Archive for the ‘Books and publishing’ Category

Making Book S12: Graphing Public Library Benefits

Friday, January 10th, 2014

As noted earlier, I eventually grew unhappy with Give Us a Dollar… because it was so table-heavy. I remedied this to some extent with supplements in Cites & Insights, but those were mostly text.

So I produced Graphing Public Library Benefits: An Experimental Supplement to Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13): Public Library Funding and Benefits.

Whew. Quite a title. Here’s what I said in the introduction:

This book is an attempt to do two things: Provide graphs to supplement some of the tables in Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13) and illustrate some of the choices and issues involved in making visual sense of datasets, specifically the datasets used for that book. It’s an 8.5×11″ PDF (or, if at least two people tell me they’ll buy it, a very expensive print book) because I wanted to make the graphs as wide as possible—and because, in most cases, I felt that multicolor graphs would be readable where graphs using that many different line types simply wouldn’t. (If there’s a print version, the added cost will be entirely production: I’ll make the same amount per copy, give or take a dime or so. But production costs for books with color are much higher than for black-and-white books.)

If you don’t have the other book, you should get it. It’s almost entirely tables and provides a richly detailed picture of nearly all of America’s public libraries and how they measure up on the quantifiable metrics reported to the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences for fiscal year 2010. You may also want to get Cites & Insights for November 2012 and Fall 2012; those issues provide textual commentary (and in the latter case, an additional set of tables) lacking in the book.

In the first chapter, I considered ways you could graph the information in the book—including several alternatives in a couple of cases.

The rest of the book was almost entirely graphs; in all, 222 pages (8.5″ x 11″ PDF), most pages with two graphs, some with three. If I’m counting correctly, 597 graphs in all. (If I’d done Chapter 20 in the book, state-by-state, there would have been hundreds more and the book would have been at least 100 pages longer.)

I almost left this one out as “the book nobody saw,” but that’s not quite right: In fact, after I reduced the PDF ebook price to $4, there were two sales. And since the book is explicitly labeled CC BY-NC, it’s possible that lots of other people have copies. Not likely, but possible.

(How expensive would the book have been in print form? The production cost would have been something like $48.90, so I would have charged around $59.)

The multicolor graphs had ten different colored lines; there’s no way to provide enough different line patterns to make ten lines readable in black and white.

Still…it’s an interesting project with a lot of neat graphs, and if anybody contributing to Cites & Insights at the sponsor level would rather have this than something else, I might be willing. It’s a fairly big PDF (8.5MB), but then it’s a big, slow-loading Word document (basically the same size).

Crawford, Walt. Graphing Public Library Benefits: An Experimental Supplement to Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13): Public Library Funding and Benefits. 2013.

Making Book S11: Give Us a Dollar…Oregon/Washington Edition

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

To my great pleasure, I was invited to give three speeches during the 2013 Oregon & Washington Library Association(s) Annual Conference (the two states hold combined conferences in some years, separate ones in some years—I’ve spoken at two other WaLA conferences but never at OrLA). The three speeches—actually one workshop and two speeches—were related to Open Access: What You Need to Know Now (the workshop), The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing and Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four. As part of the agreement, I prepared a special edition of Give Us a Dollar… focusing on Oregon and Washington libraries and, unlike the original book, combining commentary, graphs and tables.

The special edition appeared as a free PDF (after all, the associations were paying an honorarium and expenses) and a hardcover 70-page color book: Color because some of the graphs needed color for easy reading (although you could make sense of them in b&w), hardcover because the production cost was already going to be so high. I assumed that a handful of libraries might find the hardcover worth having, but that most libraries and librarians would pick up the PDF—which, after all, could be printed out fairly cheaply on a color printer, and if you did it reduced about 7% to 5.5″ x 8.5″, it would fit four pages to a sheet.

I think it’s a neat little book. Doing something similar for later data for any other state or group of states would be feasible; so far, that hasn’t happened.

For the cover design (PDF and hardcover), I tried something that I think worked very well; I’ve since used the same technique for three other books (coming later). To wit, I made a mosaic wraparound strip for the top of the cover and another one for the bottom of the cover (wraparound only for the hardcover, since the PDF only has one cover page), each strip made up of images taken from library websites (or in some cases Facebook pages), deliberately using images from a range of library sizes.

As usual, I enjoyed the conference a lot. Vancouver (the Washington State one, across the river from Portland) was nice; I was able to do some fairly long walks, including one to Fort Vancouver; the people were interesting; the talks went reasonably well.

There were seventeen downloads of the free PDF ebook. I apparently own the only copy of the hardcover book. Such is life.

Crawford, Walt. Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four: Oregon and Washington Library Benefits and Spending. 2013.

Making Book S10. Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)

Monday, January 6th, 2014

As is frequently the case, the preface tells the story of how this book came to be—but this time it’s an extended discussion. Portions:

In the fall of 2011, I studied the presence of public libraries on Facebook and Twitter as background for an ALA Editions book (Successful Social Networking in Public Libraries…). As research progressed, I wound up looking at (or for) the websites of every public library in 38 states (5,958 in all) and gained a new appreciation for the diversity and community connections of America’s public libraries.

During that study, I became skeptical of the many stories I’d read that assume public libraries are shutting down all over America. When my attempts to get actual numbers (how many libraries had actually closed and remained closed, neither reopening, being replaced by comparable libraries or at least reopening as volunteer-run reading rooms?) were unsuccessful, I decided to answer the question for myself. With help and advice from Will Kurt and others, I concluded that only about 32 public libraries (not branches but library systems and independent libraries) have closed during the 12 years from 1998 through 2009 and remained closed, with nearly all of those 32 libraries serving tiny groups of people. (That study is documented in two issues of Cites & Insights, my free ejournal at April 2012,, and May 2012, An update covering FY2010 closures appears in the October 2012 issue,

The study of closing libraries reminded me of speeches I’d done many years ago at state library conferences discussing the health and diversity of libraries. In preparation for some of those speeches I would download current library spreadsheets from the state library and do some analysis of funding and circulation. I consistently found that better-funded libraries did more—and quite a bit more, sometimes showing more cost-effectiveness than less well-funded libraries. I wondered what I’d find with a slightly more sophisticated analysis of the whole nation’s libraries. This book is the result.

Thanks to IMLS and the state libraries, it’s easy to get comparable figures for all the public libraries in the U.S., albeit with some delay.

This book was based on the 2010 data (the “(2012-13)” in the title is because if it sold well, I planned to do future annual editions). It consisted primarily of tables—lots of tables—with some text.

I actually did a preliminary edition (based on 2009 data); it sold six copies (4 paperback, 2 ebook). The full edition—about 50% longer, with newer data and more careful analysis—sold 74 copies through Lulu (4 hardcover, 32 paperback, 38 PDF ebook) and 7 copies through Kindle Direct/Amazon (all Kindle ebook).

Looking at the book later, I concluded that it needed more text and maybe graphs. I provided some text in Cites & Insights (November 2012 and Fall 2012 issues), and later tried to provide supporting graphs in a way people would find worthwhile. But that’s another story.

Admittedly, this book actually sold better than any Lulu book except Balanced Libraries, although I was hoping for a few hundred sales. Hope springs eternal…but, again, that’s another story.

The book’s still available. (The hotlink below is for the paperback; for other versions, go to and search “give us a dollar”)

Crawford, Walt. Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-2013) 2012.

Making Book S9: Library 2.0: A Cites & Insights Reader

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Here’s what I said about this book on the back cover:

This book is the first in a series of Cites & Insights Readers, combining major essays on a single topic from Cites & Insights for easier reading and permanence.

Well, I said more than that, but that’s the key.

This was the first—and so far only—book branded as “A Cites & Insights Reader,” although Open Access and Libraries was really the first such compilation.

The genesis of this idea was severalfold:

  • Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0,” the essay that made up the Midwinter 2006 issue of Cites & Insights (I was going to call it “the massive essay,” but it was only a 32-page issue; one recent single-essay issue was nearly twice that long), was by far the most downloaded and read essay in the history of Cites & Insights. Through 2012, the HTML version had been viewed more than 21,000 times and the PDF downloaded nearly 34,000 times. (The next-highest essay is about half that number; the next-highest issue, not the same thing, about 16,600 downloads.)
  • According to Google Scholar, it’s my second most cited piece of writing—a long way behind Future Libraries: Dreams, Madness & Reality but considerably ahead of MARC for Library Use. (104 citations as of this writing.)
  • I’d done five followup essays—one later in 2006, one each in 2008 and 2009, and a two-parter in 2011—that I thought made valuable additions to the story.
  • I thought the Reader concept might be a nice way to add value to the publication—and a tiny amount of revenue as well (I said at the time that all Readers would be priced to return $4 to me).

I also replaced the Midwinter 2006 issue with a placeholder PDF that noted the book’s existence—but also gave the URL for the saved copy of the issue.

That proved to be interesting as a measure of how important “Library 2.0” was in 2011 and beyond.

To wit:

  • In 2012, there were 667 attempts to view the HTML version of the article and 1,844 downloads of the PDF version (both stubs).
  • But the saved PDF was only downloaded 36 times in 2012.
  • In the last three months of 2013 (all that I have), the issue stub was downloaded 371 times; the saved PDF, 39 times.

This tells me that most of the time, people didn’t care enough to even key in (or copy-and-paste) a brief new URL. When I hear how many thousands and tens of thousands of times ejournal articles are downloaded, I do sometimes wonder what percentage of those are idle curiosity. For this issue, apparently, the answer is at least 98% of the time in 2012 and around 90% of the time in 2013.

How’s it done? So far, five paperback and 14 ebook versions.

Crawford, Walt. Library 2.0: A Cites & Insights Reader. 2011.

Making Book S8: The Liblog Landscape, 2007-2010

Monday, December 30th, 2013

I should have known better.

After the stunning sales of the previous Liblog Landscape books, I should have just let it be.

Instead, I did a comprehensive study: every English-language liblog that was discoverable on the web in mid-2010. Thirteen hundred and four of them. Plus another thirteen hundred and twentyseven “things” that I looked at, but didn’t qualify in the end, including 306 that had disappeared entirely or now required passwords to read, 118 that had been renamed (and are actually part of the 1,304), a dozen begun later than May 31, 2010, and things that either aren’t blogs at all or are blogs that appeared in liblog blogrolls but weren’t liblogs.

On the other hand, while amassing information on an absurdly broad range of liblogs, I didn’t get too crazy: I didn’t write profiles for individual blogs. I didn’t attempt to break down blogs by blogger affiliation. And, gulp, I did determine a lot of stuff about each liblog (with the percentage of blogs for which I got the information in parentheses):

  • Country in which the blogger resided when the blog was checked (for 93% of the blogs)
  • Blog software used, if one of seven possibilities (96%)
  • Google Page Rank—I don’t seem to have a way to get this any more, but could back then (81%)
  • Year and month of the first post I could locate (100%)
  • Longevity of the blog in months through May 31, 2010. (100%)
  • Currency: how current the most recent post was as of May 31, 2010 (99+%)
  • Total posts through May 31, 2010 where it was plausible to get that figure (91%)
  • Count, length, and comments for each of four three-month periods (March-May 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)—I wasn’t stupid enough to try to capture all the posts, but did some pretty large samples. Blogs with countable posts—which, of course, also requires that the blog existed during that period—range from 52% (2007: 36% were younger) to 67% (2009). For those blogs with countable posts, ones for which length could be calculated ranged from 87% (736 blogs in 2010) to 92% (746 blogs in 2008). Blogs with posts that had countable comments ranged from 72% in 2010 to 81% in 2007.

I also divided blogs into three types—book and other reviews, technology, and everything else—and four groups based on Google Page Rank and level of posting during March-May 2010. There were 115 review blogs, 405 mostly-technology blogs and 784 others. Groups included 443 “core blogs,” 207 “less active visible blogs,” 364 “also alive” blogs and 290 “mostly defunct” blogs.

The 237-page book didn’t profile any liblogs (I was going to do that piecemeal as copies were sold, but gave up after sales were too slow to justify the effort), but had loads of tables and graphs on various aspects of measured performance and characteristics, with lists of the standout blogs in each area.

I dunno. It might have made a good thesis. Looking at the book now—my own copy is, I believe, one of eleven total copies—makes me tired just thinking about the hundreds of hours of work that went into this. The library field collectively didn’t even yawn, and maybe that was appropriate. I honestly believed that these books were worthwhile for library schools, and if I’d sold 45 copies of this one, I’d have been delighted. That didn’t happen.

Here’s what I find doing a quick revenue report from Lulu since 2008, looking only at the Liblog books and ignoring a handful of copies of one of them that might have sold via CreateSpace:

The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008: 54 copies

But Still They Blog: 24 copies

The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010: 11 copies

Chapters 2 and 3 appeared in Cites & Insights. Had there been visible sales, more chapters would have appeared there.

I have to admit: the research projects I’ve done since then have been considerably more substantial, if sometimes not as much fun.

After this series, I stopped doing self-published books for a while…or at least writing self-published books. That was a sensible move.

Crawford, Walt. The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 (pbk.)

Making Book S7: Open Access and Libraries

Friday, December 27th, 2013

Here’s a book I haven’t made much of anything from—and that’s OK.

I first wrote about open access—before it was called that—in May 2001. By the end of 2009, I’d concluded that I was no longer able to add value to OA-related discussions, a decision that I’ve since reversed, for better or for worse.

Since I’d written a lot about OA during that time—including a disContent column on the topic—I thought there might be some value to offering it all in one package.

Thus this book. Thirty-three essays, 513 6″ x 9″ pages. Most of the essays are reasonably brief—but not the last one (70 pages). The essays appear in chronological order because I wasn’t revising them, just reprinting them. I’d intended to index personal names and journals, but in the end I gave up on that idea: It was too much work for literally zero reward. (I tried using “index all” but had the mistake of having one or more indexed words in essay names, which were chapter headings. The result was a complete mess. My bad.)

I published the PDF as a zero-cost ebook; the paperback version is basically priced at production cost (not quite: I actually make something like $1.50 from each print copy sold. So far, I don’t think I’ve earned enough for one lunch at my favorite inexpensive Chinese restaurant). It’s still available. It is the first Cites & Insights Reader, although it doesn’t carry that name. The cover is one of the few relevant designs I’ve done, but also a very easy one to create.

As of now, some 19 copies have been acquired, most of them (but not all) the free PDF.

Since changing my mind on “no more OA for me” in December 2012, I’ve published a fair amount on the topic—and I’ve just finished retagging some 250 items tagged as “OA” into subsets (and reducing the number along the way), so it’s fair to assume there will be more to come. There’s already been enough for a less massive Volume 2, if I was inclined to do that. So far, I’m not.

Here’s a link to the $17.50 paperback; here’s one to the free PDF ebook. The contents of the book carry a CC BY-NC license; as far as I’m concerned, the PDF can be legitimately redistributed.

Note that this one doesn’t show up in my CV because the introduction is the only original material.

Crawford, Walt. Open Access and Libraries: Essays from Cites & Insights, 2001-2009. 2010.

Making Book S6: disContent, The Complete Collection

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

To quote from the preface:

I’m not quite sure how I got started reviewing title CD-ROMs, but that start is directly relevant to the history of “disContent.” I wrote a series of columns in CD-ROM Professional under the title “CD-ROM Amateur” from 1995 and 1996; that became “CD-ROM Corner” in Database in 1996, continuing through 1999. In mid-1999, Database became EContent—but the column continued.

In 2000, it was obvious to all concerned that a column composed primarily of title CD-ROM reviews had run its course, both because it didn’t really fit EContent and because the stream of title CD-ROMs was drying up. I discussed possibilities for the future with Marydee Ojala, then editor of EContent. I’m not sure whose idea it was, but we came up with “disContent,” which replaced “CD-ROM Corner” in 2001.

“disContent” had the same relationship to the rest of EContent as “CD-ROM Amateur” did to the rest of CD-ROM Professional: An outsider’s voice in an industry publication. EContent’s design and editorial staff chose a raised fist as the logo for “disContent”—perhaps more adversarial than I like to be, but it seemed fine to me.

“disContent” was a two-page column in every issue of EContent (11 issues per year) from 2001 through 2003. It changed to a one-page column in 2004—and started appearing in every other issue (typically five times per year) in 2006. It ended at the end of 2009.

The editors at EContent never told me what to write about and did a fine job of improving the manuscripts I sent them. I think there may have been one case where an editor found a column less than satisfactory (I had a substitute handy), but in general I had leeway to write about what I wanted.

I thought quite a few of the 73 columns held up very well in 2010. I’d republished a few of the early ones and, more recently, a couple of later ones in Cites & Insights. 

As is typical for paid magazine writing (as opposed to cough scholarly journal writing cough) the magazine purchased very limited rights–first serial publication with a three-month period of exclusivity, basically. I owned the columns.

I was thinking of doing a selected anthology of the columns most relevant in 2011 and beyond. Somehow, that didn’t happen.

But I also had a brilliant idea: Why not try out the “freemium” idea some pundits have proclaimed as the future of media? Offer something special, distinctive, limited, for people who support what you’re doing, to make it easy for them to pay.

Thus the November 1, 2010 announcement of this book: a 314-page hardcover including a preface, all 73 of the columns (each with a postscript updating or commenting on the column) in chronological order, including a few that I’d just as soon forget, a very limited index, and my autograph, signed as part of the title page. About 88,000 words in total. It cost $50, of which I got about $24. Oh, and I’d only sell it until 100 copies were sold or four months had passed, whichever came first. (I got confused and changed four months to five, not that it made much difference.)

A Brilliant Success

The “freemium” idea succeeded…well…let’s say the response wasn’t overwhelming. Without revealing the actual sales, I’ll say that the total has a single digit and my net revenue had two digits (but high two digits).

In the process of basically failing, I reduced the maximum number of copies to 50, promised that there would not be a selected edition (so I guess there won’t be), and also said I wouldn’t republish more than a quarter of the columns in C&I. And, true to my word, took the book out of print on April 1, 2011.

It’s a beautiful hardcover book with a great paddlewheel picture on the wraparound cover (not the same paddlewheel picture as the 2012 Cites & Insights annual. Including my own copy, five copies were produced. I hope the four buyers enjoy theirs.

Big discount on Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing

Friday, December 20th, 2013

I forgot to post this earlier, but better late than never…especially since the sale runs through January 27:

ITI is selling some of its book titles for 40% off through January 27, 2014. Included in that list is The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing. At 40% off, I think it’s worth buying even for your own use, much less for your library’s use.

More details and the full list of books on sale.

Making Book S5: But Still They Blog

Friday, December 20th, 2013

As of November 2009, The Liblog Landscape had sold a grand total of 57 copies. Providing the first half of the book free in Cites & Insights probably didn’t help sell any more.

Ever the slow learner, I tried doing it better—looking at a slightly smaller universe of liblogs in more detail and as more of a narrative. The new book looked at blogs from 2007 through 2009 and included chapters on stopping and pausing and why people blog. In many ways, it’s a better book than the earlier one.

Unfortunately, it sold even fewer copies. By September (the book appeared in December 2009) it had sold fewer than 20 copies. As with the earlier book, it’s no longer available.

Much of the book, excluding blog profiles, appeared as the September/October 2010 Cites & Insights, a massive 60-page issue. Through 2012, it appears that the issue was downloaded more than 2,000 times—relatively low for long-term downloads of an issue, but still more than 100 times as many readers as were willing to pay for the book. (In October-November 2013, the issue’s been downloaded or viewed 64 times.)

Crawford, Walt. But Still They Blog: The Liblog Landscape 2007-2009. 2010 (pbk.)

Making Book S4. The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Remember when blogging was hot?

Remember when a blog by a library person could average more than six comments per post, not including spam?

(Remember when spam didn’t represent 95%–or, in my case, 99%–of the comments in a blog?)

There were a number of “Top XX blogs” pieces in various places in 2004-2006, and the idea of “top” blogs was so entrenched that, when I wrote “Investigating the Biblioblogosphere” in September 2005, looking at 60 liblogs with broad reach, it was referred to using phrases like “Walt Crawford’s Top 50 Blogs,” even though I tried to make it clear that the list was never intended as a “Top 60.” The piece was also very well-read: Some 25,000 downloads and views through the end of 2012.

I devoted almost all of the August 2006 Cites & Insights
to a much broader view of liblogs (I stopped using the pseudo-Germanic term because I thought the first and last parts were both misleading), “Looking at Liblogs: The Great Middle.” This time, I looked at more than 550 liblogs, then eliminated the most widely subscribed 90 and least widely subscribed 183 (based on Bloglines subscriptions), leaving 281 that I thought of as “the great middle.” Some further refinement reduced the list to 213 liblogs; I did detailed metrics and individual descriptions for each of those. It’s important to note that the list deliberately excluded what were probably the best-known liblogs.

That essay has also been very well read: in fact, the issue in which it appeared is the most heavily downloaded for the period from 11/1/13 through yesterday, with nearly 2,000 essay views and downloads during that time. It’s also had more than 25,000 total downloads and pageviews, probably significantly more (since I lack figures for January 2013 through October 2013).

Given the early and continuing readership and interest, I thought it might be worth doing a fairly comprehensive look at liblogs over a period of time. The result was too long for C&I, so it became a self-published book (both Amazon/CreateSpace and Lulu, so one edition has an ISBN), The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008: A Lateral Look. It was clear that there were more than 1,000 liblogs in 2008. I added more blogs to those in the first two studies, looking at a couple of lists, most notably including Meredith Farkas’ “Favorite blogs” survey.

My criteria for inclusion in the book were that a blog had to be:

  • In English (or at least predominantly in English)
  • Not clearly defined as an official library blog
  • Somehow related to libraries or librarianship (or by a librarian)
  • Reachable—on the web and not password-protected
  • Established before 2008: At least one post before January 2008
  • Visible: adding up Bloglines subscriptions and Technorati “authority” (remember Technorati?) to get at least 10.
  • Not defunct: At least one post after August 31, 2007 (not consistently applied).

That yielded a universe of 607 liblogs. The book includes detailed metrics (and lists of extreme cases for most metrics) and, for each blog, a very brief profile including metrics, identification and start date.

The book didn’t do terribly and didn’t do well. shows 14 libraries holding the book. It’s a 284-page 6″ x 9″ paperback.

Crawford, Walt. The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008: A Lateral Look. 2008 (pbk.) CreateSpace edition: ISBN 978-1440473845.