Archive for the ‘Books and publishing’ Category

The Man Time Forgot: a semi-contrarian semi-review

Friday, July 8th, 2016

The book: Isaiah Wilner, The Man Time Forgot, HarperCollins, 2006.

I read most books long after they’re published, borrowing them from Livermore Public Library after (usually) browsing the shelves. That was the case this time;  I find both business history and media/publishing interesting, so this was a natural.

It’s well-researched and fairly well written. It’s about Briton Hadden and Henry Luce–and the title of the book pretty much clarifies who’s supposed to be the wronged hero. (Well, that and a caricature of Hadden on the cover).

The story is supposed to be about how Hadden created Time Magazine and the whole Timespeak approach–and how Luce did Hadden wrong after Hadden’s early death. And if you pay attention primarily to pages 216-260, and read the previous chapters with one set of assumptions, that’s how this comes out.

But I found myself reading a different story than the one Wilner was writing, at least through most of the first 14 chapters; thus, my “semi-contrarian” heading.

Here’s what I saw–based entirely on what Wilner wrote:

  • We have Character A, wealthy, extroverted, party-hearty, the life of every group. Apparently drunk most of the time as an adult.
  • We have Character B, the son of a missionary, extremely bright, awkward, with a stammer, a “scholarship boy” who doesn’t quite fit in.
  • Somehow, in their many dealings, Character A is always The Winner and Character B is, at best, The Sidekick. Not surprising: A’s a natural In-Crowd person and B’s a, well, charity case.
  • Character A even uses a derogatory nickname for Character B, not only in school but in adult life–“Chink” because he was born in China.
  • When they work together, agreeing to alternate editorial and business, somehow it’s almost always Character A’s turn to do editorial. When Character B makes a decision that makes it possible to sell Time outside the East Coast, but inconveniences Character A’s round of parties, Character A not only takes it badly, he reverses the decision as soon as Character B is out of the country.
  • Even on his deathbed Character A tries to make sure Character B can never actually have control of the magazine they co-founded, writing a will that would hamstring Character B.

Character A is Briton Hadden. Character B is Henry Luce–or “Chink Luce” as Hadden pretty consistently referred to him. It’s pretty clear that Luce didn’t care for that nickname; if Hadden had actually regarded Luce as an equal rather than a Sidekick, he would have used his actual name.

To me, most of the book read as a “friendship” where Hadden was pretty consistently taking advantage of Luce–and Luce had to realize that after awhile. Was it appropriate for him to remove Hadden’s name from the masthead after Hadden’s death? Probably not–but I can certainly appreciate why he might have done so.

One book, two stories.

[No, I’m not a great fan of Luce either.]

The Countries of OAWorld 2011-2015: out now

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

cntcvr6x9I’m pleased to announce that The Countries of OAWorld 2011-2015, the last piece in the Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2015 trilogy, is now available as an $8 trade paperback or a free PDF.

Details and links to the two PDF versions and single print version are at the project page, waltcrawford.name/goaj.html

The paperback is $2 more expensive because the book is more than 100 pages longer. (Each purchase nets me two cents, if you’re wondering.)

Yeah, I know. I thought it would take longer to prepare the two Lulu versions.

 

Psst…Countries of OAWorld is out, sort of

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

I won’t announce Countries of OAWorld 2011-2015 formally until the Lulu print paperback and free PDF are ready, but the “alternate version”–the one on my website, which seems to be where almost everybody’s going, is now available.

You’ll find it on the project page (or, you know, here).

This is one where I think the print book is especially nice for comparison and navigation, but experience suggests that doesn’t matter a lot. I don’t know yet what the paperback will cost; it’s much longer and up to the next dollar. $8 looks like a good possibility.

86 chapters in all, most chapters four very full pages. An alphabetic index of country and region names (123 countries, if I’m counting right–including a few that aren’t always recognized as countries)cntcvr6x9.

Oh, and there’s a heatmap of OAWorld activity on the cover…

Gold Open Access Journals: end of June wrapup

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

I’m posting this wrapup today so that I can add to it later–my own websites, including the domain hosting PDF ebooks of GOAJ and the subject supplement (for those not wishing to use Lulu), get statistics every day at 5:30 a.m., but the statistics only cover the current month (so 18.5 hours of downloads and copies of Cites & Insights on the last day of each month are invisible…)

This follows up on the one-week update.

  • The paperbacks: I have copies of both, and they’re lovely. Nobody else has purchased either one so far. (OK, so I have two copies of each, one with defective growth/shrinkage labels, which I’ll recycle.)
  • The PDF–GOAJ: 29 copies through Lulu, an increase of 19 over June 7; some of those are probably replacement copies fixing the growth/shrinkage label problem. Also 2,363 downloads, some probably not complete, from waltcrawford.name–an increase of 1,192 from June 7. Assuming everybody’s replaced old copies, that’s a minimum of 1,211 copies to date.
  • The PDF-Subject: 10 copies through Lulu and 60 copies through waltcrawford.name
  • The dataset: 678 visits and 63 downloads, up from 330 and 32–an increase of 31 in the relevant number.
  • The site: 330 visits, an increase of 169.
  • Impact? I’ve seen one or two tweets based on the book. I have no idea whether the figures are being used (and credited) in OA presentations, but it’s early yet (and I wouldn’t necessarily know).

Countries of OAWorld: an update and question

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

When I announced the subject supplement to Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2015, I said this:

As for the second supplement, The Countries of OAWorld 2011-2015? Despite the tumbleweeds that have so far greeted my request for feedback on interest in this book, I may still do it–but it’s going to take a while longer than the first supplement did.

For one thing, I plan to write a non-OA issue of Cites & Insights (possibly trying to use Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking for parts of it, since my hand still isn’t back to normal).

For another, it’s a bigger effort–either 54 or 69 country chapters (depending on whether I use 25 journals or ten as the lower limit for full chapters), plus six chapters with brief coverage for other countries in each region (Pacific/English doesn’t have any other countries). Even with some trimming to make chapters shorter, it’s likely to be a much larger book.

Best guess? Some time in July or August.

It’s time for an update…

Yes, I’m planning to do it

I tried a couple of chapters to see how they’d go, and I think the country chapters tell interesting stories–even though, at this point, readers will pretty much write their own narrative.

To wit:

  • It looks as though there will actually be 83 chapters so there’s some context–an OAWorld overview, seven region overviews, 69 country chapters, and six “other countries in region” chapters.
  • So I had to make the chapters more compact than the seven pages of region chapters in GOAJ. After some experimenting, I arrived at this:
  • I’ve combined the first two tables (journals & articles), combined APC levels & revenues, simplified growth & shrinkage, and made the two graphs smaller vertically (and moved the legend to the side from the bottom to keep proportions reasonable).
  • All of the subheadings are now Heading 3 rather than Heading 2, which saves a lot of space.
  • I’ve eliminated captions, since they’re pretty much redundant.
  • The net result: the standard region or country chapter is now four pages long (“other countries in region” chapters might be a page or two longer), as long as I don’t add much commentary.
  • Trying out a couple of countries, I find that the compact form doesn’t require much textual commentary–zero to two lines is usually enough.
  • The result should be a big but manageable book, somewhere around 340-350 pages.

The sample chapters are what uncovered the label problem with growth & shrinkage tables, since these were now small enough groups (in the first country tested, Nigeria) to allow direct manual checking. (And the small groups also have wider variations, of course.)

I’m interleaving Cites & Insights and the new supplement…

Given that nobody has yet expressed interest in the new supplement, I was going to set it aside until the probably-small July C&I was done…but the country chapters turn out to be fast & interesting, so much so that I keep returning to them. So I’m working on both.

Haven’t started using NaturallySpeaking “for real” yet; someday soon…but, unfortunately, even with six-fingered typing it’s more natural for me to type what I have to say than it is to say it…

Right now (in a day that’s generally gone south), I’m probably about halfway through the C&I draft, and have done 14 chapters of the book, with the fifteenth just needing “bookification” (I’ve done and checked the template-driven tables and figures and copied them to a separate country page; just have to move them into Word).

Best bet…

Some time in July, depending in part on how many other crises arise.

And the question (if anybody cares)…

I have a new third-order measure, but I’m not sure whether it’s explainable or useful, or how to describe it.

Here’s how it works–I’ll use one Asian nation as an example:

  1. I take the percentages of journals that either grew or shrank by 25% or more between 2014 and 2015, separating delisted journals (Gray OA) and those still in DOAJ. For India, those figures are:
    Gray OA: Up 19.0%, Down 44.8%
    DOAJ16:  Up 23.8%, Down 37.2%
  2. I take the up/down ratio for each side: Gray 0.42, DOAJ 0.64
  3. I divide the DOAJ16 ratio by the Gray OA ratio: 1.5

That’s the measure. In short, Indian journals still in DOAJ are 50% more likely to have grown significantly rather than shrunk significantly, as compared to delisted/gray OA journals.

(Choosing a different Asian country, the up/down ratios are 2.89 and 2.00–journals are much more likely to be growing–but the ratio’s 0.7.)

So the multipart question is:

  • Is this a meaningful metric?
  • If so, how can I describe it in a few words, augmented by an explanation in the preface?

At this point, “damfino” is the best I can do on both.

If there are no responses, I’ll eliminate the metric. (It would appear as text, not as a table.)

Comments are open or you can email me at waltcrawford@gmail.com

GOAJ: A Subject Approach (and an update)

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

goafsub_cvrxGold Open Access Journals 2011-2015: A Subject Approach is now available as a free PDF or a $6 trade paperback.

As usual, you’ll find links for the Lulu paperback, the free Lulu pdf, and the pdf on my website for those not wishing to open a Lulu account at the project page, waltcrawford.name/goaj.html

The new book is a supplement to Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2015, adding a chapter on each of 28 subjects and slightly expanding the subject-segment chapters from the earlier book.

Update

As of right about now (4 p.m. PDT, June 15, 2016) at figshare and Lulu and as of 5:30 a.m. for waltcrawford.name, here’s what I see:

  • The data:  633 views and 55 downloads. Since the views only show 50 rows, I regard the 55 downloads as meaningful.
  • The project page: 259 views. This tells me (see below) that most people forwarding information on the PDF provide a direct link to the PDF rather than to the project page. The latter is a courtesy, but the former is neither surprising nor unfortunate.
  • The paperback: One copy–mine. I’ve received it and it looks great, and I think it’s an enormous bargain at $6 (or less–lately Lulu’s been having one-day sales almost every day). I find it much easier to use than the PDF ebook, but then I’m old and still print-oriented. (Hey, if 20 people buy the paperback, I’d make enough money to have lunch at my favorite local Chinese place–except for tip.)
  • The Lulu PDF: 28 copies.
  • The waltcrawford.name PDF: 1,769 copies. (Now that it’s around 2MB, those might all be successful downloads.)
  • Cites & Insights 16:5, almost entirely an excerpted version of the book: 454 copies

Of course, it’s possible (and entirely legal) that some folks have forwarded PDF copies to others, but I’ll ignore those…

In any case, it appears that Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2015 has reached up to 2,251 people so far, although it’s likely that some downloads failed and some people who read C&I also downloaded the full PDF.

I’d call that reasonable success for a niche publication in its first 16 days.

As for the second supplement, The Countries of OAWorld 2011-2015? Despite the tumbleweeds that have so far greeted my request for feedback on interest in this book, I may still do it–but it’s going to take a while longer than the first supplement did.

For one thing, I plan to write a non-OA issue of Cites & Insights (possibly trying to use Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking for parts of it, since my hand still isn’t back to normal).

For another, it’s a bigger effort–either 54 or 69 country chapters (depending on whether I use 25 journals or ten as the lower limit for full chapters), plus six chapters with brief coverage for other countries in each region (Pacific/English doesn’t have any other countries). Even with some trimming to make chapters shorter, it’s likely to be a much larger book.

Best guess? Some time in July or August.

(Still inviting feedback.)

 

 

The semi-obligatory “I Still Read Books” post

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

I started keeping a spreadsheet of books I’d read three or four years ago (OK: January 6, 2011–make that “five years ago”)  because I was starting to use the excellent local public library a lot more and, being old, didn’t want to accidentally pick up the same book twice.

As a side-effect, the spreadsheet lets me know how many books I’ve actually read each year.

My target is 39. To wit: The library’s check-out period is four weeks; I always take out three books (one “general” fiction, one nonfiction, one alternating between mystery and fantasy/science fiction). So: 13 four-week periods times three books.

This year, as last year, I managed to pass the target by a comfortable margin: 62(!) books read, assuming I don’t finish the current book before January 1. Or, rather, looking at the spreadsheet more carefully, I started 62 books and finished 59. Three (The Book of Lost Books, The Bite in the Apple, and William Safire’s Take My Word for It) I abandoned partway through.

So: Here are the books I thoroughly enjoyed, giving them full honors:

Thief of Time Terry Pratchett
Pale Kings and Princes Robert B. Parker
Night Watch Terry Pratchett
Monstrous Regiment Terry Pratchett
The Lake, The River & The Other Lake Steve Amick
This Case Is Gonna Kill Me Phillipa Bornikova
Hugger Mugger Robert B. Parker
The Pleasure of My Company Steve Martin
An Object of Beauty Steve Martin
Potshot Robert Parker
The Professional Robert B. Parker
Rough Weather Robert B. Parker
1634: The Ram Rebellion Eric Flint
Night Passage Robert B. Parker
Paper Doll Robert B. Parker
A Blink of the Screen Terry Pratchett
The Bromeliad Trilogy Terry Pratchett

and a few others that I enjoyed, but didn’t rate quite as high (A- rather than the A for those above)

Waiter Rant The Waiter
The Truth Terry Pratchett
Turtle Recall: the Discworld Companion Terry Pratchett & S. Briggs
Crimson Joy Robert Parker
Box Office Poison Phillipa Bornikova
1632 Eric Flint
1633 Eric Flint & David Weber
1634: The Bavarian Crisis Eric Flint & Virginia DeMarce
Now & Then Robert B. Parker
1634: The Baltic War Eric Flint & David Weber
Ring of Fire Eric Flint
Big Trouble Dave Barry
1635: The Eastern Front Eric Flint
True History of the Kelly Gang Peter Carey
Widow’s Walk Robert B. Parker

For those of you saying “Crawford’s got no Serious Literary Taste, he’s in there reading them Robert B. Parker and Terry Pratchett and Eric Flint genre pieces of crap,” I can only say phbttb. I’ve been a sucker for Pratchett since I first encountered Discworld (on a cruise ship, as it happens), and I’m pretty sure I’ve read all the adult Discworld novels and a couple of the nonfiction works (I’ll seek out the rest of the juveniles, and while I’m too damn old to start rereading stuff, it’s hard to let go of the Discworld folks). I’ve always been a fan of Robert B. Parker’s books, except for the fact that they’re so fluid and fast-moving that I finish one in at most three brief evening reading sessions. I’ve been captured by the 1632 alternate history told from the ground up, and that’s the way it is. I’m sure there are a few “serious” books in there. Somewhere.

 

One-third of the way there!

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

With today’s French purchase of a PDF copy of The Gold OA Landscape 2011-2014, and including Cites & Insights Annual purchases, we’re now one-third of the way to the first milestone, at which I’ll upload an anonymized version of the master spreadsheet to figshare. (As with a previous German purchase, I can only assume the country based on Lulu country codes…)

Now an even dozen copies sold.

Reading the way you prefer

Monday, September 28th, 2015

I ran into an odd blog post (on a ALA divisional blog) this morning–and didn’t comment directly for two reasons:

  1. I’m not a member of the division
  2. I’m hoping that I simply misread or misunderstood the post.

The post seemed to be saying that libraries/library groups should be helping to persuade younger people to do all their book reading in ebook form. (I believe it springs from the New York Times piece regarding a slowdown in ebook sales.)

Again, I’m probably misunderstanding what was being said–but I have certainly seen in the past discussions that seemed to say that the “digital shift” was not only inevitable but desirable, and that good librarians should be backing it.

And I just don’t get it.

I’ve suggested for some time that there is no such thing as an inevitable digital shift when it comes to books: that there’s no reason to believe, based on precedent or history, that ebooks would sweep away print books entirely–or that this was even a desirable thing.

I’ve tried to be consistent in saying what the title of this post suggests. Expanding:

  • It seems likely that some people will prefer to do all or most of their extended-narrative reading on digital devices, either because they like them better, they’re more convenient, they believe they should do so…or for whatever reasons.
  • It seems likely that some people will prefer to do all or most of their extended-narrative (that is, “book”) reading from print books, either because they like them better or for whatever reasons.
  • It seems likely that some people will prefer to read some books in print form, some in digital form–and that the variety and distribution of preference will be different for different people.
  • Public libraries should not be “out ahead of the users” on such matters unless there’s a clear and consistent shift in preferences–and even then, maybe not. (Which is not to say public libraries shouldn’t provide ebook services, but maybe that they shouldn’t screw up their budgets or priorities to emphasize ebook services.)

I’ve said for some time that I expect book publishing and print book publishing to be a healthy business throughout my lifetime, with total print book revenues certainly in the billions and probably in the tens of billions of dollars per year. But I’ve tried to avoid nonsensical prophecies about the long-term balance between print and e.

Maybe ebooks will stabilize at 20% of the total book market. Maybe they’ll wind up being 25%, or 30%, or even 80% (although achieving a majority is beginning to seem less likely, but I’m no prophet). Maybe there is no equilibrium level, with percentages shifting back and forth.

In any case, books should be available in the form readers prefer, public libraries should support those preferences to the best of their abilities, and it should never be a matter of shoving one medium down people’s throats preferring one medium at the expense of another despite apparent use patterns.*

Of course, I’m ancient enough to go back to all those predictions that all books would become movies (although never stated that way), because of course everybody really wants their books to be singing and dancing. It always struck me that those making such predictions weren’t really book readers, and it turns out most book readers aren’t especially interested in “enhanced books.”

Those of you who read my stuff in another area may note that I also don’t foresee OA sweeping away traditional journal publishing in any great hurry, or even in my lifetime. I’m just not much of a triumphalist or a single-path advocate. Such is life.


*I do believe a case can be made that public libraries should resist aggressively bad ebook contracts, to the extent that they effectively privilege ebooks over print books if there’s not clear evidence of similar patron preferences–but that’s part of what I’m saying.

Personalized ads: An odd incident

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

Yes, I know most sidebar ads on websites are affected somehow by what you’ve searched or what sites you’ve gone to before. No big surprise, that, although it’s always amusing to see all the ads for competitors to something you just purchased.

But…

I don’t remember ever seeing Lulu running these sidebar ads; since Lulu’s a service company for self-publishers more than it’s really an online bookstore, that was OK with me.

Somehow, though, for the past three or four days, I’ve been getting loads of Lulu sidebar ads, usually scrolling through three to six different items on order.

One of which is almost always the paperback version of The Gold OA Landscape 2011-2014.

Which is odd on a couple of counts:

  • I’ve already purchased a copy–not surprisingly, since it’s my book, and especially since I can’t approve it for global distribution (Ingram, Amazon, B&N) until I receive my copy and “approve” it.
  • For that matter, if I do order a copy, it won’t cost the $60 shown in the ads: as the author, I pay only production costs, with no real profit for Lulu.
  • At least the last time I checked, searching for “the gold OA landscape” at Lulu yields the PDF ebook but not the paperback (Lulu’s book search is sometimes a little strange). But, of course, the ad takes me right to the product page that should show up on a search.

Is anybody else seeing this book advertised in sidebars? I’d love to think so, but I’m not going to assume it’s true.

By the way, another book that seems to show up for me all the time is Ann Dodds Costello’s Smart Women: The Search for America’s Historic All-Women Study Clubs. Which actually looks pretty interesting; I might yet buy a copy. (The link here is for the currently-$32 hardback; there’s also a $24 paperback and $8.99 ebook. It’s a 426-page book.)

Hmm. If I do buy that book, then Lulu’s ads are working…even if they’re also advertising my own stuff to me.