. A higher level at which I’d guarantee to do a new edition when the 2012 NCES data is available
  3. An even higher level at which I’d guarantee to do the 2012 edition–and would make the ebook version of that open access and available for free.

Comments? Suggestions? Either as comments or to waltcrawford@gmail.com

(Of course, if somebody wanted to underwrite the whole project, get in touch, but I won’t hold my breath. I can tell you the price in that case would be in the medium four digits.)


The eagle-eyed may note a slight change in the text. As of 7 p.m. PDT, sales hit 20 copies, which is–technically-just over 0.5% (that is, one-half of one percent) of U.S. academic libraries. On the other hand, the 20th sale, along with several others, is Canadian…

Important, useful, used, interesting: Part 2

Posted in Books and publishing, Cites & Insights on May 7th, 2013

Before getting on to the challenging items, here are a few cases where there wasn’t much question as to an item’s importance or usefulness:

  • Old movie reviews (what used to be Offtopic Perspectives): Purely for fun, and no, I don’t plan to gather them all together, add an index and publish them. Not a chance. Nor do I plan to stop doing them until the movies run out (and unless something happens I’m down to the last…hmmm…240 or so, so that could happen in 2-3 years).
  • The Back in Cites & Insights–I hope it’s interesting, I know it’s fun, it’s rarely of any importance.

Mildly tricky cases

Then there are cases where I thought something was either important or usefully interesting, but couldn’t see it being either long enough or used enough to be anything but a Cites & Insights essay. With those, I’m always interested in tracking apparent readership. For example:

  • The pieces demolishing the myth that public libraries are closing down all over the place. I thought that work was important, but it’s only useful if someone’s raising that particular nonsense. So it belonged in C&I (I think–it was too long for one of the trade journals). Readership of those issues has been solid (2,400 to 2,500 between articles and issues, through the end of last year). Was the point made? Damned if I know.
  • Academic library circulation: I thought this was interesting, and it turned out that the common knowledge was offbase. Still…not really book material (I don’t think), especially because it wouldn’t be directly useful and it’s probably more interesting than important. The odd thing here is that the March 2013 readership, so far, has been considerably lower than either of the two OA issues before it–but also considerably below the “mostly random pieces” issue after it. (As in: through the weekend, 990 downloads for 13:1, 1149 for 13:2, 914 for 13:4–but only 573 for 13:3, the one on academic library circulation). Still–573 readers isn’t bad, and the readership will continue to grow.
  • The Mythical Average Public Library: This was fun for me and interesting. Important? Useful? Dunno. So far–and it’s really early yet–it’s doing OK.

Were all of those worth doing? Were any of them important enough to deserve something more prominent than publication in an odd venue such as Cites & Insights? I don’t have ready answers.

And those are the relatively easy cases. Maybe more about tough cases–and one potential case in particular–in another installment.

Oh, meanwhile and slightly off-topic: Thanks to whoever picked up not only The Big Deal and the Damage Done but also Graphing Public Library Benefits, Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)…and Library 2.0: A Cites & Insights Reader and Open Access and Libraries. Hope you find them all worthwhile. (I’m assuming that was a single order, although I really don’t know that.) If you’re considering me for some possible work that I might be suitable for…well, the email address is waltcrawford@gmail.com

 

 

Important, useful, used, interesting: Part 1

Posted in C&I Books, Cites & Insights on May 6th, 2013

This is the first of what may be several introspective posts that others may or may not find too introspective to be worthwhile. Consider yourself warned.

Write What You Want

A colleague–one of the many LSW-FF folks who I’ve learned from, argued with and generally counted on to keep me from turning into a complete hermit–said a while back that I should just take on those projects that really interest me, ‘cuz (and I’m paraphrasing here) there was no plausible way to anticipate whether anybody else would find them worth doing or the results worth paying for.

It was good advice. I sometimes remember to take it. That and other advice convinced me to drop the Liblog and library blog series as just not being worth the effort.

The last two books in the Liblog series are still available–The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 and But Still They Blog: The Liblog Landscape 2007-2009–and, for that matter, The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008 is still available on Amazon (the CreateSpace edition).

You could say that I ran the Liblog series into the ground. I probably wouldn’t argue the point. I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a tenth-anniversary look (my first, very partial, examination of liblogs was in 2005, so that would be next year, 2014, although I could also wait until 2016 or 2017 and use 2007 as a starting point), but it’s really unlikely that I’ll do it. Blogs are old hat (still useful, but part of the background) and it would be a lot more work than it’s worth.

That’s partly a digression (something I specialize in, especially in blog posts) but it also suggests that there’s a little more to the equation than just “write what I want.”

Important, useful, used, interesting, fun

Thus the formulation in the post title–and I’ve added a fifth element: fun.

As I’m looking back at what I’ve been doing and consider what I might do, assuming that nobody comes swooping in with an offer that makes guaranteed dollars a significant part of the equation, I think it boils down to these five elements to answer two questions:

  1. Is X worth [investigating or writing about]?
  2. If the answer to X is yes, how should the results appear?

#2 could be stated as a multiple-choice test: Should the results appear as…

  • One or more Friendfeed or LSW-Friendfeed items?
  • One or more blog posts?
  • A single or multipart essay in Cites & Insights?
  • A self-published book?
  • A commercially-published book?
  • Some combination of the above

When it comes to the third, fourth and fifth possibilities, another set of questions–much less easy to answer than the first two–come into play:

  • Will it be well-read?
  • If it’s self-published, will it draw enough sales to make it worth the trouble?
  • If the intent is for it to be commercially published, will a publisher find it salable–and will they be right?

Recasting

I may get back into the “self-published vs. commercially-published” issue in a later post–it’s complicated, as it also involves my lack of marketing expertise and the status of self-published books.

(I was reminded again of the special role of self-publishing in Christopher Harris’ column **see below** today at The Digital Shift in which he basically writes off all self-published books as worthless, especially since there are so many traditionally-published books. Yes, he’s talking about school libraries, but it’s still a pretty sneering look at anything other than Big Traditional Publishers, especially as he explicitly equates “so-called independent publishers” with self-publishing. Oh, and seems to say that “adult fiction” is automatically erotica, and that’s what “so-called independent publishers” are all about. He may be talking about K12 but he explicitly generalizes his lesson to all libraries: “I just can’t believe that self-publishing is ever going to be the next big thing for libraries. Not when there are so many other great books still waiting to be read from the expert and established publishers with whom we already work.” Thanks a lot, Christopher.)

Anyway: One way to recast the set of questions that I probably should explicitly ask myself is this. I’ll offer this, then–for the sake of (hah!) brevity–just give one example. Later, if I’m inspired, I’ll come back to some other cases and the questions that arise.

As with most of my blog posts, this one isn’t even getting the level of self-editing that C&I and my Lulu books get. It’s stream-of-blather, which is like stream of consciousness but following a really good lunch.

  • If X is fun but not very important, and not fun enough to attract paying readers, it belongs in C&I (and doesn’t deserve a lot of time).
  • If X is interesting but not something people will find directly useful, it probably belongs in C&I. (I have explicit examples of that.)
  • If X is clearly useful and really too long or Big for C&I, it probably belongs as a book–but “useful” doesn’t guarantee “used” (and purchased).
  • When something seems important but it’s not clear how directly useful my treatment can be–then the questions are really difficult.

As noted, future posts may deal with examples of several of these and other permutations. For now, I’ll look at the current case–one that I’m 100% certain is important, 90% certain is useful, much less certain will be widely purchased and read, and that is too big for C&I.

Case #1

Namely, The Big Deal and the Damage Done. [That's the $16.50 paperback. Here's a link to the $9.99 PDF ebook, having the same no-DRM policy my PDFs have always had.]

Important? Absolutely. (For more info, read the post introducing it–it really has been out only five days since I announced it!]

Interesting? I think so, or I wouldn’t have done it.

Useful? That’s up to readers; I believe that knowing the details of the situation is useful.

Used/read? We’ll see. It’s off to a plausible start–a couple of sales a day, mostly ebooks, which is fine with me (in some ways, the PDF is a superior version, since it has color in the graphs).

Would it have made sense for a traditional publisher? I honestly don’t see how, especially given timing issues. Nor would I be willing to try to convince a publisher that they could sell, say, 600-800 copies at $45 a shot.

Which then leads to a question that came up this weekend: What would it take to make the book freely available (in ebook form)–that is, downloadable for $0.00 rather than $9.99?

If I was doing sponsored research–being paid up-front–the question might not arise: I’d be delighted to see it made freely available. My best guess, trying to estimate the time I spent on the report, is that about $4,000 worth of work (at a relatively cheap consulting/contractor rate) was involved.

If some group offered me $4,000 to make the book available for free in PDF form, I’d probably take it. And, significantly (especially if there was another guaranteed sum), I’d almost certainly do the 2012 followup that may or may not be more depressing and even more important.

But that’s just the latest example–one where I’m nearly certain the publication is important and should be read by quite a few people, but can’t show how it would be directly useful to their everyday life.

Was it fun to do? Well, it was interesting…and there’s another project still very much up in the air, which, if I do it, would benefit from the experience of doing this one.

Anyway, that’s the end of the musing for today. More later. Maybe tomorrow, maybe later this week, maybe weeks or months from now…

1,258 words. A really good editor could turn this into a nice crisp 200 words, I suspect. Hooray for good editing!


**Re the Harris column, on rereading it for a third time: Yes, he’s primarily talking about K12 libraries, and yes, they have different problems, but he still throws in some unwarranted generalizations and, in his final paragraph, certainly seems to be referring to all libraries. I’ll certainly be warned against ever trying to do anything that addresses school library issues, if Harris’ attitude is typical–but I wasn’t likely to do that anyway.

Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing: On sale through June 10

Posted in Books and publishing on May 6th, 2013

If your library doesn’t already have a copy of The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing, you’re missing out on a new service your library can provide–one that every public library (and most academic libraries) will have community need for and that won’t cost you anything other than the price of the book.

Which is now substantially lower: ITI’s offering it for $34.65 from now through June 10–and you can get free standard shipping.

Just follow the link above (or here, if you prefer); no coupon code required.

You’ll save enough to buy a PDF version of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four or The Big Deal and the Damage Done and still have a few bucks left over…

 

50 Movie Gunslinger Classics Disc 2

Posted in Movies and TV on May 3rd, 2013

Cry Blood, Apache, 1970, color. Jack Starrett (dir.), Jody McCrea, Marie Gahva, Dan Kemp, Robert Tessier, Jack Starrett, Don Henley, Rick Nervick, Joel McCrea (briefly). 1:22.

Despite the common words, this is not Apache Blood, and nowhere near as bad—although it fails one of my tests for a movie I can actually enjoy, which is that there has to be at least one sympathetic character. Actually, now that I think of it, with two of the three words in the other flick, it’s about two-thirds as bad.

The closest one here is the oldish Westerner who begins and ends the film, riding out with an old shotgun to look over a scene…which becomes the flashback that makes up the rest of the movie. His younger self is the least awful of five savages who first party among a group of Apache, then slaughter them—leaving one young woman, who they bring along with them to lead them to gold (one of the group had some gold nuggets). She speaks Spanish, and the younger version of the oldish Westerner also speaks Spanish and manages not to actually kill anybody in the massacre himself, although he doesn’t prevent any of the savagery or refrain from accompanying the rest of them. (Let’s be clear: The five savages in this case are all Anglos.)

As they’re riding slowly toward the Arizona desert and the promise of gold, we’re split between dealings within this odd, nasty group and seeing the Apache who’s returned to the camp, seen all the death—and set out stalking the five. (Well, six, but he doesn’t know his sister’s still alive and with the others.) The five include, in addition to the bilingual less-vicious-than-the-rest “hero,” one fat sociopath who relies on glasses, his brother (I guess), a top-hatted cardplayer named Two-Card, and a “Deacon” who’s pretty clearly a little off his nut. Along the way, we get one big fight in a running stream and a number of other incidents.

Eventually, the Apache catches up with them, releases their horses and does most of them in—with some viciously slow deaths that take away any chance for him to be the sympathetic character, even if was the most wronged. In the end…well, never mind. Good points: Good print, good color, great scenery (Arizona and Sequoia National Forest). Bad points: Except for possibly the young woman, who’s not a major character, there’s nobody likable in this lot. Most of the acting is pretty bad (including the not-very-graceful Apache); notably, the director and assistant director were also in the cast (and McCrea produced it). It got an R rating, probably because there’s one scene with some distant partial nudity, involving another Indian woman—and we never do find out what happened to her. On balance, and concentrating on the scenery rather than the acting or plot, I’ll give it $0.75.

Deadwood ’76, 1965, color. James Landis (dir.), Arch Hall Sr. (screenplay and producer), Arch Hall Jr., Jack Lester, La Donna Cottier, Arch Hall Sr., Liz Renay, Robert Dix, Richard Cowl, David Reed. 1:37.

Set in the near future in Deadwood, South Dakota, this movie eerily foretells a future TV series…. Nah, this one’s set in 1876 when it was still The Dakotas and a territory, but the timing’s right in other respects: The Black Hills gold rush is beginning and this illegal settlement—the Black Hills belonged to the Lakotas by treaty—was the heart of it. The movie’s set in Deadwood (and has lots of great Black Hills scenery), but it’s mostly about Billy May (Arch Hall, Jr.), a young man who’s fast with a gun and out to make his fortune, after drifting away from Georgia at the end of the Civil War (he enlisted at age 12). Things start as he comes along an old coot in a wagon full of cats (I’m not making this up) who’s been accosted by a group from the local tribe—who, in fact, don’t shoot the old coot but seem to find the cats awfully amusing. Billy May gets the drop on them, takes away their rifles—but doesn’t shoot them, to the old coot’s dismay. (The old coot’s from Tennessee, on his way to Deadwood to sell the cats to raise a stake to mine for gold and make his fortune.)

That’s just the start of lots’o’plot, involving the local madame, the too-sleek gamblin’ man, some locals who think they’re mighty fast with a gun, the belief after Billy outdraws them that he’s Billy the Kid (and Wild Bill Hickock’s on his way for a showdown), some gold mining, a remarkably civilized and peaceful tribe who’s now sheltering Billy’s long-lost father, who has a harebrained scheme by which the Confederacy shall rise again, a young Indian woman who falls for Billy and, well, that’s just some of it.

It does not end happily for all concerned. I’ve already included some spoilers. There is at least one interesting cliché reversal at the end of the film, but I’ll leave that for those who watch it.

I have mixed feelings about this one. The intertwined plots are interesting if overdone, the scenery’s good, the print’s pretty good, it moves right along and there are remarkably few deaths (and very little blood) for the kind of movie it is, and the tribe is treated as civilized, not savages. Unfortunately, as with the two other Arch Hall-backed movies starring Arch Hall, Jr., that I’ve seen, I find Jr. irritating—this time he doesn’t sing, but the smirk on his face gets real old real fast and he is just a bit shy of being a profound actor. All things considered, I’ll give it $1.25.

Jesse James’ Women, 1954, color. Don ‘Red’ Barry (dir., writer, producer, star), Peggie Castle, Jack Bustel, Lita Baron, Joyce Barrett, Betty Brueck. 1:24.

The story is that Jesse James and his gang (eight men including one Robert Ford, one deaf woman who manages their hideaway) have moved to Mississippi, where he’s triple-timing various women in a small town along with the world’s easiest bank holdup. Various subplots, such as they are, lead up to James double-crossing pretty much everybody except his two closest cohorts and somehow making up for it by giving a bunch of loot to the local preacher, as they ride off into the sunset.

I knew I was in trouble from the opening credits. Starring Don Barry. Screenplay by Don Barry. Story by Don Barry (and others). Directed and produced by Don Barry. He’s got a nice smile, very obvious makeup (many of the actors are so made up they look artificial), no apparent acting skills, not a clue as to how this clown could be Jesse James.

The only similarity between Don Barry and the real Jesse James is that he managed to rob me of an hour and twenty-four minutes. Being very generous, and factoring in the lack of serious bloodshed (and one epic catfight among two of the women James is busy wronging), this might be worth $0.75.

God’s Gun, (orig. Diamante Lobo), 1976, color. Gianfranco Parolini (dir.), Lee Van Cleef, Jack Palance, Richard Boone, Sybil Danning, Leif Garrett, Robert Lipton. 1:34 [1:37].

Originally reviewed as part of the small set of spaghetti westerns (C&I 10.7). I didn’t watch it again; you can read the full review where it first appeared. Despite an impressive cast, this was an awful, awful film—not as bad as Apache Blood, but remarkably crappy. I said that, although I thought it was worthless, dedicated Lee Van Cleef fans might give it $0.50. Or not.

The Big Deal and the Damage Done

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries on May 2nd, 2013
The Big Deal and the Damage Done

The Big Deal and the Damage Done

I’d normally say something like this about my new study of the apparent effects of serials prices over the first decade of the millennium on academic library book budgets and “remainder” budgets (what’s left after paying for current serials and other acquisitions):

I’m delighted to announce that The Big Deal and the Damage Done is now available as a $9.99 PDF ebook or a $16.50 paperback, both at Lulu.com (follow the links, go to the bottom of this page or just go to lulu.com and search for big deal damage).

But I’m not entirely delighted–because the results are much worse than I’d hoped or expected.

On one hand, I’m delighted that what started out as a whim (“just how badly have book budgets been hurt by continued expansion of serials prices?”) that I thought would take 5-10 hours to research and result in a nice little Cites & Insights article, and turned into a much bigger project (I’m not going to guess the total time involved, but let’s say that at $50/hour consulting rates, it would be a multi-thousand-dollar project)…is finally done. For now.

On that hand, I’m also delighted with the results–a 132-page (6×9″) non-DRM PDF ebook or trade paperback with 58 tables and 94 figures (all Excel graphs) that shows, in detail and adjusted for inflation, how academic library spending has changed between 2000 and 2010 for current serials (big deals and otherwise), “books” (which includes all acquisitions except current serials, including ebooks, av and back runs of serials), and “remainder budgets,” everything it takes to run a library except for acquisitions. The book looks at academic libraries in the U.S. overall, but mostly views them in three different breakdowns: By overall budget size, by sector (e.g., public, private, for-profit, non-profit, four-year, two-year), and by Carnegie classification.

The PDF uses three colors for many graphs. The paperback is black and white except for the cover, but the three colors are used with line segments (dots or dashes) so that the graphs are fully readable without color.

On the other hand…I was hoping I’d find modest damage, especially since the most recent NCES survey is for 2010 and I’ve heard more comments about disastrous cuts in book budgets since 2010.

The Process

There’s nothing in the book that you can’t find out for yourself, frankly, although I do add some commentary. But “find out for yourself” would take quite a while–downloading NCES data, creating derivative figures, deciding which subsets to work with, graphing the results.

I began with no real conception of what I’d find–this is honest, transparent analysis. I certainly didn’t come up with that title until I was well into the process and seeing some of the results. The first results didn’t seem too bad, because roughly two dozen very large academic libraries have done a pretty good job of maintaining acquisitions budgets for things other than current serials, a good enough job that it tends to mask what’s happening elsewhere. The deeper I dug, the worse it got…

The Product and Publicity

This isn’t a terribly wordy study–Word says it’s just under 20,000 words, or about two-thirds the length of the current Cites & Insights. The figures and tables take up much of the space, but also tell much of the story.

The analysis project was inspired in part by Wayne Bivens-Tatum’s January 18, 2013 post, “Politics, Economics, and Screwing the Humanities” and in part by the work I was doing to prepare a three-hour Open Access preconference for the joint 2013 conference of the Oregon and Washington Library Associations. I see true OA as one possible medium-term way of ameliorating the damage done–with a whole bunch of caveats.

If you’re an academic librarian or concerned about the future of academic libraries, I believe you’ll find this worthwhile, but that’s your call. If it’s well-received, I’ll probably do a second edition when the 2012 NCES survey results become available.

Here’s the thing: I don’t have good ways to publicize this book, other than on this blog, in Cites & Insights, and via a tweet or two and maybe updates at Facebook and Google+. There may be academic library lists that should know about it, but it’s generally considered bad practice for an author or publisher to join lists and tout their own new books.

On the other hand, it’s entirely appropriate for other people to mention the book if they think it’s worthwhile.

I’m going to point you to another Wayne Bivens-Tatum post at Academic Librarian, this one posted May 1, 2013: “Walt Crawford’s Big Deal and the Damage Done.” I thank him for the mention. I encourage you to take a look at the book (the first few pages are available as a preview and, you know, the ebook‘s less than $10–if you buy it today, May 2, and use the coupon code SILEO, either version is 20% off). If you think it’s worthwhile, you’ll do me–and the chances of a followup 2012 study–a big favor by passing the word along.

If you think it’s terrible, you should say that, to be sure. And if you have suggestions for improvement next time around–if there is a next time around–I’d be happy to hear them.


Modified May 9, 2013: I’d forgotten to include the cover! And since it’s long past May 2, 2012, I’ve struck out the sale comment. Your best bet may always be to go to Lulu.com, look for a current sale (you never know…), then search for Walt Crawford or big deal damage

Cites & Insights 13:6 (June 2013) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on May 1st, 2013

The June 2013 Cites & Insights (13:6) is now available for downloading from http://citesandinsights.info/

The issue is available as a 42-page print-oriented two-column PDF or an 81-page single-column 6×9″ online-oriented PDF.

You might think of this as a side-effect issue, as both pieces grow out of work done for the Open Access preconference I did at the Washington/Oregon Library Associations joint conference last week:

The Front: The Big Deal and the Damage Done: Available Now  (pg.1)

The Big Deal and the Damage Done ($9.99 PDF ebook, $16.50 paperback) is a study of U.S. academic library spending between 2000 and 2010 for current serials, books (and all other acquisitions), and everything else–showing the effects of Big Deals and other constantly-rising serials prices. It looks at libraries by size, by sector and by Carnegie classification. The damage done? Primarily to the humanities and other fields that depend on monographs, to the ability of libraries to maintain the record of human creativity–and to library flexibility to do anything except write checks for current serials. (20% off through May 2, 2012, using code SILEO at checkout.)

Intersections: Hot Times for Open Access (pp. 1-42)

Mid-December 2012 through March 2013 has had a lot going on with OA–enough that I abandoned my plan to ignore OA for the rest of 2013 (after devoting most of the January and February 2013 issues to the topic).

This roundup looks at current issues in defining the terms, CC BY, the Gold and the Green, problems, OA in general, specific recent developments, the White House actions, OA in the humanities and social sciences, direct actions and libraries.


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